Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is paying his first state visit to Japan from December 13. Ahead of that, the Japanese Ambassador to New Delhi, HE Yasukuni Enochi, speaks to Madhur Singh about the growing Indo-Japanese ties.
In what ways is this visit different from bilateral visits of the past?
First of all, I would like to make a few general remarks. The significance of Indo-Japan ties can be gauged from the fact that summit-level dialogue between our countries has become an annual affair. After Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to New Delhi last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting Tokyo this year, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his wish to visit India next year.
Secondly, in the past, there has been a gap between words and substance in our relations. We have always used the catchphrase ‘partnership’ for Indo-Japan relations, but now the thrust is on substantiating our strategic partnership, on putting substance into words.
Talking of strategic partnership, there is a consensus that India and Japan need to work together to create a security architecture for Asia, especially to manage our common neighbour, China.
It has been my consistent belief that the prosperity, development and stability of Asia depend on close cooperation between the three Asian powers – Japan, China and India. We need radical development of Indo-Japanese ties, so that our countries can balance the Japan-China-India triangle, and become the driving force behind an emerging Asia.
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that may be announced by the two Prime Ministers in Tokyo will go a long way towards this. Japan and India together make up 60 per cent of Asia’s GDP (Japan 60 per cent, India a little less than 10 per cent), and can together propel growth and stability in Asia, transforming it into an arc of prosperity.
What role can Japan play in India’s growth story?
The way I see it, while India has become an IT software superpower, the challenge before it is to become a manufacturing superpower. Japan helped the ASEAN countries develop their manufacturing industries in the 80s and did the same with China in the 90s. Now, in the new century, Japanese investment and technology will benefit India similarly. I believe this elephant is about to start galloping, and we are there to give it a push.
So can India look forward to substantially greater FDI and technology transfer?
Yes. Japan is keen to help with investment, infrastructure building and human resource development.
We want to share with India our own development experience of the Sixties, when we borrowed from the World Bank to create infrastructure for growth. So we want to provide investment and technology to help India develop SEZs, better transport facilities, freight corridors, even a Mumbai to Delhi industrial corridor.
Japan is also developing an IIIT (Indian Institute of Information Technology) at Jabalpur, and the two governments are working on creating a consortium of 10 universities that will produce the leaders for tomorrow.
Given the demographic complementarities between the two countries, will Japan make it easier for Indians to work in Japan?
Yes, especially IT software engineers and some other kinds of professionals. We want to enhance people-to-people contacts by expanding tourism and easing visa norms. In Tokyo, the PMs will announce a three-fold increase in the number of direct flights between the two capitals.
Will Japan announce support for India’s civilian nuclear programme?
Japan understands India’s need for atomic energy. We also appreciate its clean record of non-proliferation. And we believe that India should be mainstreamed into the non-proliferation order.
So will Japan support India at the NSG?
I think the NSG is moving towards accepting India’s exceptional status within the nuclear powers.
Is any announcement regarding the Indo-US nuclear deal likely in Tokyo?
I don’t think the Indian government is expecting a statement at this stage because the deal is still in the works.