India and Japan have agreed to advance their strategic economic partnership, with Tokyo agreeing to provide a $4.5 billion (about Rs 22,000 crore) soft loan to fund the first leg of the Delhi-Mumbai railway freight corridor, which will connect India's northern states with ports in the country's west.
Five Japanese companies will actively participate in setting up early bird projects in power generation, enclave development and human resources development that will be set up on both sides of the corridor.
Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Taro Aso, at a press briefing on Wednesday, stressed that their growing economic and strategic relations had nothing to do with a third country, especially China.
“I sincerely believe that there is enormous scope for both the countries to realise their development goals, there is no competition between India and China,” Singh said. “There is scope for both countries to grow, and our arrangement with Japan is not at the expense of any third country.”
Aso had similarly responded to another question on the possibility of the security cooperation between India and Japan being extended to “trilateral” cooperation with the US, and if this was being done at China's expense. “We don't have any
third country as the target,” Aso said.
Both answers came after the two sides issued a joint declaration on security cooperation and instructed their governments to develop an action plan.
Singh leaves for China on Thursday to participate in the 6th Asia-Europe meeting. It is for the first time India will be represented at the summit.
Soon after Singh went out of his way to thank Japan for not coming in the way of the Indo-US nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna last month, Aso said Japan hoped India would stick to its nuclear-test moratorium.
Singh responded to Aso's comment with grace. “We do recognise the sensitivity of this issue in Japan and therefore mentioned to the prime minister that India will move at a pace at which the Japanese government and people are comfortable with,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Singh was feted by the elite of the Japanese industry, the Keidanren business group, at a luncheon meeting, a signal, an Indian official said on the condition of anonymity, that “Japan realises that it needs to build a strong partnership with India, and needs to look beyond ASEAN and China”. ASEAN is short for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Singh gently scolded Japanese businessmen for ignoring India, saying that “there was much more name recognition” for South Korean goods in India.
“I promise that I will do everything in my power to improve the environment for Japanese business in India,”the Prime Minister said.