PM Modi and Shinzo Abe launch India’s first bullet train project, agree to boost ties for peaceful Indo-Pacific | india news | Hindustan Times
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PM Modi and Shinzo Abe launch India’s first bullet train project, agree to boost ties for peaceful Indo-Pacific

India and Japan agreed to boost cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region in the midst of China’s growing assertiveness and broke the ground for an ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2017 22:18 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi raise hands after the groundbreaking ceremony for a high-speed rail project in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi raise hands after the groundbreaking ceremony for a high-speed rail project in Ahmedabad on Thursday.(REUTERS)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe launched on Thursday the project to build India’s first bullet train network and unveiled an ambitious connectivity plan between Asia and Africa, almost immediately drawing concerns from their common rival China.

Abe was in Gujarat on a two-day visit for the annual summit between the two nations, which have become increasingly close as they seek to counter China’s growing influence.

Modi and Abe signed 15 agreements including increasing flights between their cities and collaboration in areas of defence, security, trade, and civil nuclear energy.

“The growing convergence between Japan and India on strategic and economic issues has capacity to stimulate the global economy,” Modi said in a press statement with Abe. The Japanese PM called his country’s ties with India “special, strategic and global.”

The two leaders participated in the ground breaking ceremony for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project that is set to be completed in 2022. Slated to cost Rs 1,10,000 crore, trains on this network will run at peak speeds of 350 k/hr.

“This is the new India and the flight of its dreams is endless,” Modi said at the ceremony held in Ahmedabad earlier in the day.

The display of warmth between India and Japan immediately drew a reaction from Beijing. “We advocate that regional countries should stand for dialogue without confrontation and work for partnership instead of alliance,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

Modi and Abe later met for the main event of the summit in Gandhinagar, where they delivered a lengthy joint statement that stressed on moving “toward a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.

The Japanese leader, who was accorded a rousing welcome on his arrival in Ahmedabad on Wednesday with Modi receiving him at the airport, pitched for India as the “factory of the world”, a direct challenge to China, which is the global manufacturing hub.

“Japan in committed to Make in India. If Japan’s high-level technique mergers with India’s best human resources, India will become the factory of the world,” Abe said, referring to the NDA’s government’s ambitious plan to turn India into a global manufacturing powerhouse.

A crucial portion of their declaration was about collaborating in Africa, where 54 resource-rich countries present a ripe market. The partnership merges India’s Act-East and Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategies with their policy for engagement with the African continent, home to 15% of the population.

The support of these countries is also vital for New Delhi and Tokyo’s aspirations of a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.

The unveiling of the strategy follows China’s one belt, one road (OBOR) connectivity plan that also aims to deepen engagement with Africa and countries in the region.

The joint statement called for countries in the region to “ensure development and connectivity infrastructure in an open, transparent and non-exclusive manner based on international standards and responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment”.

These are the very concerns India raised while staying away from OBOR since it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

In Beijing the foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing was “open and welcome normal development of relations between the countries in the region. We hope that relations will be conducive to regional peace and stability and can play a constructive role in this regard”.

(with inputs from Srinad Jha in Ahmedabad and Sutirtho Patranobis in Beijing)