In PM Modi's first foreign visit outside the sub-continent, his reaching out to Japan and his personal relations with Japanese PM Abe may pay rich dividends to the bilateral relationship
Extending a gesture reserved only for very special guests, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan travelled all the way from Tokyo to meet PM Modi in the old imperial capital of Kyoto. Generally, visiting heads of states are received in the capital. Apart from visiting the ancient Buddhist temples in Kyoto, an agreement was signed to replicate Kyoto in Varanasi, developing it into a "smart city", maintaining its traditional heritage status while making it more modern than it is today.
PM Modi proceeds from Kyoto to Tokyo, to continue discussions with PM Shinzo Abe, with whom he has warm relations from his time as Gujarat Chief Minister. Mr Modi is expected to roll out the red carpet for the Japanese business community, and to set up their manufacturing enterprises in India, where all the essential ingredients are available at competitive prices. He would reiterate his call to make India the manufacturing hub for Japanese products.
Moneylife recently covered the proposed visit by PM Modi and the interest shown by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in developing the Indian Railways, by setting up high speed railway corridors. In fact, press reports indicate that JICA, supported by an Indian team, has already identified fifteen possible stations along the proposed high speed train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. According to the Deputy Director General of the South Asia Department of JICA, Mr Katsuo Matumoto, this corridor will also have to set up some special links so that transfers are possible and made easy, when the system is set up.
It may be recalled that during the Railway Budget presentation, Minister Sadanand Gowda had stated that such a high speed train service wold involve an outlay of Rs60,000 crore (or about $10 billion), but in the long run this would make travelling easier and cheaper. At the moment, this bullet train system, also called Shinkansen, covers an estimated 2,600 KMs of high speed railway networks in Japan and has the best safety record in the world. While India has none, China boasts 12,000 Kms of high speed trains, for which they began construction only in 2007. Chinese high speed trains are cheaper as compared the Japanese Bullet train. PM Modi has a difficult choice to make, but indications are that he may make a final decision only after meeting the Chinese president Xi Jinping, when he visits India later this month. A proper mix of both the systems may be found suitable, also depending on the long term credit facilities, which may well decide the winner!
Both Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi have a lot of things to discuss, other than the bullet trains. Issues covering mutual defence, civil nuclear agreements and supply of earth minerals and amphibious aircrafts are to be discussed. Currently, Japan obtains rare earth minerals, which are mostly used in the manufacture of high-end electronics, from China. Due to China's controversial territorial claims on some Japanese Islands, it is likely that Japan would like to cultivate India as an alternate source of supply. No doubt, Narendra Modi would do his very best to invite Japanese FDI in many areas and hopefully, he will return successful from Japan.
has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)