Abe in Ahmedabad: India-Japan partnership can transform development paradigm in India and the region

Sep 13, 2017
The symbolism of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holding parleys with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad from today cannot be missed. The last Asian leader who was similarly hosted in Ahmedabad was Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014. Back then Modi had gone out of his way to fete Xi, but considerable water has flown down the Yangtze Kiang since then. India-China ties haven’t proceeded along the expected trajectory, as exemplified by the recent Doklam standoff.
Japanese exports to India rose from Rs 22,900 crore in 2005 to Rs 57,800 crore in 2015, and as of today about 1,305 Japanese companies have branches in India. Japanese investments – both made and proposed – in projects such as the Delhi Metro and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor have been or can be transformational. Abe along with Modi will lay the foundation stone for the marquee Rs 1.1 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project which Japan is financing. Understandably, an Indian bullet train has raised eyebrows given the shabby state and unsatisfactory safety record of Indian railways in general. However, it needs to be noted that the bullet train project will have a separate financing stream. Plus the project can be used as a model to upgrade technology, standards and protocols across the railways.
Additionally, India and Japan will sign 10 MoUs – including those for Japanese industrial parks – during Abe’s trip. But what is really grabbing eyeballs is the expected launch of the Asia Africa Growth Corridor. The corridor is meant to build capacity and boost human resource development in Africa, create quality infrastructure, and facilitate people-to-people partnerships. Juxtaposed to China’s top-down investments comprising its ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, India-Japan’s outreach to the continent seeks to connect different growth poles through local ownership of projects, skill development and transfer of technology.
The strategic dimension of the corridor is clear. With China using its huge foreign exchange reserve to acquire economic depth overseas while trying to muscle aside other Asian powers, India and Japan can work together to buttress a multipolar Asia, as well as to provide an alternative model of development for Asia and Africa that respects sovereignty and democratic principles. In that sense, the India-Japan partnership can be a force that transforms the development paradigm in this part of the world. And Modi and Abe have the personal connect to actualise this.
Times of India, September 13, 2017

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