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‘High speed’ diplomacy...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been focusing on building bilateral cooperation with a large number of countries, both developed and developing. His personal chemistry seems to have brought him closer to global leaders. 

The most successful of these efforts relate to Japan. The two counties have been assiduously cultivating  each other. In visits the two leaders have been expanding co-operation even in tough areas like nuclear energy. 

The recent visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with his wife marked an important watershed. Modi took care receiving the Japanese Prime Minister  in person at the Ahmedabad airport and taking the guests in an open vehicle through the Sabarmati river front with rich cultural activities en route. The inauguration of work on the Shinkansen type high speed rail from Ahmedabad to Mumbai marked the high point of the visit. Japanese are extending on attractive terms credit of Rs 88,000 crore on the project estimated to cost of Rs 110,000 crore on attractive terms. 

37 years ago Japanese Suzuki Motors invested in Maruti Udyog and helped the Indian automobile industry catch up with state-of-the-art technology. During the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister. Suzuki Motors announced an additional investment of Rs 3900 crore  in its Hansalpur plant  to expand production by another 250,000 cars and take total capacity in Gujarat to 750,000 per annum.

There are prospects for Japan extending such large cooperation to India’s nuclear power programme as well.

In 2016-17 trade between the two countries was a modest $ 13.48 bn and it is heavily weighted in favour of Japan(Indian exports: $ 3.85bn and imports: $ 9.63 bn). Modi should work towards getting favoured treatment from Japan. In this, effort should be made to facilitate exports of a vast range of primary products, household consumer items, textiles, leather, handlooms, handicrafts and low-tech products. India has rich capabilities in this area. A big step up of exports would help pay for the sophisticated hi-tech products that would be imported as also to service large scale funding of mega projects. Japan could also be persuaded to off-load a good number of manufacturing to India by set up manufacturing plants in India to produce for the global market. The infrastructure and the abundance of skilled labour available in India at a fraction of the cost could help in this direction. Like China, India could also go for high volume production.

Such a focus on steel, in which the Japanese have rich expertise, can help India emerge a large volume producer as did China. Of this in itself can support the manufacture of a vast range of industrial and consumer goods for the domestic and global markets. 

Apart from economics, there are much weightier reason for Japan coming closer to India. It can contain the hegemony and expansion of China.  In recent years China has made large investments in several Asian, African and Latin American countries, both for strategic and political reasons. Look just at such investments made by China in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan and the assistance extended to a rogue state like North Korea which continues to pose serious threats to South Korea, Japan and even the US. There is the urgent need for Japan, South Korea, the USA and India to form a strong alliance to contain China and prevent her from Doklam-like sabre-rattling. 

These countries, all democratic, can work jointly in winning the trust and cooperation of large number of developing countries in Africa, offering them development aid, technology and management expertise.  The recent visit of Shinzo Abe has opened up the prospects for such possibilities.   

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