NEW DELHI, Sept. 14: As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe begins his two-day visit, India and Japan are expected to dig deep into their bilateral relationship, especially with an eye on converging their strategic and economic outlook to take it to the next level.
As a detailed joint statement is still being worked out, the focus is on defence and nuclear technologies as India is likely to finalize its first defence purchases from Japan, the US-2 amphibious plane that has been on the table for some years. Some element of 'Make in India' may be introduced, but the two sides are looking at a future where joint development will be the key. Given the fact that bureaucracies in both countries are notoriously slow, this may still take a while, needing strong political push to get it off the starting block.
On the other side, with the North Korean crisis deepening, Japan is looking for defence partnerships that deliver ballistic and cruise missiles, as was made clear by Katsuyuki Kawai, Abe's top foreign policy adviser, who was in New Delhi last week.
In order to counter China, India and Japan are teaming up to roll out big infrastructure and connectivity projects in Asian and African countries. The Asia-Africa growth corridor is slowly getting off the ground, and while it will never be as nimble as the Chinese OBOR (One Belt, One Road), India and Japan are working on a different philosophy, involving more local interests and participation.
With the completion of the civil nuclear deal, India is looking for more collaboration between nuclear companies of the two countries. The deal was finally signed between India and Japan in November 2016, and the Japanese Parliament cleared it in June.
The financial troubles of Westinghouse has necessitated a change in strategy. The Indian government will roll out the proverbial red carpet for the hundreds of Japanese nuclear companies which are in desperate need of markets, after the Fukushima disaster closed doors in Japan and many western countries.
The model will be different from the Russian one, where the foreign partner builds entire reactors from scratch. Instead, Japanese companies like Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi and numerous smaller nuclear companies are being invited to invest and provide support services to Indian firms for designing, building and operating reactors. For instance, Westinghouse, owned by Toshiba, is being invited to prove technology, components as well as service expertise for six reactors in Andhra Pradesh which would have earlier been a turn-key project, but now may be done with an Indian partner.
Here the Indian government's decision in May to build 10 new nuclear power reactors is expected to provide a glide path for Japanese companies. It also shifts India's focus from negotiating for full reactors to using Japanese expertise and technology to augment Indian capacities, and, India hopes, in time to look for third country markets. It would have helped India if its membership to the NSG was through, but there is little hope that it will be done any time soon. Until then, India plans to use the waiver granted to it in 2008 to the fullest.
The high speed railway, India reckons, will be a gateway to a different way of life and work for Indians just as Maruti Suzuki and the metro changed the face of urban transportation in India. The two sides are already looking at adding new lines to the high-speed railway network, one of the aims being to connect the major metropolises in the coming years.TOI
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