Land of rising sun,opportunities

That the Modi Sarkar will re-establish global confidence in the Indian growth story by pressing the accelerator was well understood overseas. Within the country, the mega vote of confidence the party won in May demolished all doubts abroad. Soon, traditional foreign critics, like some US political leaders, turned admirers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi within months of the new government taking charge.
But even within the country, nobody expected the Prime Minister to drive so fast on foreign policy, even though the parade of foreign top dignitaries at his swearing-in May did hint at a clutch of new initiatives. The rapidity of the visits to Bhutan and Nepal changed all that. These visits carried the imprint of the man who meant business, and was different from the staid and often inane nature of such exchanges.
During both visits, Modi received much warmth on account of being a Bharatiya Prime Minister who had the full backing of a billion people. Supporting his diplomatic efforts has been External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. She travelled to Nepal before Modi and has also visitted Vietnam. In Delhi, she has hosted Afghan, British, French, US and German leaders as well.
The cancellation of the Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan also sent the message that this Government has steel in its handshake – no wobbly, namby-pambies that characterised Manmohan Singh and that had baffled his own foreign policy establishment, as at Sharam-el-Sheik in Egypt.
Now on his visit to Japan as Prime Minister, Modi has expectant Nippon corporate honchos eager to listen, beside his India-loving counterpart in Shinzo Abe.
Three influential top company CEOs have already interacted with Modi in New Delhi in the last three months: Tadashi Yanai, chairman of garment conglomerate UNIQLO, Ken Kobyashi, president and CEO of one of the largest business group Mitsubishi, Osamu Suzuki, chairman and CEO of Suzuki Motor Corporation, besides other Japanese corporate worthies.
So, Japan’s corporate world has already an intimate assessment of the new Government, and more, the new leadership in New Delhi even as the Prime Minister landed.
So there is already a listening Japan Inc to analyse and respond to the package Modi brings into Tokyo. The Prime Minister has his sight far and wide and high as he talks about a Japanese commitment for 1.7 trillion dollars over five years in the various infrastructure initiatives on which his own development programme is based.
The policy flip-flops of the previous Government was not little responsible for Japanese foreign direct investment slumping from two billion dollars in 2011-12 to 1.3 billion dollars in 2012-13. With 1072 Japanese companies in India, this is just peanuts.
The Prime Minister is reported to be targeting for the doubling of the Japanese companies here so FDI could also double in five years. The prospects of more Indo-Japanese joint ventures is clearly seen as an advantage to India not only in terms of FDI but also in technology transfers, as Tokyo moves into top gear of manufacturing and construction technologies using artificial intelligence. The Prime Minister has planned this visit in great detail. It is not without reason that the bulk of the top deck of India Inc is travelling with him to Tokyo.
Signalling welcome of Japanese private capital as well as development aid to the massive infrastructure plans of the Modi-led Government, the up to 100 per cent FDI in railways was notified on the eve of the visit.
The vast plan of introducing bullet trains not just between Mumbai and Ahmedabad but also between several other major routes like Delhi-Chandigarh and Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore is being readied in Rail Bhavan. The private enterprise spokesbody, Assocham, has submitted a detailed railway mega plan: Complete separation of passenger and goods traffic with building more high speed freight corridors with industrial cities along and bullet trains connecting several twin mega cities.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency is likely to be the nodal body for the big foreign direct investment in the railway corridor projects. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train track and rolling stocks alone costing over Rs 60,000 crore. “I think this Government has made a good start and the message is clear”, says Takeshiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank.
The more important outcome of the visit could be a strategic line-up where India and Japan co-ordinate for ensuring that the sea trade routes in East and South East Asian sea-lanes is free from interference of any kind, especially from China.
The visit is also taking place at a time when there is ‘collective unease over China’s belligerence’. And this unease is despite there being several platforms for dialogue like the East Asia Forum, in which China as well as India and other Asian countries play important role along with US and Russia.
Modi himself has extended a hand of friendship towards China, and a visit from President Xi to India is in planning. But with the Modi Government clearly plunging for up to 49 per cent FDI in defence production, there is a good opening now for Japanese technology in defence equipment production that could have deeper implications. This is an angle that would be closely examined after the contours of Modi-Abe interaction get known.
How far the Prime Minister would be able to remove the historic Japanese objection to nuclear weapon production and nuclear material trade would be another area of importance in furthering Indo-Japanese collaboration.
There is a clear divide within Japan on nuclear energy programmes after what happened at Fukushima four years ago. On the other hand, Japan is the world’s largest importer of rare earth materials – many of which India could supply, and some of them having a critical role to play in nuclear energy production. Japan desperately needs to free itself from dependence on China in rare earth supplies.


BALBIR PUNJeditorial article
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