Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan where he invited greater investment from Japan under a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and also requested Tokyo's support for the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Singh addressed the Japanese Diet on directly beseeched policy makers on several issues.
India's stated objective of reaching a 10% gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate by 2012 requires an estimated USD 500 billion investment in the next 10 years and USD 320 billion is required for infrastructure alone and the reforms initiated includes vast investment opportunity for foreign entrepreneurs. Singh said that the CEPA would accelerate the mutual economic cooperation through provisions that promote mutual investments and greater trade and services that will be beneficial to both nations. New Delhi expects a large investment from Japan in infrastructure, agriculture, and education. Singh highlight several reforms that his government has initiated to ease bureaucratic red tape and investment hurdles and promised more relaxed entry criteria in the future.
An important input blocking growth in India is its energy deficiency and New Delhi is trying multiple strategies to ensure energy security including oil, natural gas, coal-bed based methane, gasification of coal, nuclear, and unconventional energy such as wind, solar, and bio-fuels. While it has control over many of these sources of energy, its nuclear program is handicapped by global embargo on India over nuclear technology and fuels as retribution for its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). These embargos were strengthened following its nuclear tests and as the only victim of an atomic bomb, Japan is more hard-line than many nations in the development and use of nuclear weapons. However, with the passage of the "Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006" by the US Congress and Senate, there is wide-spread expectation that Japan will support the deal especially in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
The Indo-US Civilian Nuclear deal requires completion of several facets and agreements in parallel and in addition to the US such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the NSG. While India's negotiations with the IAEA has a good start to ensure that its civilian reactors to be placed under the IAEA meets international guidelines, the NSG conversation has been stalled by many issues and particularly by hard-line states in Europe, China, Australia, and New Zealand. Japan's concern about the deal deals with safety and conformance of nuclear facilities and Tokyo has indicated that it will support the deal once the US President George Bush signs the law into action and New Delhi negotiates a comprehensive deal with the IAEA that meets the US scrutiny to demonstrate "sincerity." Ahead of Singh's meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese hosts prepared the ground that it was not easy to say "yes easily" due to its history but has a "sense of trust" that India "is ready to respond in a responsible manner on the nuclear issue." Once Tokyo derives a position, Abe promised to bring its extensive experience in nuclear civilian energy and cooperate with New Delhi. Currently, 40% of Japan's electricity comes from nuclear energy.
Other sundry areas that were discussed include terrorism which Singh described as a "complex problem" with "many faces" and "causes" but "respects no geographical barriers." He stressed that the world cannot defeat it unless the nations "work together." He also pointed out that India and Japan should revitalize and reform the UN including the Security Council because both nations "have a vital stake in the enhanced effectiveness of the UN and its various organs." Singh said there was a need to accelerate the pace of cooperation in science and technology especially in nano-technology, bio-technology, life sciences, and information and communication technologies.
Singh also tried to focus on a bilateral "strategic global partnership" where there is a "stronger Japan for a stronger India" as well as a "stronger India for a stronger Japan" where the countries will work together on "political issues, security matters, economic co-operation, and people-to-people contacts." Acknowledging that despite great mutual congruence on politics, economy, and diplomacy, there is very little economic and political cooperation Singh said that it can be corrected through close engagement to "enhance the voice of our two countries on important matters in international affairs." However, he pointed out that whenever there was engagement as in the case of Maruti-Suzuki, the Delhi Metro, and Toyota's manufacturing presence, the results were spectacular.
On the other hand, even though Japan and China do not have as much congruence, the economic relations between them have been impressive. For instance, while there are only 340 Japanese companies in India, there are 30,000 in China. While 80,000 Chinese students study in Japan, only 400 from Indian go there for education. While there are 70 direct flights between China and Japan, there is only 1 between New Delhi and Tokyo. Part of this has been a political isolation between India and Japan that defies history or reason. Abe acknowledged that Tokyo has to do more to enhance "awareness" building and developing "people-to-people contacts." In fact, Prime Ministerial visits between the two nations became regular only since Yoshiro Mori's visit to India in 2000 when the nations signed an agreement to forge a "India-Japan Global Partnership in the 21st Century." Between 1961 and 1984, there was not a single Japanese visitor to India. However, Abe has a historical link to India-his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi became Prime Minister in 1957 and visited India the same year when he was warmly received by Jawaharlal Nehru and was even given the rare honor to address tens of thousands of people from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Traditionally, only Indian PMs address the nation from there on the Independence Day.
Recognizing that the strength of a nation can be built only through trade and not just by military might, India, China, and Japan have all been trying to better relations in many ways. Chinese President Hu Jintao had just visited India in November, Abe went to China in October, and Indian Petroleum Minister is currently visiting Beijing.
Singh and Abe launched the India-Japan Friendship Year 2007 and Festival of India in Japan marking the 50th anniversary of bilateral cultural agreement. Similarly, Japan is to showcase its culture and heritage through a Festival of Japan in India.