Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday he looks forward to deepening relations between India and Japan when he visits the country this weekend for an annual bilateral summit with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
In an interview with Kyodo News, Modi said his two days of talks with Abe on Sunday and Monday “will be an opportunity to review our ongoing cooperation and discuss ways for expanding our relationship for promoting peace, progress and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
In recent years, he said, “the India-Japan partnership has been fundamentally transformed and it has been strengthened as a ‘special strategic and global partnership’.”
“There are no negatives but only opportunities in this relationship which are waiting to be seized,” he added.
India and Japan share a close diplomatic and business engagement under the framework of the “special strategic and global partnership,” the level to which bilateral relations were formally elevated during Modi’s visit to Japan in 2014.
Modi and Abe are expected to hold wide-ranging discussions on strengthening collaboration in key areas such as regional security, defense exchanges and technology.
Indian officials said the two leaders are likely to consider bolstering the “strategic alliance” between the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces. This comes on the backdrop of China stepping up its naval patrolling of key routes through which international commerce flows in the Indo-Pacific region.
“I am confident that our discussions will give a much more concrete direction to India-Japan relationship,” Modi said.
Along with the United States and Australia, both the nations are also part of a quad grouping that was revived in 2017 and seeks closer cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, with an aim to counter China’s ever growing influence in the area.
Modi said Japan has been an important partner for India in propelling forward its economic growth.
“We would like to see many more Japanese companies to make use of the opportunities available in the Indian economy under ‘Make in India,’ ‘Digital India,’ ‘Startup India,’ ‘Clean India Mission,’ ‘Smart Cities’ and other such flagship initiatives.”
On Japanese assistance for a $15 billion high-speed rail project in India that will use Japan’s Shinkansen technology, Modi said, “India-Japan cooperation to launch the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project is an iconic example of Japanese technology and finance contributing to India’s economic modernization.”
According to Indian railway officials, Japan is expected to contribute over $12 billion in loans for the project, repayable over 50 years.
Last month, India signed an agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency on the provision of a low-interest loan of around $800 million as the first tranche. At the upcoming summit, two sides will sign an agreement on the second tranche.
Among obstacles faced by the project targeted for completion in 2022, the 75th year of India’s independence, are land acquisition and labor issues, farmer agitation in certain parts of Maharashtra state and active resistance by local political parties.
“Both sides are confident that we will be able to meet our mutually decided deadline,” Modi said.
“The project will be a major booster to our ‘Make in India’ initiative and will enrich India with latest technology needed for ultra-modern transportation, along with capital investment and employment agreement,” he added.
At the summit, there will also likely be discussions on Delhi’s mass rapid transit system, some hydroelectric and road projects, and how Japan can help in improving infrastructure in India’s less-developed northeastern states.
Regarding the two countries’ 2016 agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses for nuclear energy, Modi called such cooperation “a manifestation of the significant deepening of our strategic partnership and our shared objective of realizing clean energy and sustainable development.”
Modi said India remains committed to its “voluntary, unilateral moratorium” on the testing of nuclear weapons.
After arriving in Tokyo late Saturday, Modi will travel the following day to Abe’s private villa in picturesque Yamanashi Prefecture for a private dinner — in a rare gesture of friendship shown to a visiting foreign leader. Their formal summit talks are set for Monday in Tokyo.
This will be Modi’s third visit to Japan as prime minister and 12th meeting with Abe. Abe traveled to India in September last year, while Modi last came to Japan in November 2016.