Modi to begin Japan visit with Kyoto

Trade, nuke deal, infrastructure cooperation will be in focus

shreerupa

Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | August 29, 2014



Prime minister Narendra Modi in his maiden visit for a bilateral trip outside of the subcontinent is visiting Japan from August 30 to September 3. Though earlier he was expected to fly into Tokyo, it is now confirmed that he will land in Osaka en route to Kyoto, where Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will receive him.

In Kyoto, Modi has a public event with Abe in the Toji temple. In addition, he will meet the mayor and the governor of Kyoto and also the Kyoto university centre which focuses on stem cell research. The delegation along with the Japanese prime minister will leave for Tokyo on the August 31. In the capital, apart from meeting emperor Akihito, who will host an official welcome for the Indian prime minister in Akasako palace on September 1, Modi will meet the Japanese deputy finance minister, foreign minister, defence minister, and transport and tourism minister as also leaders from across the political spectrum.

In the official programme there was no mention of the prime minister visiting the Renkoji shrine, where Subhas Chandra Bose’s ashes are kept.

Terming the visit as one of “great expectations”, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that India has a strategic and global partnership with Japan and Modi’s visit will provide an opportunity to broaden bilateral ties, get Japanese support for new infrastructural development in India, open new vistas for Indian export of goods and services, and explore new areas of cooperation.

India has been keen on importing nuclear fuel and technology from Japan without shutting its military nuclear programme. India has a similar deal with the US which it signed in 2008. On being asked if there would be any civil nuclear agreement between the two countries, Akbaruddin said that talks in that direction have been on since 2010. Since such agreements are of “immense technical complexity”, the Indian and Japanese interlocutors are working towards a satisfactory outcome for both the countries.

Nuclear commerce with Japan has three main points of negotiation. First, India is not a signatory to the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Japan wants India to strictly limit nuclear tests. Secondly, Japan also wants more access to inspections of its nuclear establishments to ensure that the nuclear fuel is not being diverted for other uses. Thirdly, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese companies, like their American counterparts, are reluctant to enter the market given India’s nuclear liability bill.

Modi’s visit might also fast-track the bullet train project. The railway budget has earmarked Rs 100 crore for work on this ambitious project. Japan is also cooperating with India to develop industrial corridors in India.

Citing the reasons for Kyoto being the place of entry for the Indian prime minister, Akbaruddin said, “Kyoto is the place where there is a confluence of Indian and Japanese civilisational heritage and that is through Buddhism. This provides a special symbolism to prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kyoto. You are also aware that the prime minister is keen on focussing on rejuvenating Indian cities as urban centres; and Kyoto is a magnificent example of how a city preserves its cultural heritage while also modernising itself. It, therefore, dovetails into the prime minister’s own emphasis on rejuvenation of cities in India while preserving their cultural heritage as also his focus on what is widely known as ‘smart’ cities.” Akbaruddin added that there are plans to replicate the Kyoto model to Varanasi, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency.

The Indian delegation does not have any ministers but will include national security advisor Ajit Doval, foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant, and expenditure secretary Ratan Watal, among other officials.

Prime minister Modi and his Japanese counterpart will have both restricted format discussions as well as delegation-level talks.

Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, and Kumaramangalam Birla are some of the top business honchos who will be part of a business delegation but will travel separately to Japan. The prime minister will address the Keidanren, the Japanese chamber of commerce & industry, and Japan-India business cooperation committee.

Modi will inaugurate the Vivekananda cultural centre in Tokyo. He will also be visiting a school in Kyoto.

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