Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will begin his visit to India Oon December 11th. The main purpose of Abe’s visit is to finalize the new route of India’s first high-speed rail project. According to an Associated Press (AP) report, losing the Indonesian high-speed rail project to China was painful for Japan, and winning India’s high-speed rail project was an opportunity for it to feel good and elated. Therefore, India has been given preferential terms from the Japanese side, including a term loan for a period of 50 years at a low-interest rate. An informed source told “Global Times”, that India not only has a comprehensive plan to expand its high-speed rail, but also has the ambitions of independent research and development. The other important routes from the feasibility studies have not been released, so the news ofJapan’s involvement in India’s first high-speed rail project was surprising. We just cannot ignore the fact that India-Japan high-speed rail cooperation is also a result of better understanding between two leaders following their election. As far as the details of overall cooperation are concerned, the two sides still have not resolved many issues in the field of land acquistion, indigenous content of the equipments used and technology transfer. Therefore, India will have to wait for quite some time for its first high-speed rail to see the light of day.
According to Japan’s Kyodo News, Japanese Prime Minister Abe left on a three-day visit to India on the 11th morning. On 12 December, Abe will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Modi, centred around the route of India’s first high-speed rail project in India and the agreement on Japanese export of nuclear power plant technology to India. After the talks, the two leaders will visit Varanasi, a holy-place in Hinduism, following which Abe will return to Japan on the 13th. Before leaving for India, PM Abe told the media at his official residence: “I hope to push forward the development of relations between Japan and India with great achievements in high-speed rail, security cooperation, and nuclear agreements.”
Before Abe’s visit, the Japanese media released the news that “the new route will become India’s first high-speed rail” and will connect the city of Ahmadabad and Mumbai. On the 11th, Japan’s TBS television Fuji Television and other media said that Japanese export its high-speed rail technology to India is a major aspect of Abe’s visit to India.
Japanese newspaper “Asahi Shimbun” said that since 2013, Japan and the Government of India jointly launched investigations into a high-speed rail project and finally in July this year they summed up the findings that supported the project. However, what really made Japan accelerate the pace of negotiations with India was the Indonesian high-speed rail experience in September this year— whereby the project was finally grabbed by China though it was proposed to go to Japan. Japanese government officials believe that by winning India’s rail project, Japan can also improve its prospects of building new routes in the United States and Malaysia.
“Japanese government to invest a large amount in order to win India’s huge project,” said Japanese newspaper Nikkei Shimbum. In order to win India’s high-speed rail orders, Japan plans to provide loans of over 1 trillion yen (about 53.2 billion yuan) to India’s high-speed rail project. According to the Times of India report on the 11th, the interest rate of the loan offered by Japan is only 0.1% with a repayment time frame of 50 years. This favourable financing scheme proves Japan had to to do its utmost to win India’s first high-speed rail orders.
On the 11th, India Today said that that “China was at ease over India’s selection of Japan for building its first high-speed rail” as China and India railway cooperation has been on an upward swing. In addition to enhancing the speed of Indian railways, China is also assisting in the training of its engineers. China’s support in infrastructure and funding for India is much larger than Japan. On December 11, South Asian scholar Ma Jia Li told the Global Times that India’s first high-speed rail is one of the many proposed high-value projects that China has currently being worked out with India. India Times quoted sources as saying that although the Japanese want to invest in other high-speed rail project in India, the Indian government wants to open the window of cooperation to other countries as well.
The UK’s Financial Times says that there is significant political and economical motivation for Japanese PM Abe to ensure success of his visit with a series of agreements—especially after Japan lost the Indonesian high-speed rail project to China. U.S. Bloomberg News believes that China has the dominant economic and trade position in Asia, and Abe is spending money for fostering closer relations with India. In this three-day trip, Abe will also seek to take advantage of his personal relationship with Indian PM Modi and make substantial efforts to counter China’s growing stature in this region. However, the development of India-Japan relations has a long way to go: the bilateral trade between India and Japan is just 5% of China-Japan trade (May 2015) and 25% less than India-China trade.
During this visit, Abe will not forget to pull India to talk about the South China Sea. Japan’s news agency Sankei Shimbun quoted an article “India and Japan, natural partners” that was published in Times of India. The article mentioned that as “China’s military rises in the South China Sea,” Japan, U.S. and India should strengthen cooperation to ensure maritime security. On 12th December, Japan’s Jiji news agency said that Abe and Modi will also move to strengthen maritime security cooperation with the United States. Bloomberg News said Abe would like to broaden the area of action to counter China’s informal alliance. This is a part of Abe’s so-called US, Japan, India, Australia “security quadrilateral” idea. However, even if Japan-India relations advance, Modi will be careful to maintain friendly relations with China and remember that Abe is also committed to cool down Sino-Japanese conflict. South Asian scholar Ma Jiali expressed his view to the Global Times that Indian diplomacy believes in “maximising (economic) advantage”, and will not deviate from its mainly independent foreign policy.
Global Times in India, Japanese special correspondents Zhou Song and Li Jin and contributions from reporter Yao Li Juan