Tokyo, Mar 26 IBNS | 1 year ago

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said Indo-Japan bilateral relations are weak when it comes to people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.


Speaking at Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Khurshid said: "While our economic interaction and political and security exchanges are strong and expanding, the one area in our bilateral ties which continues to remain weak is in the area of people-to-people exchanges."

"While politics and economics are indeed important, perhaps it is the interaction between the people of any two countries which is a significant variable in relations between nations. This is where the Governments of our countries are paying their greatest attention since tourism flows can indeed be strengthened as can student exchanges."

He said direct flights between cities in India and Japan have increased over the last two years, but are still far below potential.

"Given the fact that our combined population is nearly 1.4 billion, we are very aware that we can do far better in attracting more Japanese tourists to India. Indeed, the same is true of Indian tourism in the direction of Japan. The number of Indian students in Japan does not exceed a few hundred," Khurshid said.

"Perhaps, Universities in each of our countries can institute more scholarships which may attract more students from the other country. There are Chairs of Indian Studies at the University of Tokyo as well as at Ryokoku University. I encourage Rikkyo University to establish a Chair in Indian Studies. It will help spark increased interest in India," he said.

"I would venture to state that both India and Japan need to work on ensuring a confluence of our peoples if we are to ensure that bilateral ties continue to stay on their high trajectory. I am told that Indian movies are beginning to make an entrance into the Japanese market and that may bring our people closer together," said the Indian minister.

The External Affairs Minister's speech at Rikkyo University, Tokyo:

Chancellor Mr. Itoigawa,

President Professor Yoshioka,

Professor Takenaka,

Teachers and students of Rikkyo University,

Friends.

Thank you for your very warm welcome. I am delighted to be with all of you today at this prestigious campus of the famous Rikkyo University. I am here in Tokyo on my first official visit to your beautiful country as the External Affairs Minister of India. I will utilize this wonderful opportunity today to spell out what I see as the trajectory of relations between India and Japan in the coming years of the 21st Century.

When I planned this visit to Tokyo, I did not realize that I would be visiting this capital city of Japan when it is at its prettiest, with the sakura or the cherry blossoms in full bloom. I am told that they have bloomed a little early this year, perhaps in time for my visit. I would like to think that this is an omen. What I will argue in the course of my address to you today is that the relationship between our two countries, between India and Japan, is also on the cusp of flowering and blooming like the cherry blossoms. Relations between our two countries are about to experience spring time.

In a period of history when we are seeing the resurgence of Asia within the world economy, we in India constantly remind ourselves that it was Japan which was the first country in Asia which underwent the industrial revolution. The rise of Japan in the 19th Century into an industrial society and an important economy has always urged us in India to follow your example and driven us in our national endeavor of economic development and social progress. In this sense, Japan has been like the Pole Star and guided us in India on the way forward in our own national domestic effort.

Centuries before the Meiji Restoration, India had made its own contribution to Japanese society when Buddhism traveled from the land of its birth over the seas to Japan. The teachings of the Buddha with emphasis on the Middle Path found fertile ground for growth in your country. The famous Todaiji Temple at Nara is a monument to the flourishing exchanges that existed between us in a bygone era. Isn't it an amazing fact that the Indian monk Bodhisena traveled to Nara over 1200 years ago to consecrate the Buddha statue at Todaiji?

While we have this rich heritage on which we can build further, today in the 21st Century India and Japan share common values which provide even firmer ground on which our Strategic and Global Partnership is founded. We are the two largest, most enduring democracies in Asia. Each of us cherish the free and fair electoral system which throws up the Governments that lead our countries and which in turn find legitimacy from such periodic elections. The Japanese and Indian people both uphold and value individual freedoms and human rights. We firmly believe in the rule of law and that no individual is above the law of the land. I am confident that this shared value system will stand us in good stead in the years ahead and it will prove to be the foundation for an expanded relationship between our countries and our peoples. Such a relationship will be guided by principle but will also be grounded in reality and pragmatism.

A second factor which augurs well for the India - Japan partnership is that there is consensus in both our nations and across the political spectrum that a strong relationship between our countries is in our national interests and is good for Asia and the world at large. Therefore, whatever political party may be in power either in Japan or in India, our bilateral ties will continue to prosper and grow. We have indeed experienced exactly this through the changes of Government in Japan over the past few years.

The end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new Century provided the necessary conditions for a quantum leap in interaction and exchange between our countries. It was the vision and leadership of then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori which helped convert potential into practice. His historic, path breaking visit to India in the year 2000 provided the much needed impetus for our relations to be taken to a new level. Guided by his strategic vision both nations saw the merit in substantive bilateral engagement in diverse spheres. What Mori-san started at that point in time has been taken to its logical conclusion by succeeding Governments both in Japan as well as in India.

Our economic engagement has expanded significantly over these past few years, since we established our Strategic and Global Partnership in 2006. We have implemented a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement since August 2011. It has been well over a year since then and the initial results in terms of greater flows of trade and investment are heartening after factoring in the depressed global economic conditions that have ensued in this period. We are delighted that India continues to poll very high amongst Japanese firms as a long term investment destination. The number of firms from your country which have operations in India is over 1000 now, and while we can take some satisfaction from this fact, naturally we want many more of your firms to invest in India. Very frankly, there is a perfect fit here since India is a labour abundant country with relatively low wage rates. Japan is abundant in capital and has technology and management expertise which can be married to our competitive advantages. We are also immensely aware of the need to upgrade physical infrastructure in India whether at our ports or our highways and roads. That is why we plan to invest about 1 trillion US Dollars in infrastructure during the period 2012 to 2017. We are confident that in the near future the infrastructure needs of corporate Japan will be met in India. We have also recently announced a new manufacturing policy to encourage and support this very important segment of the economy. Jobs for our young population will come mainly from manufacturing and we believe Japanese firms will find a win-win situation in this regard in our country.

Suzuki, of course, is a household name in India thanks to the automobiles it has been producing in India since the 1980s. They were well ahead of the curve in entering India, had first mover's advantage and therefore even today have the largest market share in our domestic car market. What I find very interesting about the Suzuki model, is that they have now also made India a manufacturing hub for export of cars to the Middle East, North Africa and even East Europe. We are delighted that other famous Japanese auto firms such as Nissan and Toyota have followed suit. The ancillary firms have begun to come to India more recently and this relatively recent development makes us sure that we are on the right track for enhancing foreign investment flows.

India continues to be the largest recipient nation of Japanese Official Development Assistance for many years in a row. The Government and people of India greatly appreciate this help from the people of Japan. This aid has been utilized in large, iconic infrastructure development projects such as the Delhi Metro project which has revolutionized travel within the city for millions of commuters. Seeing this successful example, other cities of India are also vying to build underground metro projects, some of them with Japanese assistance. Similarly, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor project will help accelerate the speed with which goods are transported between Delhi and Mumbai and will benefit the Indian economy greatly. The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor is another Japanese funded project in India which has enormous significance since it will establish new towns and cities which will become manufacturing hubs and will combine modern technologies to make them smart cities. Many of these ventures are futuristic in their orientation and will positively impact modernization and development in India.

I firmly believe that India - Japan economic engagement creates a win-win situation for both our countries and will help foster growth in the second and third largest economies of Asia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Political and security cooperation between India and Japan has a significance which goes beyond our two countries. We are both members of the East Asia Summit process and we desire to see this architecture being open, transparent and inclusive. We have a bilateral Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation and an Action Plan to Advance Security Cooperation that spells out a detailed dialogue mechanism which has been meeting regularly and its decisions implemented steadfastly. We have annual Summits between our Prime Ministers and we hope to have our Prime Minister visit your country soon. We also have an annual Strategic Dialogue between the Foreign Ministers of our countries and I myself am here in Tokyo for the 7th dialogue with Foreign Minister Kishida whom I will meet later this evening. We expect to talk about the entire range of issues in our bilateral ties as well as regional and global issues. The discussions between us are usually frank, candid and constructive in keeping with the partnership our countries enjoy. Japan is the only country with which India has a 2 Plus 2 dialogue between the Defence and Foreign Ministries of our Governments.

The Indian and Japanese Coast Guards have regular interactions as does the Indian Navy and your Maritime Self Defence Force. We had our first bilateral naval exercise last June. All this cooperation is not aimed at any other country but helps us to gain valuable knowledge and experience about the interoperability of our defence forces.

Prime Minister Abe has also contributed immeasurably to the India - Japan strategic partnership. In his earlier stint as Prime Minister of Japan he visited us in India in 2007 and delivered a memorable address to a joint sitting of our Parliament. At that time, he had eloquently spoken of the confluence of the two seas which gave rise to the term 'Indo-Pacific' that is commonly used by strategic thinkers today. There can be little doubt that countries like India and Japan must cooperate in ensuring the security of the global commons including freedom of navigation on the high seas that is critical to both our countries which import large amounts of oil and gas. Let me say clearly today that India stands with Japan, and other like minded countries, in pursuing and implementing these goals and objectives.

India and Japan work closely on international and global issues as well. Both our Governments have been relentlessly pursuing the objective of reforming the United Nations, including its Security Council, so as to make it more representative of the realities of today's world. We are both members of the G-20 where we have worked tirelessly to overcome the international financial crisis and its impact on the world economy. Within Asia, we are partners in the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus and the expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum. We have a Trilateral Dialogue with the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while our economic interaction and political and security exchanges are strong and expanding, the one area in our bilateral ties which continues to remain weak is in the area of people-to-people exchanges. While politics and economics are indeed important, perhaps it is the interaction between the people of any two countries which is a significant variable in relations between nations. This is where the Governments of our countries are paying their greatest attention since tourism flows can indeed be strengthened as can student exchanges. Direct flights between cities in India and Japan have increased over the last two years, but are still far below potential. Given the fact that our combined population is nearly 1.4 billion, we are very aware that we can do far better in attracting more Japanese tourists to India. Indeed, the same is true of Indian tourism in the direction of Japan. The number of Indian students in Japan does not exceed a few hundred. Perhaps, Universities in each of our countries can institute more scholarships which may attract more students from the other country. There are Chairs of Indian Studies at the University of Tokyo as well as at Ryokoku University. I encourage Rikkyo University to establish a Chair in Indian Studies. It will help spark increased interest in India.

I would venture to state that both India and Japan need to work on ensuring a confluence of our peoples if we are to ensure that bilateral ties continue to stay on their high trajectory. I am told that Indian movies are beginning to make an entrance into the Japanese market and that may bring our people closer together.

Which leads me to the question of where I think India - Japan relations will be in a decade from now? As I have spelt out, all the necessary conditions for a take-off in our relations are in place. The sufficient conditions are being worked upon and I hope will fall into place in the next few years. These sufficient conditions include better infrastructure in India, more flows of tourists and students in both directions and political convergence between our Governments.

It is these facts on the ground which leads me to be very optimistic about our bilateral ties and to predict that they will blossom further in the coming decade of the 21st Century. I have little doubt that it will be young people like the students who are gathered here today at Rikkyo University who will lead this charge and on whom will devolve the responsibility of ensuring that spring comes early to India - Japan relations.

I thank you for your patience. I thank you for your welcome.

(Posted on 26-03-2013)