Debating India

`Huge potential for Japan-India trade ties’

Friday 29 April 2005

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has emphasised the importance of India and Japan working as "partners" against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The following are excerpts from Mr. Koizumi’s written answers to questions from P.S. Suryanarayana prior to his departure for India from Tokyo on Thursday.

What are the overarching political and strategic objectives of your present visit to India? What, in your strategic thinking, is the new Factor-X that can bring Japan closer to India?

Junichiro Koizumi: I recognise that India is stridently emerging as a global power, aided by a robust economic growth, and that it has become a major country essential for peace, stability and prosperity of Asia and beyond. It is good to note that Japan and India are bound by shared values and principles, such as democracy, as well as the convergence of strategic interests. Therefore, Japan and India need each other as a strong, prosperous and dynamic partner.

Since establishing the Japan-India Global Partnership in 2000, our two countries have steadily fostered a wide-ranging and multifaceted cooperative relationship. With my visit to India, it is my intention to reinforce our relationship on the basis of what we have achieved in the past five years, and with a new strategic orientation in a new Asian era, to take our partnership to a new height of regional and global significance.

As part of your international economic agenda, do you have any specific plan to set right the recent sluggishness in Japan-India economic interactions?

I would first like to underline the fact that Japan-India economic interactions are not sluggish. Trade figures were approximately 16 per cent higher in 2004 over the previous year, and the number of Japanese companies operating in India has increased from 222 in 2001 to 301 in 2005.

At the same time, Japan-India economic relations, which are currently on the right track, need further strengthening during my visit to India in order to contribute more to the development and prosperity of the region. Our economic ties have huge potential, considering the size of our two economies. It is against this background that the Japan-India Joint Study Group is to hold its first meeting shortly to discuss specific means to strengthen our economic relationship in a way commensurate with its potentiality.

Are you signalling that Japan’s differences with India on the nuclear issue will not be an impediment to a new take-off on the bilateral front? Are you confident that the nuanced differences over the hyper-power activism of the United States will not affect Tokyo’s ties with New Delhi?

Japan would like to see all countries, including India, accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Having said that, as Japan and India share the ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons, we would like to think together with the Indians about how our two countries can cooperate towards achieving the goal. It is also important that Japan and India work together as partners against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, an urgent task facing the international community.

I am aware that India has different views from Japan on some issues such as the despatch of troops to Iraq. I do not believe, however, that such differences constitute an impediment to our efforts to strengthen our relationship, as Japan and India share the universal values of freedom and democracy and have enjoyed centuries of history of exchanges and friendship. I would rather look forward to enhancing close consultations in the spirit of the global partnership and working together for promoting world’s stability and prosperity.

Do you want to enlarge the scope of the existing `Global Partnership’ between India and Japan? If so, please let us know about your thinking.

The Japan-India Global Partnership has steadily advanced, and the dimension of our cooperation is not only bilateral but encompasses global issues, notably the United Nations reforms.

It is my belief that Japan and India, as two major powers in Asia and in the world as a whole, need to boost our cooperative engagements to address regional and global challenges.

I, therefore, very much look forward to my meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss issues of mutual concern.

With India and Japan having made common cause to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, what is your realistic expectation? Is there a specific game-plan for gaining such seats with the same status as the present permanent members?

There is certainly a rise in momentum among member-states towards the realisation of U.N. reforms, particularly Security Council reform. Japan intends to enhance cooperation with India and a wide range of other concerned countries towards the realisation of Security Council reform, to reach a decision on this matter before the Summit meeting in September this year as stated in the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s report.

As a leading player within the Group of Eight [seven `rich’ countries and Russia], is Japan inclined to support India’s admission to this club, as a summit-level participant, at the time of its possible expansion to include China?

Since the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit [in July 2000], we have had fruitful dialogues with developing countries at each G8 summit.

I will be consulting closely with other G8 countries on relations between the G8 and major developing countries such as India and China.

What is Japan’s updated stand on India’s [possible] admission to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum?

At the 1997 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vancouver, the forum decided to freeze new applications for 10 years. It is, therefore, appropriate to say at this juncture that we will discuss the matter among the members in the light of the relevant guidelines in the future, when the expansion of membership reopens, and if India expresses a desire to join.

On a related plane, does Japan welcome India’s proposal for an Asian Economic Community?

I am aware that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has proposed an idea of an `Asian Economic Community’. Japan is, of course, interested to work together with India for the development of Asia.

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