Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Osaka, Japan on 30 August 2014, for his five-day official visit to Japan. Within hours of reaching, he oversaw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to turn Varanasi into a ‘smart city’ with help from Kyoto.
Under the smart heritage cities programme, Kyoto will provide cooperation in the fields of conservation and modernisation of cities, as well as art, culture and academics. While Kyoto and Kashi share many similarities historically, there is a wide gap in where they stand today.
Mr Modi spent the early part of his second day in Japan visiting a cutting-edge research laboratory and paying obeisance at ancient temples—the eighth-century Toji temple and the spectacularly pretty Kinkaku-ji temple. He also Prof Shinya Yamanaka, who received the 2012 Nobel prize for medicine for his work on stem cells and raised the problem of sickle cell anaemia, a disease which is prevalent in some of India’s tribal population, and sought to explore if there were answers in stem cell research.
In the Summit-level meeting between Prime Minister Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, both countries agreed to strengthen defence ties. They also agreed to speed up talks on a so-far elusive deal on nuclear energy cooperation, welcoming what they called “significant progress” in the negotiations.
They also agreed to accelerate talks on the possible sale of an amphibious aircraft to India’s navy—likely to become Japan’s first overseas military sale in nearly 50 years and a result of Mr Abe’s more muscular approach to defence in the face of an assertive China.
Both sides signed five pacts covering defence exchanges, cooperation in clean energy, roads and highways, healthcare and women while vowing to take their relationship from strategic partnership to a special strategic partnership. Japan also agreed to lift the ban on six Indian entities, including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was imposed in the aftermath of 1998 nuclear tests.
Prime Minister Modi criticised the 18th-century expansionist ways of some countries that encroach upon the seas and territories of others, in a veiled reference to China, with which India shares a long disputed border.
Prime Minister Abe is keen to expand Japan’s network of security partnerships with countries such as India and Australia to cope with the challenge presented by China.
Both leaders also agreed to look into upgrading a ‘two-plus-two’ format for security talks by bringing together their foreign and defence ministers, and directed officials to launch working level talks on defence equipment and technology cooperation.
They also agreed to hold regular maritime exercises, and that Japan would continue to participate in US-India drills.
The two leaders set a target to double Japan’s direct investment in India within five years. Prime Minister Abe said Japan would aim to invest 3.5 trillion yen ($33.6 billion) in public and private investment and financing including foreign aid to India in five years for projects such as infrastructure and clean energy.
The two leaders also welcomed a substantial agreement on a commercial deal on the manufacture and supply of rare earth chlorides, a key element of defence industry components and hi-tech wares.
The partnership between the two countries stands upgraded to the level of ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ with the signing of a defence pact for regional stability and Tokyo’s decision to double FDI in India by pledging $35 billion over the next five years for boosting India’s infrastructure, including bullet trains.