NEW DELHI – Tokyo and New Delhi agreed to major deals Saturday, including the introduction of Japan’s bullet train technology to India and an agreement on nuclear cooperation.
The bilateral accord was reached during talks in New Delhi between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.
“This enterprise will launch a revolution in Indian railways and speed up India’s journey into the future. It will become an engine of economic transformation in India,” Modi said after the talks, referring to the introduction of Japanese shinkansen technology in building a high-speed railway in India.
“This project befits the start of a new era for (ties between) Japan and India,” Abe said.
The two countries also agreed on a civil nuclear cooperation pact. Sensitive negotiations had continued for five years on exporting Japan’s nuclear power plant technology to India, with one of the sticking points being whether Japan could ensure that its nuclear technology would not be diverted for military use.
India, despite being a de facto nuclear weapons state, has not joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Japan is promoting (nuclear) nonproliferation, given the history of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, while India is outside the NPT framework but wants to cooperate on nuclear power generation,” one Japanese official said while noting Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic bombings.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda, who accompanied Abe on the visit, told reporters after the talks that Japan’s cooperation under the bilateral civil nuclear pact will stop if India conducts a nuclear test.
The two projects were the main points of focus of Abe’s three-day visit to India, which began Friday.
Japan is keen to tap into India, with its 1.2 billion population, and forge closer ties in light of China’s growing political and economic clout in the region.
Under a policy to elevate bilateral ties to what they now call a “Special Strategic and Global Partnership,” Abe and Modi plan to boost security cooperation between the two nations and exchange views on regional issues such as the situation in the South China Sea, Japanese officials said.
While Japan and India are not directly involved in the tensions in the South China sea, a key shipping route for oil and other imports, they are both concerned over the freedom of navigation in international waters.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has competing territorial claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. Beijing’s fast-paced and massive land reclamation work has made the smaller Asian claimants uneasy.
Seeing India’s potential value to Japan, both on the economic and political fronts, Abe has touted the importance of strengthening bilateral ties to help maintain peace and stability in Asia.
Abe’s latest trip to India is his third visit as prime minister.
The shinkansen technology will be applied to a planned 500-km-long high-speed railway that will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad in western India and take roughly two hours.
Japan, which is seeking to spur its economy through infrastructure exports to Asia, is looking to play catch-up after losing out to China in its bid to secure a key high-speed railway contract in Indonesia in October.
Construction of the Indian railway project, which is estimated to cost 980 billion rupees ($14.6 billion), will begin in 2017, with the aim of starting operations in 2023.
Japan has sounded out India about a plan for Tokyo to provide yen loans on the premise that the railway contract will be given to a consortium of Japanese firms, a Japanese government source said.
The two leaders also signed others pacts, including one that allows the transfer of defense equipment to India and another on data protection, which allows the exchange of defense-related information. The moves reflect Tokyo’s desire to forge closer ties with New Delhi due to China’s muscle-flexing.
When Modi visited Japan last year, Abe vowed to extend ¥3.5 trillion in public and private investment and financing to India over five years for development.
Japan also pledged a ¥50 billion loan to India for a public-private partnership infrastructure project.