Event ReportsPublished on Jun 29, 2011
India, Japan and the United States are planning to conduct their first trilateral meeting in New Delhi later this year to discuss issues of strategic interests, according to Japan's Ambassador to India, Mr. Akitaka Saiki.
India, Japan, US trilateral meeting later this year, says Japanese Ambassador

India, Japan and the United States are planning to conduct their first trilateral meeting in New Delhi later this year to discuss issues of strategic interests, according to Japan’s Ambassador to India, Mr. Akitaka Saiki.

Delivering a lecture on ’India-Japan Partnership in a Resurgent Asia’ at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on 29 June, 2011, the new Ambassador to India said, "We need to have focused dialogue and are looking forward to the first round of (trilateral) talks here".

The Ambassador hinted that one of the reasons for the quadric-lateral grouping’s (India-Australia-Japan-US) failure to take off was that larger groupings lacked focus. He added Japan is more comfortable with three-nation frameworks which work better.

The ambassador said Japan and India, having formed a "strategic" partnership over the past few years, are set to further strengthen their bilateral ties by intensifying economic relation.

"Positive signals were sent out by governments of States that I visited to Japanese investors," said the Ambassador. After taking over as the new ambassador to India, Mr. Saiki visited various States, including West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, to intensify business links.

India and Japan are also planning to hold, for the first time, a ministerial level economic dialogue. The teams from both the countries will be led by the ministers of the two countries. Moreover, they are scheduled to implement the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) from August 1 to boost bilateral trade to US$ 25 billion by 2015 from a total of US$ 12.35 billion currently. This agreement will help the two economies to remove all import duties on 94 per cent of their trade items in the next ten years. "CEPA is going to come into force from 1 August 2011. Japanese Parliament has approved the agreement," the ambassador said.

Under the CEPA, India will be liberalizing duties on electronic items such as DVD players and video cameras, steel products, as well as diesel engines. Japan on the other hand will remove duties from fruits, sweet corn, strawberries and so on within the next 7-10 years. This will help in giving trade between the two countries a boost as well as increase investment. The agreement will pave way for Indian professionals such as researchers, teachers, accountants, and management consultants to access the Japanese markets.

The total amount of Japanese loans to India currently exceeds 200 billion yen and India has been the largest recipient of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the last eight years. The ambassador said that regardless of the tsunami and the following nuclear disaster, "we are committed to carrying on the commitments on older flagship projects like the DMIC (Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor)." Moreover, there have been concerns regarding the import of food items from Japan after the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster. While addressing these concerns, the ambassador said, "Food products have to go through rigid food safety tests. (Our) government is encouraging not to hesitate to buy food items from Japan."

Regarding the ongoing talks for possible civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries, he said that the nuclear disaster will not become an impediment in the dialogue process. "The nuclear disaster after the tsunami has sent a very serious message across the world," but India and Japan will resume the talks and consolidate the proposed nuclear pact. "It is not that because of the tsunami we are going to cancel the talks or postpone it," he added.

However, resumption of dialogue on civil nuclear power cooperation might take time. This is because both countries are strengthening their safety mechanisms in nuclear plants. "I think the review process both in India and Japan will take some time. We need to allay concerns of our residents and we need to go through the process of persuading our residents living in neighbourhood of nuclear power stations," said the ambassador. There still are certain "core issues" that the governments of the two countries need to discuss and resolve on the negotiating table.

While talking about the political and security aspects between the two countries, the ambassador said: "We will hold dialogue on any topic of interest as partners in the Asia Pacific region." He added that there are security constraints regarding China in the region. On this issue, he raised many questions such as, "China is a responsible player in the region, but where is China going? What is their intention? What is their navy doing in international waters near Japan or Southeast Asia? Their (China) military expenditure is increasing, why do they have to spend so much money on military?" He said that China needs to respect the sensitivities of its neighbours.

(This report was prepared by Avinash Paliwal, Research Assistant at Observer Research Foundation)

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