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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits India, scheduled to meet the founders of India Center Foundation
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be the chief guest during the India's Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2014. Though it is going to be a very short visit but observers keeping a watch on India-Japan relations consider it a very significant gesture from Japanese side towards building a good, strong relationship with India. Mr. Abe is also set to meet the promoters of India Center Foundation in India during is visit.

It was only last December when Japanese Emperor and Empress visited India for the first time in the history. And now it is for the first time a Japanese PM will be the guest of honor on Republic Day celebrations. The seriousness of the Japanese side for this visit could be understand from the fact that Shinzo Abe will return to Japan from World Economic Forum's meeting on today only and by late night he would land in India.

Dr. Srabani Roy Choudhury, Associate Professor at Centre of East Asian Studies, JNU, says that with this visit Japan is trying to portray the commitment it wants to give to the relationship with India.

One of the key stops of the Japanese PM in this visit to India will be at the India Center Foundation (ICF) where Shinzo Abe will meet ICF's promoters.  Inspired by Japan's process of successful nation building, the Foundation believes, a global partnership between India and Japan is not only of mutual national interests but will contribute to the rest of the world.

 Notably ICF is a non-partisan and not-for-profit organization, instituted with a vision of contributing towards India's nation building process by working as a catalyst.  The Foundation has worked relentlessly in the past in strengthening the relationship between the two countries and inspiring key policy formulation in the country around industrialization. One such key issue that ICF had been promoting till now was the construction of Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor. In this backdrop Mr. Abe's meeting the India Center Foundation promoters establishes his belief in the model and his endorsement on the concept.

There was a time also when India and Japan relationship was lacking warmness. Analysts of international relationships consider it a time during 90s, especially the time of Kargil war with Pakistan. However, post Year 2000 and onwards Indo-Japanese relationship is going in northward direction. In fact, it was India Centre Foundation organized India Japan Global Partnership Summit in 2011 in Tokyo that brought the key industrialists and policy makers under one roof. The two countries had been evaluating various options of working together henceforth. 

Dr. Choudhury added, “ India-Japan both assume a very larger role to be played in the Asian community. And I think this development has warmed up in the recent years because of three reasons. One is obviously India has become or shown some certain amount of growth. Certain amount of economic discipline in the areas of globalising or opening its doors for foreign investments. So Japan has found a certain trust in India with respect to economics.”

">At the political end, earlier there was no reason for Japan essentially, to look at India. However, given the East Asian circumstances and India proving itself on the economic growth front, Japan has realized that its good to get into much more warmer relationship with India.

Experts on Indo-Japan relations feel that both the countries can reap mutual benefits by having a good relationship. With respect to India, Japan has three important roles it can play. One is of course in technology sector. Secondly, despite a downward economy, Japan has a lot of capital surplus which it can invest in India. India can also earn a lot through FDI possibilities as well as standard government capital transfers.

Japan and China have certain political issues and their relationship is definitely not warm as it was in 90s. Moreover, Japan has lost its economic sheen to China and it wants to reinvent its economy. In such scenario, for Japan, India could be a good investment destination because it has a huge consumer market.

The forthcoming meeting between Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe may not yield any big result in wake of the Parliamentary elections and chances of a new government taking charge in India. However, there are two areas which may see some developments according to the observers.

“I think two important decisions that would come out of this particular visit, is finalizing the infrastructure project that is going to take place between Bangalore and Chennai as well as between Mumbai and Ahemdabad. Because these two are small projects, they are not confirmed projects, issue of land is nominal, so I had a feeling more, that a nice road map would probably develop, because Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is still not getting the kind of momentum that one expected it to get. And I think it is important because, Japanese PM feels that one or two such projects will encourage the larger private investment into India,” feels Dr. Choudhury.

Senior fellow at Center for Policy Research Rajiv Kumar feels that the relationship between India and Japan is growing and it is qualitatively better then in the past. The relationship has seen a phase where it had stagnated for a while for different reasons.

“But I think now both India and Japan have both economic and geo-strategic motivations to closure and that is what driving the relationship forward,” said Rajiv Kumar.

In Kumar's opinion there are also few hurdles in between otherwise the Indo-Japan relationship would have grown much faster on both the sides.

“On Indian side the hurdle is that we don't do enough to improve our investment climate. There is red-tapism, regulatory hurdles in India/ Japanese people and investors are not used to such things neither in their own country or in any other country they work,” said Rajiv Kumar.

He added, “On Japanese part, I think the hurdle is more a fundamental. Having reached the level of economic development that they have, Japanese people and investors do not have the same level of motivation that they had in 60s, 70s, and 80s to make go for it, which you among the Koreans. Japanese are some what reluctant to innovate for Indian market itself.”

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