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As of now Japan, is the best friend of India. To prove it, Japan was the only nation to extend public support to India during the Doklam confrontation with China. It speaks of the extraordinary transformation of relations between two Asian giants over the last few years. If we recall, two decades ago, in the aftermath of India’s nuclear tests, Tokyo was at the forefront of the international condemnation and imposition of collective economic measures against New Delhi. Today the wheel of time has turned a full circle, and Japan is the natural Buddy and ally of India in Asia.
Two factors are threatening to unravel the post world War order in Asia.
One is the rapid rise of China and the other is the growing uncertainty over America’s future role in Asia. Purposeful military modernisation and accelerated economic growth have given China, enough muscle to contest the US dominance over Asia.
Rising China has dethroned Japan as the number one economic power in Asia.
China’s GDP is now five times larger than that of India. Beijing outspends Delhi and Tokyo on defense by more than four times. Hence it’s natural for India and Japan to join hands to checkmate China’s brutal strength through a regional balance of power ratio. Luckily for India, Shinzo Abe, the PM of Japan had a rare second tenure at the helm of affairs. During his brief first tenure as PM in 2006-07 Abe had outlined the broad framework for a strong strategic partnership with India. Abe who was in Ahmadabad, in the last week for the annual summit with our PM Narendra Modi, inaugurated several strategic partnership mega projects to cement the diplomatic relationship of both nations.
Strategic partnership in Infrastructural Development
The biggest turn-around of Japanese policy was the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India and the political and bureaucratic lobbies of Japan ,approving it. The conventional wisdom until now was that – Japan’s “nuclear allergy” will never allow Tokyo cooperate with India on atomic energy, being the worst victims of a nuclear holocaust.
Under Abe and Modi, both nations have expanded their maritime security cooperation, agreed to work together in promoting connectivity and infrastructure in third world countries in India’s neighbourhood- pooling resources collectively to develop the ‘Asia-Africa Growth Corridor.’
Negotiations on India’s purchase of Japanese state- of- the- art amphibious aircraft US-2i are in the final stages of conclusion, though there are certain stumbling blocks which are expected to be removed soon. More defense oriented projects are in the pipeline. Surveillance and unmanned system technology projects are being partnered by both nations in the near future.
Bullet Train: The most exciting ” flagship Project” is Bullet Train, connecting Ahmadabad and Mumbai( 508 Km).The project was being made possible by a loan from Japan of Rs 88,000 crore at a 0.1% interest, to be repaid over 50 years. Japan is financing 81% of this mega project ( 1.8 lakh crore), to be completed in 2022-23, to coincide with our 75 years of independence.
The Bullet Train will take 2.07 hours to cover the distance at a maximum speed of 350 km per hour with four halts. PM Modi emphasised that the train fares would be common man -friendly and would bring a revolution in the overall economical development of the region. Abe announced that Kawasaki Heavy Industries and India’s BHEL will together manufacture rolling stock for the bullet train project.
It’s heartening to see that both Asian powers are teaming up to stand against the Red Dragon, voicing similar concern about current issues like Introduction North Korea’s nuclear program, Pakistan based terror groups and China’s “One Belt One Road” mega project.
However, few economists of India are of a different view – Is it worthwhile to pump in about one lakh crore into a 500 km track to increase the mobility between two cities, which are already connected amply well by regular flights with a time span of one hour?
It is common knowledge that India still is a developing country with yawning problems of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. The issue invites a debate whether “Bullet Train Project” merits such priority in an emerging India, when our present Indian railways are in an obsolete state, and needs immediate revamping and modernisation keeping passenger’s safety in mind.
However the supporters of the government initiative put forth the following counter arguments.
– The bullet train will ultimately serve 12 stations en-route, having high speed connectivity, hence the entire stretch will develop as an economic corridor. Once the HST is functional, economic zones will come up all along the high speed network. This will create millions of jobs in next 15-20 years.
– The soft loan is given by Japan only for promoting its own ShinkansenTechnology of Bullet trains and not for any other socially oriented developmental schemes. Hence this loan advancement can’t be diverted for any other purposes.
– Since there is a technology transfer along with this deal, India will be self-reliant to manufacture and run bullet trains across the length and breadth of the country, 15-20 years down the lane.
– In 1970s, when the country was actually poor, the government took initiative to bring ‘Maruti Suzuki automobile technology’ from Japan, amidst lot of criticism, but proved to usher an automobile revolution in the country. Similar would be the case of Bullet train.
It’s an interesting debate. Let us wait and watch- how the bullet train project is going to benefit the futuristic India.