Why PM Kishida invited PM Modi to G7 Summit in Hiroshima? Japan’s envoy explains | Latest News India

    Why PM Kishida invited PM Modi to G7 Summit in Hiroshima? Japan’s envoy explains | Latest News India

    NEW DELHI: Japan believes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in the G7 Summit will build synergy between the G7 and G20 processes, especially to address the issues of the Global South, Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Suzuki said on Thursday.

    Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Suzuki said he hoped that the India-Japan bilateral summit on the occasion of the G7 Summit will be sort of taking stock of the progress made from March (Embassy of Japan: Photo courtesy)

    In an exclusive interview, Suzuki also spoke of Japan’s plans to achieve greater synergy between its development cooperation projects in India’s northeastern states and neighbouring Bangladesh, including using the Matarbari deep seaport to create a new industrial value chain. Edited excerpts:

    What is Japan hoping that India will bring to the table through Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in outreach sessions of the G7 Summit? In terms of the bilateral relationship, what are the immediate priorities with India?

    Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida hopes that by inviting Prime Minister Modi, other G7 leaders and key leaders of the invited countries can share first-hand Prime Minister Modi’s vision going from Hiroshima [G7 Summit] to the G20 Summit. Prime Minister Modi can speak with legitimacy, with authenticity [as] the voice of the Global South because he heard from more than 100 countries in January at the Global South Summit. Prime Minister Kishida believes it’s critically important for G7 to collaborate with the Global South and take meaningful actions to address key challenges, like the food crisis, energy security, climate change, health and sustainable development. These are all important challenges and saying we have sympathy towards the Global South, we need to collaborate with the Global South – words alone cannot deliver. We need concrete action and that’s what Prime Minister Kishida hopes to move forward. Because in order to address global challenges, we need more unity in the world. Because united we can be more effective. So that’s what Prime Minister Kishida hopes [to achieve] by inviting Prime Minister Modi.

    On the bilateral front, the G7 Summit and engagement dialogues are very important. The bilateral summit on the occasion this G7 Summit naturally tends to be limited in terms of time allowed, but Prime Minister Kishida, when he visited Delhi in March, at the top of his agenda was this G7-G20 collaboration. But they spent a substantial amount of time on bilateral relations. I hope this India-Japan bilateral summit on the occasion of the G7 Summit will be sort of taking stock of the progress made from March, and then the two leaders will have an opportunity to meet again on the margins of the G20 Summit in September. This would be a very good midway point from March, going to September. The two leaders will take stock of the progress and give political impetus for further progress to be made going into the G20 Summit in September.

    Prime Minister Kishida, in his policy speech during his visit to India in March, outlined a very interesting initiative – the Bay of Bengal-Northeast India industrial value chain. What are the concrete ways that you have made progress on this initiative?

    What Prime Minister Kishida wants to achieve is to have more synergy between what Japan is doing in terms of development cooperation in northeast India and what Japan is doing in Bangladesh and harness the Matarbari deep seaport to create a new industrial value chain. The kind of endeavours that Japan has been doing in the last 30 years in the Mekong area, you see what is called the Southern Economic Corridor, going from Bangkok through Phnom Phen leading to Ho Chi Minh City. It took 30 years. In the first place, we had so many Japanese companies in Bangkok but no Japanese companies were investing in Phnom Phen. Around the turn of the century, one listed company invested in Phnom Phen, this was a game changer. This brought a whole range of new investments into Phnom Phen, which finally led to Ho Chi Minh City.

    Now we can see not just connectivity but a new industrial value chain emanating from Bangkok through Phnom Phen leading to Ho Chi Minh. We want to achieve a similar story by harnessing the Matarbari deep seaport. JICA is now working very hard in Bangladesh to develop this deep seaport and since it’s a deep seaport, it can be a game changer. Big container ships can come here and from Matarbari, you can export anywhere in the world. Japan is building roads and bridges in India’s northeast and also building roads and bridges in Bangladesh. Until now this has been separate. JICA is implementing those projects, but so far they’re independent.

    What Prime Minister Kishida wants to do is to connect these two so that India’s northeast can become a natural destination for prospective future investment. The Matarbari deep seaport will become commercially operational in 2027. So, if you are a top business sitting in Dhaka, you look around and what would be a natural place to invest in next? In four years’ time, this deep seaport will become operational, can be a game changer and JICA is building so many roads and bridges to enhance connectivity. Prime Minister Kishida wants to create a new industrial value chain to utilize these connectivities to the fullest extent possible. That’s why I went to Tripura to convene a Track 1.5 conference. It was very well attended, the Union minister in-charge of northeastern development was kind enough to attend, we had the Bangladesh minister in-charge of maritime transport, also the state ministers from both the Indian MEA and Bangladesh foreign ministry attended and we had attendance of top businessmen from Delhi and also people from academia.

    I think I succeeded in making the first step towards sharing Prime Minister Kishida’s vision. People there were all enthusiastic to learn the details of this vision. Now, JICA has applied to implement a study on cross-border connectivity and traffic covering India’s northeast and JICA will conduct similar studies on the Bangladesh side. We plan to encourage business leaders to take a fresh look at India’s northeast, to fully harness its potential, and I know it cannot be done overnight.

    In Mekong, with the Southern Economic Corridor, it took 30 years. I want to shorten the time. In four years’ time, Matarbari port will become commercially operational. So for five years, 10 years, hopefully in 15 years’ time, we can see what we see now in the Southern Economic Corridor in India’s northeast, Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal area. That’s Prime Minister Kishida’s vision and I want to share his vision with as many Indian and Bangladesh friends. So that you know, Japan cannot do this alone. We need all the help we can get from our friends in India and Bangladesh.

    Prime Minister Kishida’s speech in India mentioned the Ukraine crisis very prominently. On the Indian side, the response to this crisis has been also shaped by the traditional relationship with Russia. Does Japan worry that the rule of jungle will come to a place like the East China Sea or Taiwan Strait?

    Prime Minister Kishida sees the war in Ukraine not just as a European war. It has global implications. Thats why Prime Minister Kishida and the Japanese government have been vocal in criticising Russia, because Russia is destroying the fundamental values enshrined in the UN Charter, which came to be clearly stipulated in the Charter as the result of the horrors that we experienced during World War 2. Prime Minister Kishida’s point is this kind of unilateral attempt to change the status quo must not be allowed anywhere in the world, period. You mentioned South China Sea, East China Sea, so of course by emphasizing the importance of upholding the rule of law, sovereignty, territorial integrity, we want the rule of law to prevail all over the world, including the Indo-Pacific, East China Sea, South China Sea. That’s what Prime Minister Kishida is driving.

    Japan’s new National Security Strategy and the new defence build-up programme are groundbreaking. As you start implementing these strategies, is there room for greater collaboration with India, in terms of joint exercises and joint development of military hardware?

    The new National Security Strategy is a historic step forward and it has a specific mention of India. With this new strategy, the Japanese government is going to create a new framework of assistance called the Official Security Assistance. This is the first step. For the last many decades, Japan has been providing official development assistance (ODA) but essentially, the ODA projects have been confined to non-defence areas. With the creation of a new framework, Official Security Assistance, the Japanese government, for the first time, will be able to extend assistance directly to the department of defence and armed forces of foreign countries. Of course, we envisage India among the countries to which Japan would like to extend the new Official Security Assistance. Since this National Security Strategy was decided by a cabinet decision only in December last year, experts in the government are still working very hard to flesh out details of this new assistance. But since it will allow assistance to be provided directly to armed forces, I hope this will break new ground, start a new chapter in the collaboration between Japan and India. The security cooperation between the two countries has made major progress over the last several years. We are now having joint military exercises for all three services. In the 2+2 ministerial meeting in September last year, the ministers agreed to hold joint staff talks. I hope we will be able to have the first joint staff talks in the coming months. On top of that, when the Official Security Assistance becomes a reality, it will give another dimension to defence cooperation between Japan and India.

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