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PM Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Abe to discuss connecting North East, Indo-Pacific Region and RCEP

Huma Siddiqui
Leaders are expected to review the progress of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor; this project had been jointly announced by both countries. (File image)

For the first time, one of the North-Eastern states will be hosting an international summit-Indo-Japan annual summit from December 15-16. This region was identified as the perfect spot outside New Delhi, as it is has become one of the most important destinations for Japanese investments. Earlier this year the Japanese government announced that it was planning to invest about Rs 13,000 crore in old and new projects in different states of North East Region.

According to a senior official who wished to remain anonymous "As part of Act East Policy, North East is the perfect region to hold the summit level talks. Though the official dates and places to be visited in North East has not been officially announced, sources say that the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will take place in Guwahati, Assam. In Assam Taj Vivanta and Radisson Blu will be hosting the leaders and their delegations during the summit duration.

So far the two leaders have met with each other three times and their last meeting was as recent as on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in November.

Imphal, Manipur, continues to be under consideration where most likely Abe will visit the new Peace Museum and perhaps cruise along the river the Brahmaputra. The Peace Museum in Manipur is a remembrance memorial of one of the battles of World War 2, where several Japanese soldiers laid their lives.

Agenda of Talks

The two leaders are expected to hold talks on a wide range of issues of bilateral and global interests as well as India's stand on opting out of the Chinese backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Ahead of the recently concluded 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, the Japanese government expressed its unwillingness to ratify RCEP. However, according to reports, Japanese policymakers are keen that the government should try to convince India to join the RCEP as it would help balance China.

During the ministerial meet North East and Connectivity building projects not only in the region but also in other parts of India featured in the talks and Japan's plans to invest in them.

Leaders are expected to review the progress of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor; this project had been jointly announced by both countries.

In Assam, Japan is keen to collaborate on Guwahati Water Supply Project and Sewage Project, the Northeast Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project which is from Assam to Meghalaya, Technical Cooperation Project for Sustainable Agriculture & Irrigation in Mizoram are amongst some of the projects in the region.

The Act East Forum

At the end of summit-level talks between Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abe, this forum was set up in an effort to expand bilateral ties as well as help in collaborating in various infrastructure projects across North East.

Also, the forum helps in the two sides in India's Act East Policy as well as Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Under an agreement signed in 2017, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) agreed to provide $610 million for the first phase I of the North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project. This project is focusing on various infra projects in Meghalaya and Mizoram.

Defence Cooperation

The ministerial discussion between the two countries discussed ways of deepening these ties as there is tremendous scope in joint ventures related to defence equipment.

According to sources, the two sides are not likely to discuss amphibious Shinmawya US-2 aircraft, as there is no urgent requirement for these in the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard.

However, the talks could touch on the manufacturing of armoured vehicles FICV (Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle) and the new FRCV (Future Ready Combat Vehicle) programmes. Japanese company Mitsubishi which has the expertise for building such vehicles could join hands with Indian companies for this project.