Joint Japan-India Leaders' Press Conference
[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Taro Aso]
It is my great pleasure today to welcome His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, here in Japan. Prime Minister Singh and I have had a great discussion on a broad range of issues facing Japan and India. We have confirmed steady progress in the cooperative relationship between Japan and India, which share fundamental values and interests.
Prime Minister Singh and I have agreed to carry out various endeavors to advance the strategic and global partnership between our countries, and have just signed a joint statement to this effect.
The fruits of today's meeting are, specifically, as follows:
1. We have signed the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India to promote our cooperative activities in the field of security.
2. On the economic front, we have shared the view that the private sectors of Japan and India have high expectations toward further expansion of the bilateral economic partnership, as shown in the joint report announced today by business leaders of the two countries. In this regard, we have affirmed our efforts for the early conclusion of an economic partnership agreement (EPA), welcoming substantive progress in the negotiations so far.
3. The Government of Japan, in order to facilitate infrastructure development -- which is now at a critical stage -- in India, has decided to extend an ODA loan to the Delhi-Mumbai freight railway project as the new flagship cooperation. At the same time, the two governments have signed the exchange of notes (E/N) on the provision of about 100 billion yen worth of Japanese ODA loans. We have also agreed on cooperation concerning the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project (DMIC).
4. We have agreed to promote people-to-people exchanges and academic exchanges in a variety of fields. We will carry on the exchange program that I launched when I was Foreign Minister, which to date has brought about 3,700 engineers, students, and young people to Japan from India. In addition, we have confirmed our commitment to industrial, academic, and governmental collaboration in the development of the new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Hyderabad.
We have affirmed Japan-India close cooperation on regional and global issues such as promotion of collaboration among East Asian countries, reform of the United Nations Security Council, and the response to energy and climate change issues.
We have also found common ground on the importance of Japan and India, both of which are major economic powers in the region, making coordinated efforts to address the current global economic situation.
Prime Minister Singh has invited me to visit India in 2009 at a mutually convenient time to be arranged later.
At today's meeting, we reaffirmed the great potential for Japan-India cooperation. Together with Prime Minister Singh, we will continue to vigorously promote our bilateral cooperation.
Your Excellency Prime Minister Taro Aso, ladies and gentlemen of the media, I have just had very productive and fruitful talks with Prime Minister Taro Aso. He is an old and highly-respected friend of India. I would like to thank His Excellency the Prime Minister and the government and people of Japan for the very warm welcome they have given to me and to the members of my delegations.
This is my second bilateral visit to Japan as Prime Minister in less than two years. This in itself reflects the great importance that India attaches to its relationship with Japan. Frequent high-level visits reflect the importance we attach to our relations with Japan. In the past four years, there has been a qualitative upgradation in our bilateral relationship. The Joint Statement that Prime Minister Aso and I have signed today reflects the significant progress we have made since the establishment of our Strategic and Global Partnership in December 2006. Japan is a major economic partner of India. We are grateful for the economic assistance that we have got from Japan.
India today happens to be the largest recipient of Japanese ODA. Prime Minister Aso and I have agreed that our economic engagement must be widened and deepened.
I told the Prime Minister that sky is the limit for Japanese investment into India, and requested to encourage Japanese industry to come to India. On our part, we will do all that is necessary to create a congenial investment climate in our country. I look forward to an early conclusion of a high-quality and mutually beneficial comprehensive economic partnership engagement. Our joint collaboration on the dedicated freight corridor project will shortly begin. This will transform the scale and magnitude of our economic partnership.
We also signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. This reflects our shared desire to contribute to peace, prosperity and stability in Asia and in the world.
We have also agreed that there should be collaboration between our two countries in the operationalization of the Delhi-Bombay Industrial Corridor, for which a Memorandum of Understanding has been reached for the project development facility for this very ambitious project.
Our discussions also covered regional and global issues, particularly the international financial crisis. We have agreed that we will work together and coordinate our thinking on this very important issue of today.
India and Japan, I believe, can serve as a new zone of growth to counter the global economic slowdown. We agreed to cooperate in key areas of common interest, such as energy, security, climate change, East Asia Summit, United Nations reform, and other multilateral issues such as the WTO. We also had a very useful exchange of views in encouraging and promoting people-to-people contact. I heartily welcome Prime Minister Aso's program of youth cooperation and I promised him all help in realizing this very ambitious goal that the Prime Minister has set for people-to-people contact.
I greatly appreciate what the Prime Minister has told me with regard to the Japanese interest for the development of IIT Hyderabad and the development of Indian Institute of Information Technology at Jabalpur. I have invited Prime Minister Aso to visit India at a mutually convenient time next year to continue our dialogue. Altogether, ladies and gentlemen, this has been a most satisfying visit for me, and I thank His Excellency the Prime Minister for having made a very important contribution to a successful outcome of this meeting.
It seems that the intention of concluding an EPA by the end of this year is shared by Japan and India, yet even the summit meeting today has not produced a broad consensus on the matter. Please tell us your views on what issues must be resolved through what means to meet the target.
Since the two governments are still engaged in negotiations on the agreement, I would like to hold back from referring to specifics.
I, as Prime Minister of Japan, welcome the substantive progress in the negotiations that has been made so far. Prime Minister Singh and I have agreed, in today's meeting, to aim for an early conclusion of the EPA in order to further advance bilateral economic ties, which have been on the rise.
Linked to this is the very interesting Joint Declaration on Security which has been issued. Mr. Aso, when you were Foreign Minister, you were a very strong and passionate advocate of trilateral security dialogue and cooperation involving Japan, India, and the United States.
Do you see today's Joint Declaration as, in some way, a stepping-stone towards an eventual trilateral framework -- perhaps even quadrilateral -- with China as a special object of concern?
In response, I urged India to fulfill its promises including extension of the nuclear test moratorium. As for a future civilian atomic energy cooperation agreement, I commented that we have various things to consider.
Regarding the other question, I would like to advance Japan-India security cooperation because it significantly contributes to Japan's security as well as the peace and stability of a much broader region encompassing East Asia and Southwest Asia.
The bilateral cooperation is not targeted at China, as you posited, or any specific third country.
It is our sincere desire to strengthen and develop our cooperation with Japan in civil nuclear energy. But I do recognize the sensitivity of this issue in Japan, and therefore I mentioned to His Excellency the Prime Minister that we will move at a pace at which the Japanese government and people are comfortable with.
And also, to you Prime Minister Singh -- sir, you are going to China from here tomorrow, to participate in the Asia-Europe Summit Meeting. Do you think that India's strategic economic partnership with Japan is a signal to China and to the rest of the world that a new Asian economic order is in the offing? Thank you.
With regard to a Japan-India EPA, please recognize the fact that it is also moving forward, though we still have some challenges to overcome.
So there is no question at all regarding the economic partnership agreement of India with Japan being at the expense of any other third country, least of all China.