Indo-Japan Deal: Are We Ready for the Bullet Train?

by Adarsh Kumar

1415614_724254151007594_1345405897_nDecorated Ghats and active UP police officials were the cause of curiosity during the Aarti on the banks of Ganga on 12th December. The Sanskrit chanting and Ganga Aarti after sunset symbolized a new beginning to an old friendship between India and Japan. This was not merely an Aarti, on the one hand, India was getting support to its national infrastructure and sustainable growth, another hand Japan was exploring a new market for investment. Although China was also a contestant in this trade race and its trade share in India is far more than Japan, this time, bullet train establishment deal went for Japan, because terms and conditions of the loan were very lenient, (first ten years no interest and then after 0.1% per annum for rest 40 years) than China was providing. December 11th and 13th proved very successful to India as the investment in; the Japanese government has initiated transportation, defense, and nuclear energy. Abe and Modi issued Japan-India Vision 2025 of Special Strategic and Global Partnership. In this document, Abe and Modi agreed on expanding bilateral cooperation in a wide range of issues from investment, disaster risk management, and people-to-people exchange. This warm relationship is not spontaneous; India and Japan have many things in common, such as culture, people and old traditional tie-ups. When Abe came into power in 2007, he wrote an article titled “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond” published by Project Syndicate on Dec. 27, 2007. In this commentary, he introduced the “Diamond Concept” in which he envisioned that the United States, Japan, Australia, and India would form a virtual security “diamond” and work together to maintain the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. Although this commentary didn’t get much attention in Japan, his vision of coalition with Australia and India along with the peaceful relationship with the United States, are strengthening the “Diamond Concept”.

From 11th Dec to 3rd Dec 2015, Indian and Japan elevated their relationship by signing two important agreements on “special strategic and global partnership”. First on defense equipment and technology transfer and second on Concerning the Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information or general security of military information agreement (GSOMIA). The Defense Equipment and Technology Transfer is divided into seven articles, of which five are important. In Article 1, parties will be dedicated to defence research and development or production or for mutual defence cooperation, taking into account various factors including commercial viability or the security of the respective countries, and confirmed by the Parties through the diplomatic channel. And under Article 2 of the Agreement a Joint Committee comprising members from ministries of Foreign Affairs, External Affairs, economy, defence and Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) shall be established for determining the defense equipment and technology transfer. Under Article 3 of the agreement, it has been guaranteed to use transferred technology and equipment peacefully which should follow United Nations charters and parties are not allowed to transfer these to any third party without agreement. Articles 4 and 5 are dedicated to taking necessary measures to protect classified information transferred from each other and agreement will be implemented if national laws, regulations and budgetary appropriation of each country are not violated, respectively.

GSOMIA obligates both Japan and India to protect classified exchanged military information, thereby facilitating more robust intelligence exchanges between the Indian Armed Forces and the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF hereafter). That, in turn, creates a foundation for more healthy defense cooperation between the two nations.

The Indian media portrays that these negotiations are a result of Modi’s visit to Japan in December 2014. But giving all credit to current Government would be a betrayal to the Manmohan Singh Government, which signed the agreement on “Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India” in 2013. India and Japan signed an agreement in which both sides agreed to allow the Indian Navy and JMSDF to hold joint training on a regular basis. Now Defense and technology transfer and GSOMIA strengthen the Indo-Japan relationship.This relationship can be considered as Japan’s most institutionalised relationship, after security ties with the United States and Australia.

A close security tie-up with Australia would provide an opportunity to be more active in areas, such as capacity building in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Now Indo-Japan tie-up will create stability in Asia-Pacific, and it would provide a similar benefit as Australia did to Japan.

These coalitions are beneficial for India and Japan but, it can be a business threat to China as China has the rivalry with Japan. According to media reports, earlier china wanted to invest in the bullet train project, but Govt. of India preferred Japan as its terms and conditions were viable. Now Japan has the nuclear deal, and bullet train project and Indian government seems satisfied. If we talk about bullet train project that will cost nearly Rs. 98,000 billion, 81% of this will be provided by japan, and this will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad at 320 Kmph, that will reduce travel time by half. Construction will start from 2017, and it will be completed it 2033. Modi Government’s focus towards manufacturing sector with the help of foreign investment seems great only until our labor force can adopt it.But in reality, Indian skill development policies are redundant, and in future as manufacturing sector will expand it will demand much-skilled labor force.But if the present conditions prevail, industries will face the deficit of skilled labor force. This deficit will be the reason for growth stagnation, and investors will lose, thus, India’s dream of double-digit growth will continue to remain a dream.

Although Indo-Japan tie, which has happened on 11th to 13th Dec, has a lot of market potential and it will provide the impetus for the growth of both parties, this growth seems costly for India. Poverty, corruption, malnutrition, caste and religion based discrimination are still prevalent in our societies and instead of paying attention to these basic problems we are neglecting them and investing in less important projects that might not benefit the poor directly. Bullet train project from Ahmedabad to Mumbai will cost 12 million USD along with this it will make millions of slum dwellers, homeless and vulnerable as most of them are situated near railways tracks. Thus, before this plan government should do a socio-economic assessment of the project. Although this can’t be denied that good changes are painful, but by saying this, we must not forget about millions of people who will face repercussions due to this project.

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