India, Japan to boost strategic, economic ties

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New Delhi, Dec 12: India and Japan will aim to reinforce the strategic orientation of their global partnership and move towards a comprehensive economic engagement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's four-day visit to Tokyo beginning tomorrow.

Dr Singh's talks with his counterpart Shinzo Abe and other Japanese leaders are not only expected to give a boost to India's "Look East" policy but also strengthen the strategic and economic content of its ties with one of the most powerful economies of the world.

Among other issues, the India-US Civil Nuclear deal and the bid by both countries for permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council, as part of the G-4 initiative which also includes Brazil and Germany, will be high on the agenda during Dr Singh's discussions with Japanese leaders.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, among others.

The visit is taking place at a time when there is a marked upturn in relations between the two countries, especially after then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's trip to India in April last year.

His successor Abe is a self-confessed Indophile. His father Shintaro Abe was Foreign Minister. His grandfather Nobusike Kishi was Prime Minister from 1957 to 1960 and shared a personal rapport with India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Kishi had visited India soon after assuming office in 1957 and had addressed a huge gathering at the historic Red Fort in Delhi.

"Japan is the focal point in our 'Look East' policy. We believe that our bilateral relations are now poised to enter an even more vibrant and dynamic phase, based on converging long-term strategic, political and economic interests and our shared desire to enhance this relationship," Mr Menon had told reporters last week during a briefing on the visit.

Apart from further consolidating the strengths of their relationship, the two sides are also looking at bringing about a quantum increase in people-to-people contacts and expanded cooperation in areas such as energy and science and technology.

Dr Singh was originally scheduled to fly to Tokyo from Cebu in the Philippines, where he was due to attend the fifth India-ASEAN Summit and the second East Asia Summit today and tomorrow.

But the Philippines postponed the ASEAN Summit as well as all other related events because of concerns over a storm that was heading towards the country.

The Prime Minister, who will reach Tokyo tomorrow night, will be accorded a ceremonial welcome on Thursday. He and his wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur, will be received in an audience by the Emperor and Empress of Japan in the afternoon of that day.

Dr Singh will meet Prime Minister Abe for official talks on Friday after which the two leaders will address a joint press conference. Mr Abe will host a banquet for Dr Singh that evening.

In what is considered to be a singular honour, the Prime Minister has been invited to address a joint session of the Diet, the Japanese Parliament, on Thursday.

He will inaugurate the Festival of India in Japan that evening, when the two Prime Ministers will also unveil the joint logo of the India-Japan Friendship Year 2007.

Dr Singh will address a business luncheon jointly hosted by the apex chambers of the two countries on December 15.

Dr Singh will also meet several other Japanese dignitaries during his stay in Tokyo, including former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, senior Cabinet ministers and the President of the Japan-India Parliamentary Friendship League, Dr Taro Nakayama.

The Prime Minister is due to return home in the evening on Saturday.


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