The laying of the foundation stone of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train line, built on Japanese Shinkansen technology, is a milestone in the decades-long history of Indian-Japan friendship. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his speech at the foundation stone laying ceremony in Ahmedabad on Thursday, the bullet train is in a way of building a project free of charge,” with Japan providing India with financial assistance of Rs 88,000 crore at only 0.1% interest, to be repaid in 50 years.
Even the repayment will begin 15 years from now. These are incredibly leniency terms that will go a long way to further improve ties between India and Japan. The train is supposed to introduce significant economic growth to the corridor along which it runs, with the Prime Minister pledging that the area between the two cities will be turned into a single economic region. The Government must ensure that the project is completed efficiently, in strict commitment to the deadline. It is imperative to break the pit of bureaucratic red tape, which has a very questionable tradition of sabotaging the very best of motives with an unprecedented display of lethargy.
The bullet train is just one area of relations between India and Japan. From military alliances to companies in the fields of industry, research, technology, economizing, and proposals to develop the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, the two countries have a wide region of common interest. India-Japan relations have received a significant boost, especially under Prime Minister Modi’s Act on East Policy. Japan has also reciprocated PM Modi’s overtures in a very significant way, with Japan spending $4.7 billion in India in 2016–17—80 per cent more than in 2015–16.
The Indians noticed with appreciation that Japan was the only nation to publicly assist India in Doklam’s trouble. Likewise, the Japanese also valued Indian criticism of North Korea’s almost constant act of threatening the Japanese islands with extinction.
In this sense, note must be made of how the Japanese found India to be a friend who had been sympathetic to their trials and tribulations right from the time of the Second World War. Not many in India would know that Tokyo has a memorial dedicated to an Indian lawyer, Justice Radhabinod Pal, who gave a dissenting verdict in the Tokyo trials—equivalent to the Nuremberg trials—held by the Allied powers to prosecute the Japanese participants in the battle.
Justice Pal failed to accept the irony of the exercise, where Japan was rightly prosecuted for wartime crimes, but not the United States, which perpetrated the significant war crime of obliterating the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, murdering and maiming for life millions of people and even future generations. Both Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore have enhanced their own convictions and theories through their encounters with Japanese philosophers and thinkers. Over the years, several such similar interactions have taken place between the two robust democracies of India and Japan.
This was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s fourth visit to India as the head of his administration. When he first visited India as a PM ten years ago in 2007, he quoted from a 1655 book by Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh, Confluence of the Two Seas. The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now forming a competitive bond as seas of democracy and growth.
The ‘wide Asia’ which has broken regional borders is now starting to take on a distinct shape. Our two countries have the capacity—and the responsibility—to ensure that it broadens further and that it nurtures and enriches these seas to become the most open seas.” During his recent visit, Prime Minister Abe said, “India is immensely special to Japan.”