08/23/2007, 00.00
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Four-power ‘arc-of-freedom’ alliance with Japan, but not China

Speaking before India’s parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Abe urges India to join his country in an alliance with the United States and Australia with whom India shares common values like democracy, freedom and human rights. The two countries meanwhile ink trade deals and discuss military and nuclear co-operation.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In his meetings with Indian political and government leaders, Japanese Prime Minister highlighted the two countries’ economic and trade relations as well as co-operation in the military and nuclear fields, including a proposal for India to join a four-power alliance with the United States but without China.

Today, in the last leg of his state visit to India, Mr Abe was in Kolkata where he met relatives of the Indian nationalist leader Subhash Chandra Bose, whose forces fought against Britain alongside imperial Japan in the Second World War, and the family of Radhabinod Pal, the only member of the 11-judge Allied panel to voice dissent over the execution of Japanese generals.

In his address to the Indian parliament yesterday the Japanese leader urged India to join his country in creating a four-nation Asian “Arc of freedom” open to Australia and the United States.

“This partnership”, he said, “is an association in which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy and respect for basic human rights as well as strategic interests.”

Furthermore, “by Japan and India coming together in this way, this `broader Asia' will evolve into an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the United States of America and Australia.”

China was not mentioned because, whilst Mr Abe has sought better ties with the People’s Republic, his country remains critical of the mainland for its lack of democracy and respect for human rights.

For its part, India is interested in greater economic co-operation with Japan and needs Tokyo’s assistance to pursue its civilian nuclear programme; New Delhi also needs Japanese investments to upgrade its crumbling infrastructure.

At the end of their meeting yesterday, the two leaders stressed the importance of the relations between Asia’s two major democracies.

Mr Singh expressed his “sincere hope” that “when the matter comes forth to the Nuclear Suppliers Group” India “will have the support of the Japanese government.” The 45-member group is concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation and controlling export and re-transfer of materials applicable to nuclear weapon development.

In diplomatic language PM Abe said he understood India’s need for nuclear energy to help meet its fast-growing economy's demand for power, but “at the same time,” he noted that Japan attaches “special importance to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.”

India is a nuclear power and has never signed up to the non-proliferation treaty. For this reason it has been under an international embargo. The wall around India has never the less been weakened by the recent accord signed with the United States in the area of civilian nuclear development.

Attitudes towards India are thawing in other respects as well. Japan’s navy is due to take part for the first time in US-Indian exercises in the Bay of Bengal next month. And Tokyo is considering offering low-interest loans to help build a high-speed freight rail link between New Delhi and Mumbai as well as funds for a US$ 90 billion industrial corridor between the two cities, essential for the country’s development.

Much is also expected from the meetings between Indian political and business leaders with the 200 or so Japanese business delegation that came with Prime Minister Abe.

Last year India received about US$ 540 million in foreign direct investment from Japan. That was just a little over 3 per cent of the total foreign direct investment that flowed into India for the same period.

But the Indian government wants more and plans to attract at least US$ 5 billion in investments from Japan over the next five years.

Trade between the two countries presently stands at about US$ 7 billion, but is expected to grow to US$ 20 billion by 2010. By comparison, trade between Japan and China reached US$ 210 billion last year. (PB)

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