Keynote Speech by Mr. Katsuhito ASANO,
Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan,
at the Symposium on Japan and India
"Japan-India Strategic Partnership in an Era of Asian Regional Integration"

March 9, 2007, New Delhi

Distinguished guests,

Today, at the fourth Symposium on Japan and India, it is a great honor for me to make a keynote speech on behalf of the Government of Japan.

Last year, we witnessed remarkable progress in the relations between Japan and India. Just last December, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India visited Japan. During that visit, the leaders of the two countries agreed to cooperate towards building a "Strategic and Global Partnership." The first round of negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) has already taken place. Later this month, the first strategic dialogue at the foreign minister level will be held in Japan. Moreover, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to visit India this year. It is truly encouraging to see such steady development in our vital bilateral relationship.

Distinguished guests,

Today's theme is "Japan-India Strategic Partnership in an Era of Asian Regional Integration." What initially comes to my mind when I hear the phrase 'Asian regional integration' is about the 14th SAARC Summit to be held here in New Delhi next month. This will be the first time countries from outside the region are invited to the Summit. Acknowledging the importance of this Summit, Foreign Minister Taro Aso is willing to attend the Summit. In East Asia, for its part, there has been a multi-layered development of various frameworks such as ASEAN, APEC, ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit. A future establishment of an East Asian community is now recognized as a common objective in the region.

In such a situation, how should Japan and India cooperate with each other? I would like to present some of my ideas before the discussion.

First, Japan and India should cooperate based on shared values such as freedom and democracy.

At the East Asia Summit in January, Prime Minister Abe proposed regional cooperation based on shared universal values. Foreign Minister Aso also announced that Japan will work to create an "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity" along the outer rim of the Eurasian Continent. This "Arc" means a prosperous and stable region based on universal values.

Let me give you an example of the Japanese cooperation to create the "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity". Japan regards the Mekong region including CLV countries, namely Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as a priority area of Japan's economic assistance. I just announced last January approximately 20 million US dollars to assist the CLV impoverished area along their borders.

South Asia lies at the center of the "Arc". In this region, there are a number of countries that are engaged in the path of peace and democracy. I believe "good governance" is a key to realizing national economic development. The experience of Japan and India--two large democracies in Asia--proves this point. Japan and India should closely work together in this area.

Secondly, regional integration in Asia is characterized by "de facto integration" driven by the private sector. Given the diversity in political systems and economic levels, this is a practical approach to integration in Asia.

To sustain such private-sector-led integration, the Government of Japan is taking various initiatives. For example, Prime Minister Abe announced at the East Asia Summit that Japan will receive and train 1,500 trainees from various Asian countries, including India, over a five year period. The goal of this program is to provide experts in the field of energy conservation and biomass energy. Furthermore, Japan will provide energy-related ODA of approximately 2 billion US dollars over the next three years.

If we look at the situation in South Asia, all countries are projecting high economic growth rates. In particular, India's growth rate in the year 2005 reached 9%. I thus expect a rise of enthusiasm among South Asia's business circle, seeking to benefit from the enormous markets of South Asia as a whole. I also expect that such momentum in the private sector will bring forward regional cooperation by helping overcome political difficulties. Japan and India should strengthen their cooperation to encourage and support such moves.

Distinguished guests,

Based on such ideas, what kind of cooperation should Japan and India undertake? This question overlaps with the priority areas of Japan's assistance to the SAARC and the SAARC member countries.

First, with regard to universal values, Japan will actively support peace-building efforts and democratization in South Asia. Currently, Japan is in preparations to dispatch Self-Defense Force personnel to the United Nations political mission in Nepal. In Bhutan, a constitution will be established and the first-ever national election will be held next year. Japan will assist these efforts by inviting the Chief Justice and the Chief Election Commissioner to Japan. I hope that Japan and India will deepen their partnership in such fields.

Turning to the issue of our economic partnership, I would like to point out the significance of a Japan-India EPA. In addition to strengthening bilateral economic relations, Japan-India EPA should also serve as a model of a high-quality economic partnership towards "open regionalism" in Asia. Japan strongly hopes India will take bold steps to this end.

Another priority area of Japanese cooperation with the SAARC will be to improve the region's 'connectivity', addressing such challenges as infrastructure development and the harmonization of systems. Japan is a major donor in this region. For example, we are providing approximately 2.6 billion US dollars to the SAARC countries in bilateral ODA in the fiscal year 2006. Considering the regional dynamism in South Asia, we might be able to establish new, more efficient methods to utilize this assistance for regional projects. Japan and India can also discuss joint efforts in this area.

Distinguished guests,

Both Japan and India have collective responsibility for ensuring peace and prosperity in Asia. Efforts to advance Japan-India cooperation in furthering Asian regional integration will be in the interest of both countries and the region at large. From this perspective, the two countries should work together towards consolidating the "Strategic and Global Partnership." [PDF]

The initiatives I raised earlier are just a few examples of measures for achieving our common objective. I am sure that the speakers participating in today's symposium will develop further ideas from different angles. I sincerely hope that this symposium will be of utmost significance in seeking a direction for Japan-India relationship in a new era.

Thank you for your attention.

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