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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Japan pitches for Chabahar port

Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu

Japan is keen on collaborating with India on projects in Asia and Africa as a counter to China's Belt and Road initiative (B&RI), Tokyo's Ambassador to New Delhi said here, indicating Japan's nod for Australia's bid to join a quadrilateral for military exercises with India and the U.S..

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu , Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu revealed that the Japanese government was in talks with Tehran and New Delhi for a role in the Chabahar port project along with India.

"We are interested in connectivity projects and to make sure that this region is free and open and an important port like Chabahar is good for regional connectivity ... I can't tell when it will materialise, but we have expressed our interest," Mr. Hiramatsu said. India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement in May 2016 to build trade and transit routes from the strategically located Iranian port into Afghanistan and Central Asia, a $20-billion investment for India, and will be seen as a rival to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor's Gwadar port.

Aked if Japan's plans for connectivity in the region were being challenged by China's 60-nation BRI, the Ambassador contended that Japan and India could offer similar projects to countries here, based on their common "principles."

Prosperity, stability

"We are also providing rather generous financing to these countries as well, to enhance prosperity and stability. We hope many of these countries will also choose our projects, some of which we can do in collaboration with India," he said, adding that Japan shared values of "democracy, freedom of navigation" with India.

The Ambassador's statement points to the growing discussions on strategic convergence between India and other "Indo-Pacific" powers for whom China's recent economic moves like the BRI as well as an aggressive maritime stance in the South China Sea have been a matter of concern.

Backing Australia's request to join the trilateral "Malabar" naval exercises between India, Japan and Australia, Ambassador Hiramatsu said,

"We cherish the cooperation with Australia, and we have just had a Japan-Australia-India strategic dialogue and a political dialogue between these three countries, and we will have to see how it develops."

Speaking about other areas of bilateral strategic cooperation, the Japanese Ambassador said the Indo-Japan civil nuclear cooperation agreement is still on track, and has been presented for ratification in the Japanese Parliament.

May 9, 2017 by The Hindu


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