Japan extends support to development projects in North-East

Japan extends support to development projects in North-East

Japan on Saturday offered support to developmental projects in north-east India by way of building an energy network to enhance connectivity in South and South East Asia.

New Delhi was quick to welcome Tokyo’s offer to support development in the north-east, where China has persistently tried to gain influence. Japan Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida extended Japan’s support to build an energy network for the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) at the Indian Council of World Affairs here. “The Government of Japan intends to support the construction of an energy network within the Saarc region for enhancing regional connectivity,” Kishida said during his speech. “Furthermore, for the enhancement of connectivity between Saarc and Asean, Japan will strengthen its assistance by supporting development initiatives in north-east India, which will serve as a connective node between the two regions.”

Kishida, however, clarified that Tokyo at present had no plan to provide any aid to Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims to be a part of Chinese territory.
“You specifically pointed out Arunachal Pradesh, a territory which is pending in terms of the India-China dispute, and to my understanding Japan currently has no plans to provide aid to that state,” he said in a reply to a question after his speech. Later, during a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Kishida is understood to have formally offered Tokyo’s assistance to projects in the north-east. Sources said Swaraj not only accepted the offer, but also discussed with the Japanese minister the kind of projects that New Delhi and Tokyo could jointly take up in the region.

India’s immediate and positive response to Japan’s support has come of as a definitive move to counter China’s proposed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC). Security establishments in New Delhi have been apprehensive about the project Beijing has envisaged, even though it had backed a Track-II study group on the corridor. Once complete, the BCIM-EC would expose India’s north-eastern states, which are areas of many secessionist insurgencies and ethnic conflicts, as well as its eastern frontier to the growing economic influence of China. New Delhi is also wary of strategic assets China is building around India. Japan’s offer to support projects for enhancing connectivity in South Asia appear to be in sync with India’s strategic objective of minimising China’s influence in its neighbourhood.

Both Japan and China are among the observers in the Saarc. India has been resisting pressure from Pakistan and other members of the Saarc to allow observers to play a greater role in the bloc, as it would help Beijing raise its clout across South Asia.