New Delhi: The India-Japan summit in Guwahati on December 15-16, the first annual summit to be held in the Northeast, is expected to give a major push to the India-Japan Act East Forum as Japan plans to invest around Rs 13,000 cr in projects in the eight states of the region.
Japan has either invested or is planning to invest in a host of projects in Northeast India that include water supply project in Guwahati, road network in Assam-Meghalaya, forest management and agriculture projects in other states of the region, which serves as a gateway to Southeast Asia, said people aware of the matter. New proposals for the region may be announced by Japan at the annual summit, they said.
Japan’s involvement in Northeast India and its plans to expand its footprint in the region figured high at the ministerial dialogue held among the defence ministers and foreign ministers of the two countries on November 30. Japan prioritises connectivity-building projects in all of India, including the Northeast, said Atsushi Kaifu, deputy press secretary in Japan’s foreign affairs ministry. “Connectivity inside India, including the north-eastern part, is important for us,” Kaifu told media after the socalled 2+2 dialogue.
Japan’s involvement in Northeast, which began with overseas development assistance (ODA) in 2010, gained in momentum after 2014.
In 2017, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed an agreement with India to provide $610 million for the first phase I of the North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project, which will focus on projects in Meghalaya and Mizoram. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe established the Act East Forum for “economic modernisation” of the landlocked Northeast India.
Japan has a historical connection with Northeast India dating back to World War II. However, in recent years, Japan’s assistance in the region can be viewed as a collaboration between India and Japan as part of their Indo-Pacific vision to balance China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The two countries cite the partnership as a concrete symbol of developing synergies between India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy’.