India, Japan to discuss global meltdown, security pact Wednesday

October 21st, 2008 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghTokyo, Oct 21 (IANS) The global financial crisis, giving a political push to a wide-ranging economic agreement and the sealing of a security pact will top the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he holds summit talks with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso Wednesday.Manmohan Singh arrived here Tuesday on the first leg of his two-nation tour that will also take him to China to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Beijing Oct 24-25.

Although all bilateral and regional issues will be discussed to give more teeth to the strategic partnership between the two countries, the discussions between the two leaders are likely to be dominated by the global economic slowdown, said senior officials who are accompanying the prime minister.

The talks between the two leaders on economic issues will be significant as India is the largest beneficiary of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is estimated to be around $1 billion.

The two leaders are also likely to give a political push to the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and ask their top negotiators to wrap up this agreement by next year.

“With the backdrop of the global financial crisis, climate change, energy and food security problems, the international situation is complex and keeps changing,” said a top PMO functionary.

“It (economic crisis) has changed the entire international landscape and every country is concerned. Countries are even using the word recession.”

Before his visit to Tokyo, Manmohan Singh Monday had assured parliament that Indian banks would not fail and deposits were safe but said the global financial storm would have an indirect impact on the economy which was difficult to assess at the moment.

Senior officials said India would work out a “phased road map” during delegation level talks to tap both Japan’s domestic agricultural and pharmaceutical markets that were “highly protected”. “Tariffs do not matter and we need market access as much as possible,” said a senior diplomat.

Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo earlier this year acquired control of Indian drugmaker Ranbaxy Laboratories and Indian firms are keen for a bigger share of Japan’s generic drugs market, the world’s second-largest after the United States.

Japan is also expected to invest in a dedicated freight corridor on the western corridor that is expected to transform the industrial landscape in India.

Given the political sensitivities, Japan, say ministry officials, has no plan at the present moment to start negotiations with India for a bilateral civil nuclear agreement, which would be needed to sell Japanese reactors and dual-use technologies for atomic power plants.

“There are domestic concerns and political groups in Japan are nervous in cooperation with any another country on a nuclear arrangement,” said a senior functionary.

Japan had backed India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) despite strong domestic sensitivities in that country due to its unique history of being the only country in the world to have been attacked by nuclear weapons.

“That decision was an exceptional gesture of friendship,” said diplomatic sources.

Officials pointed out that Japanese companies were keen to participate in the Indian nuclear energy market estimated to be worth around $27 billion over the next 15 years.

Before his talks with Aso, Prime Minister Singh will meet Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and attend a business luncheon meeting by the chairman of Nippon Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation.

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