"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Speech by Prime Minister of India at a meeting with Japanese Parliamentarians

[Place] Tokyo
[Date] December 11, 2001
[Source] Ministry of External Affairs, India
[Full text]

Your Excellency Dr Taro Nakayama,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege to exchange views with you today. We deeply appreciate the tireless efforts of the India-Japan Parliamentary Friendship League in promoting India-Japan relations. I extend my greetings to the India-Japan Association, which is present in strength here. I am touched that other Members of Parliament and India lovers are also here with us. The presence of all of you reflects the depth of your commitment to India-Japan relations.

Friends, my delegaton{sic} and I have had a very rewarding four days in Japan. The warmth and gracious hospitality of our hosts were matched by the substantive content of our discussions. I look forward eagerly to my audience with his majesty the Emperor. I am now fully confident that we will be returning to India with a new blueprint for an enduring India-Japan partnership, fufilling{sic} its true potential and reflecting global realities.

It is not my intention to dwell unduly on history. But a brief foray into the past can remind us of the path our bilateral interaction has traversed, so that we understand better where we go from here.

Perhaps India's very first exports to Japan were Buddhist relics and scriptures, which came from India to the Horyuji Temple in Nara 14 centuries ago. Daruma, the Zen patriarch whom you revere, is our Bodhidharma. About a century ago, our scholars Rabindranath Tagore and Tenshin Okakura proclaimed the spiritual oneness of our philosophies of existence. Half a century ago, Justice Radha Binod Pal brought our two nations closer again after the trauma of the Second World War. The treaty of peace and amity between India and Japan gave expression to India's principled conviction that the collective San Francisco peace treaty did not accord to Japan its due honour and dignity. For most of the 50 years since the establishment of our diplomatic relations, Japan has extended generous economic assistance to a number of India's developmental projects.

Some wrinkles have occasionally marred the smoothness of this picture. Some of them arose from the narrow mindsets and artificial divisions of the Cold War. More receently{sic}, there was a brief hiatus in some segments of our relationship. From the time perspective of our ancient civilisations, these were merely transient aberrations. They are fortunately behind us.

So where do we go from here? Does our partnership have real content or is it merely a catalogue of past glories and future platitudes?

Here are some compelling facts.

- India is the largest democracy in Asia and Japan the most prosperous.

- We are both functioning and vibrant democracies, with a social matrix which emphasises harmony and consensus, rather than confrontation.

- Our economies are market oriented and largely complementary.

- We share a common desire for peace and stability; we believe that the United Nations should be strengthened and its decision-making apparatus made more representative.

- We have important security commonalities and some obvious strategic convergences. Many of them have been accentuated after September 11.

- Both of us support a cooperative and comprehensive approach to combating international terrorism.

- India and Japan are both wedded to the ideal of a world without weapons of mass destruction.

These were the objective realities which we recognized when, in August last year, we called for an India-Japan Global Partnership into the 21st century. It was not mere wishful thinking or political rhetoric.

Within this past year, we have exhanged{sic} high level visits, commenced a Comprehensive Security Dialogue, resumed defence exchanges and shared perceptons{sic} on regional and global issues, including on combating terrorism. The IT Summit in September identified new areas of cooperation in the cutting edge knowledge based industry.

Our efforts for enhancing mutual understanding and for a multifaceted partnership should extend beyond the governments of our two countries to all sections of society. The people's elected representatives bear a special and important responsibility in this. We appreciate the contacts between our two Parliaments and their efforts to foster a better understanding between us.

There are some areas where we have different perspectives. This is natural. It does not detract from the length of our commonalities and convergences.

In the recent past, we have disagreed on the nuclear tests that India conducted in 1998, We have profound respect for the Japanese people's sentiments, shaped by the enormous human tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Years ago, while expressing my anguish at this horrific carnage, I asked in a poem I wrote in Hindi:

The scientists who made the atomic bomb

How could they sleep after they heard of the massive human slaughter In Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Let me also inform you that Indian Parliament even today pays homage to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by observing two minutes silence on every anniversary of these tragic events.

We understand the issue from your perspective. I ask you to imagine yourselves in our position. You would then truly comprehend our decisions in the context of our geographical location, the security configuration of our neighbourhood, the lessons for us from the Cold War and the political dynamics of our region. I believe that we have finally succeeded in making much of the world view our actions through the prism of these perspectives.

Again, if you look at our spiritual traditions, the ideals that inspired our freedom struggle, the ahimsa of Mahatma Gandhi and India's many well-documented campaigns for peace and disarmament, you can well understand our passionate commitment to a nuclear weapon free world,

Eventually, our divergences are merely on a section of the path towards an identical goal. Our common interests far outweigh our differences. The relationship between Asia's most important democracies is too important for it to be predicated on any single issue.

The barbaric terrorist acts of September 11 yet again emphasised the need for pluralistic democracies such as ours to close ranks to protect our way of life against bigotry and intolerance.

Our security co-operation, protection of our common commercial sea lanes and our alliance against international terrorism acquire heightened importance.

The issues arising from the Doha WTO Conference raise another set of concerns about globalisation accentuating socio-economic disparities in the world and marginalising the least developed countries. Given India's development experiences and Japan's long-standing tradition of assistance to developing countries, India and Japan could together make a valuable contribution to a Global Dialogue for Development.

Economic cooperation has to be one of the most important pillars of the India-Japan partnership in the 21st century. India is in the midst of the second generation of its economic reforms. We have recently liberalised our export-import policy in accordance with international obligations. We have framed a new policy to enhance the profitability of foreign investment in roads, telecommunication, ports and power. Privatisation of non-strategic public sector undertakings is gathering momentum. Even segments of our defence industry have been opened to private investment.

Our Japanese friends sometimes feel that we are moving somewhat slowly with our reforms. With an economy of the size and diversity of India and a democratic polity in which different economic and political groups legitimately seek to protect and further their interests, this is perhaps inevitable. But we have steadfastly remained on course and strengthened the national consensus to move forward with reforms. We are also addressing the procedural obstacles which remain between foreign investment approvals and their implementation.

The information and communications technology revolution holds out exciting opportunities for India-Japan collaboration. India's cost-effective and innovative software skills can be productively coupled with Japan's undoubted prowess in the hardware industry. I hope our two countries can agree on more liberalised visa and tax regimes for IT professionals and software experts to impart a further impetus to our IT partnership.

Our unique complementarities in IT also create co-operative opportunities in tackling the digital divide which is opening up within countries as well as between them. This is a problem facing both developed and developing countries. The need of the hour is to develop entrepreneurial commercial strategies for reaching the new technologies to all sections of society. We have already devised such public-private partnerships in India in pursuit of our ambitious target of reaching IT to every part of our vast country by 2008.

We invite corporate Japan to participate with corporate India in this unique enterprise, which could have applications even beyond our two countries. Together we can convert the digital divide into a digital opportunity.

Friends, I have today tried to convey to you very frankly why we see such great promise in our natural partnership, We must look at each other through untinted glasses and with a mature, understanding of our civilisational experiences, strategic convergences and economic opportunities. After my discussions with Prime Minister Koizumi and the Japanese leadership, I am encouraged to believe that Japan shares our desire to infuse our global partnership with new vigour. India stands ready to join with Japan to take up this challenge.

Thank you.