NEW DELHI: Apart from committing to strengthen defence and strategic ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe also agreed to cooperation in the development of Northeast India. “Both sides decided to strengthen cooperation in the field of connectivity and socio-economic development in Northeast India,” said a fact-sheet on India-Japan projects. It spoke about Japan’s help for road connectivity, forest resource and water supply projects in the sensitive area.
Japan is probably the first foreign country to be allowed to invest in the Northeast, a large part of which is claimed by China. In 2007, China had blocked a loan by Asian Development Bank for a project in Arunachal Pradesh. The last time Japan was in India’s Northeast was during World War II. Ahead of a meeting with Abe, Modi also took a dig at China. “Encroaching on a country, entering into sea somewhere and occupying territory — this expansionism cannot do good to humanity in the 21st century,” Modi said without naming China
Even in the joint statement by Modi and Abe, while there was no mention of Japan’s island dispute with China, there was a clear allusion to it. “They (Modi and Abe) affirmed their shared commitment to maritime security, freedom of navigation, overflight, civil aviation safety, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law,” said the joint statement. The inclusion of “freedom of navigation and overflight” clause hints heavily to the dispute over East China Sea where China arbitrarily imposed an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) last November.
Chinese president Xi Jinping will make his first visit to India in the third week of September. In Beijing, there was a cautious reaction. “You just mentioned comments made by him (PM Modi). I don’t know what he is referring to,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang. “But I can answer the question by quoting his (Modi’s) words. He said China and India are strategic partners for common development. Cooperation between the two counties is of great significance to the prosperity of the whole world and all mankind.”