Prime Minister Narendra Modi will notch another first on Sunday when he becomes the first foreign leader to be hosted for dinner at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s holiday home in Yamanashi prefecture overlooking Mount Fuji. Modi, who will be in Japan for the annual summit, will then travel by train to Tokyo, accompanied by Abe. The red carpet treatment mirrors the one extended to Abe last year, when Modi welcomed him in Gujarat.
India-Japan relations have flourished over the past few years, with many talking about the “personal chemistry” between the two leaders. Japan is among the few countries allowed to invest in infrastructure and development in India’s sensitive Northeast region. Despite delays over land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, officials say they expect to complete it on time.
Over the years, Tokyo and Delhi have signed many security and defence agreements, as well as a civil nuclear energy pact. The two nations are holding maritime exercises and the first-ever joint army exercise in November. Indian officials said the two countries share similar concerns over China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, and there is a possibility of a joint infrastructure project in the Indo-Pacific region being announced at the end of Modi’s visit.
This is not likely to go down well in Beijing, where Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted Abe for two days just before his meeting with Modi, the first time that a Japanese leader visited China in over a decade. Abe, who went with a 500-strong business delegation, signed several agreements on infrastructure, including joint projects in third nations.
Beijing sees this as an endorsement of its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, which India rejects because a part of it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Modi and Abe might be friends, but it would be good to keep in mind that sometimes, geopolitics trumps friendships.