JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), is today the largest bilateral donor agency in India. It has disbursed over Rs 1.5 lakh crore of soft loans to India since 2007-08.
Out of 150 countries that JICA operates in, India is its biggest donee. “India has been the largest since 2008. But we have become much closer since 2015. We are now upgrading our older relationship to a newer and a very special one,” he says.
The stage was set for some big-ticket project announcements. A Rs 1.1 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train — for which Japan will dole out Rs 88,000 crore as soft loan. (Ironically, feasibility studies on the bullet train were done by the UPA government.)
A part of the Make in India plan, the project will create jobs, entail technology transfer and local manufacturing. “Very quietly, JICA has surpassed World Bank and ADB in seamlessly executing large infrastructure projects in India,” says Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman, Feedback Infra.
The bullet train may be the most eye-catching but JICA’s spread is deep and wide. India-Japan will cooperate to connect Africa, Southeast Asia and India’s Northeast as part of the $40 billion Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) programme, a counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Deepening security and defence ties is high on the priority list.
While the deal on US-2 amphibious aircraft has not yet stitched, discussions around unmanned ground vehicles, robotics, developing smart islands (think Andaman & Nicobar), among others, made headlines.
Japan pledged support for infrastructure projects in the Northeast. The two countries signed 15 agreements in a range of areas, including infrastructure, skill development, security and disaster management. A project to build a convention centre in Varanasi has been cleared.
Away from the media glare, on the ground there was some serious business afoot, with both JICA and Jetro ( Japan External Trade Organisation) playing a critical role. Some 450 Japanese honchos congregated at the Gandhinagar summit earlier this week, 250 of whom had flown down from Japan.
“An important trend this time was a big presence of executives from medium-sized ($1-10 billion) Japanese companies,” says a senior industry executive present at the summit in Gandhinagar on condition of anonymity.
Perhaps foreign direct investment (FDI) from Japan, which has been on the rise, may be a better proxy for the warm ties.
From around $512 million in 2006, it today hovers around $4.7 billion. It more than doubled between 2013 and 2014 when it stood at $1.7 billion.
With inputs from: The Economic Times
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