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Ambassador Ronen Sen's remarks at a luncheon meeting of the Japan Society in New York

February 15, 2008

Ambassador Ronen Sen gave a talk, followed by a question & answer session, on India-Japan-US Economic, Trade and Diplomatic Ties at the Japan Society in New York on February 15, 2008. The event, which was presided over by the President of the Japan Society, Richard Wood, and the Chairman of the India Policy Forum Bal Das, was attended by Consul General Neelam Deo and Consul General Motoatsu Sakurai and 50 senior corporate representatives. These included Yoshikazu Takeda, Managing Director for the Americas & Europe, Nippon Life Insurance Company; Eiichi Ishii, President & CEO, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Inc.; Shigeru Hayakawa, President, Toyota Motor North America, Inc.; Tsuneo Komaki, President, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA), Inc; Hiroshi Adachi, President, JFE Steel America, Inc.; Michihisa Shinagawa, President & CEO, Sumitomo Corporation of America; James McDonald, President & CEO, Rockefeller & Co.; Frank Wisner, Vice Chairman External Affairs, American International Group; George Warnock, Partner-in-Charge Audit, Deloitte & Touche; and John Brademas, President Emeritus, New York University. Following is the full text of the speech

Mr. Richard Wood,
Mr. Bal Das,
Consul General Sakurai
Consul General Deo,
Ladies & Gentlemen,

I thank the Japan Society and the Indian Policy Forum for giving me the opportunity of addressing you. I am highly honored by the presence of distinguished Japanese corporate leaders at this event, and also good American friends of Japan and India.

There is one familiar face which is missing today; that of an American diplomat who was highly dedicated to the promotion of Japan-US relations and was also an active and effective US Ambassador in India. I refer to a former President of the Japan Society, Ambassador Bill Clark, who passed away earlier this month. I had the privilege of working closely with him during his ambassadorial assignment in New Delhi. There are many in this gathering who knew him well. May I request you all, ladies & gentlemen, to observe a moment’s silence in his memory?

The idea of trilateral cooperation between India, Japan and the US has been gaining ground in recent times. This stemmed from the significant strengthening of India’s bilateral relations with both Japan and the United States.

Let me begin by sharing some thoughts with you on recent developments in India’s relations with Japan before moving on to the evolution of trilateral ties.

India has had historical connections with Japan since around the sixth century AD when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. It has been reported that subsequently, in the Japanese perspective, the civilized world consisted of three countries – India, in which Sakyamuni Buddha was born; China, to which Buddhism spread; and Japan, where Buddhism flourished supposedly in a more strong and pure form. The Japanese perspective of the civilized world changed with the West taking the place of China and India. If history is any guide at all, it is inevitable that a more balanced perspective will be restored, and this process is already being manifested.

Japan’s image in India has historically been positive. Japan’s emergence as a big power in the early 20th century was interpreted in India as the beginning of Asian resurgence. In the collective Indian perception, there was strong admiration for Japan’s post-war economic reconstruction and subsequent rapid growth. The dissenting judgment of Justice Radha Binod Pal at the Military Tribunal for the Far East was a powerful symbol of the affection and regard Indians have for the Japanese people. Many in Japan also remember India’s refusal to attend the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951 and the signing of a separate Peace Treaty with Japan in 1952, in which India waived all reparation claims against Japan.

Since diplomatic relations between Japan and India were established, the two countries had cordial relations based on trade, economic and technical cooperation. It was however, constrained by the reality of cold-war politics, where Japan was a US military ally while India pursued an independent and non-aligned foreign policy. Even within these limitations, initiatives were taken since the 1980s to strengthen bilateral ties and international cooperation. India’s ‘Look East’ policy, launched over a decade ago, envisages Japan as a key partner. When India-US relations are rapidly expanding in scope and content, it was only natural that the Pacific facet of US policy should correspondingly be factored into India’s ‘Look East’ policy.

There are growing economic complementarities and political convergences between India and Japan. This relationship has a legacy of goodwill, unencumbered by any historical baggage. It is a relationship free of any kind of dispute – ideological, cultural or territorial. On the contrary, our present relationship is anchored in shared values of democracy and promotion of peace.

India-Japan relations witnessed a significant positive momentum following the visits in quick succession of former Prime Minister Koizumi to India in April 2005, of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan in December 2006, and of former Prime Minister Abe to India in August, 2007. We established an India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership that provides both the vision for chartering the future course of the relations, and also a detailed Road Map for New Dimensions in this Partnership. In November 2007, Prime Minister Fukuda and Prime Minister Singh met in Singapore on the sidelines of East Asia Summit and reiterated their commitment to this Strategic and Global Partnership. 

The India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership is based on five pillars of cooperation, namely, political, defence and security cooperation; comprehensive economic partnership; science & technology initiative; people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in regional and multilateral fora.

Recently there has been movement towards overcoming the stagnation of India-Japan trade which was witnessed in the late 90s. Last year, the trade turnover was around $ 7.46 billion, with a trade surplus of $1.7 billion in Japan’s favour. Both sides acknowledge that such a low level of trade is not commensurate with the potential, and have set a trade turnover target of $ 20 billion by 2010. A high-level Economic Dialogue has been established as an overarching dialogue mechanism on all economic issues. Negotiations have been initiated for the finalization of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Japan is currently India’s third largest source of foreign direct investment. Japanese companies have made cumulative investments of around $ 2.6 billion in India since 1991. We could do better. After all, the 2007 annual survey conducted by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation ranked India as the most promising overseas investment destination for Japanese companies over the long term. India is the largest recipient of Japanese official development assistance, amounting to 23% of Japan’s global ODA. Japan assisted India in important projects like Delhi Metro Rail Project. Both sides are also discussing the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project and Dedicated Freight Corridor Projects on the Mumbai-Delhi and the Delhi-Howrah routes.

India and Japan have launched a Science & Technology Initiative, and a bilateral consultative mechanism is in place to facilitate high technology trade and to address issues relating to export control systems of the two countries.

The India-Japan Energy Dialogue aims to promote cooperation in the areas of oil and natural gas, coal, electric power, renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and other relevant sectors. In August 2007, both countries reiterated the importance of enhancing energy security and environmental protection.

India and Japan have shared interests in maintaining the security of sea-lanes in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean, and in cooperation for combating transnational crime, terrorism, piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We have set up a structured Defence Policy Dialogue. We have a Comprehensive Security Dialogue as well as Military to Military talks. A Memorandum of Cooperation was signed by our Coast Guards. We have a bilateral Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. We have held bilateral, trilateral and multilateral joint military exercises, and hope to continue these.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I will now turn to areas where India, Japan, and the United States are cooperating, and can further develop trilateral cooperation.

All three countries have shared values and aspirations of democracies based on the rule of law. The United States and India took the lead in setting up the UN Democracy Fund. Japan is an important contributor to this Fund. India, Japan and the United States cooperate closely in the Community of Democracies.All three countries also recognize that democracy and development are not only compatible, but inextricably linked, and that free markets are most sustainable in free societies.

In harnessing high technologies for socio-economic development there are significant avenues of mutually beneficial cooperation between the United States, the world’s greatest centre of innovation; Japan, with its excellence in modern technologies; and India, with its large and growing pool of talented scientific and technical manpower. The successful conclusion of a India-US agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation would give additional momentum to cooperation in other areas of high technology, including biotechnology, nanotechnology and defence technologies. India has ongoing space collaboration with both the United States and Japan, based on research and development in this field by all three countries.

Energy security is another key element of convergence of interests of India, Japan and the US. All three countries are highly dependent on imported hydrocarbons. All three have high stakes in diversifying their energy portfolios with new, renewable and clean sources of energy. All three are partners in the ITER fusion project, the Asia-Pacific Clean Development Partnership and other projects.

All three countries have vital stakes in the security of sea-lanes. They attach the highest priority to preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The three countries are also committed to combating global terrorism. India has joint working groups on counter-terrorism with the United States as well as Japan.

India, Japan and the United States came together in committing their defence assets to managing the immediate aftermath of the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean in December 2004. In April 2007, the first trilateral naval exercises between the three countries were conducted south of Japan.

The intersection of the shared interests of the three countries finds its reflection in multilateral institutions. India and Japan have staked their rightful claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council. India, Japan and the United States are full Dialogue Partners of ASEAN and members of the ASEAN Regional Forum. India and Japan also work together in forums like the East Asia Summit and Asia-Europe Meeting. Both Japan and the United States were Observers at the Summit meeting of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation in New Delhi in April 2007.

Ladies & Gentlemen, The trilateral interaction of India, the United States and Japan did not emerge from a decision to forge a new grouping or alliance. The trilateral cooperation is evolving from growing recognition of the convergence of the ideals and interests of the three democracies and the desirability of channeling these in a constructive and cooperative direction. All the three countries have a tradition of contributing to the international system. Whether it is foreign aid, technical assistance or responding to global challenges, none of the three have pursued mercantilist approaches. This determines in many ways the agenda for developing the trilateral relationship. Issues ranging from countering international terrorism, responding to global pandemics and natural disasters, protecting the environment, addressing illegal trafficking in narcotics, arms and people, promoting stability and prosperity, are among the many avenues of enhanced cooperation between India, Japan and the United States.
I thank you for your attention.