Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday sought the support of his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for a proposed initiative to be launched later this year regarding the formation of a coalition of countries for post-disaster rehabilitation.
The two leaders, during their bilateral meeting in Osaka, also discussed the prospects of the two countries undertaking joint projects in third countries, like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Kenya, while building their bilateral ties in diverse spheres including infrastructure, defence, outer space, digital economy and start-ups.
They also reviewed the progress on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway and the convention centre in Varanasi, being built with the help of Japan, to see how these projects could be finished on time, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a media briefing here.
During the meeting, Modi reiterated his invitation to Abe for the annual bilateral summit to be held in India and emphasised the importance of preparing for it properly, including through the various ministerial meetings and through various exchanges, Gokhale said.
“The Prime Minister (Modi) specifically appreciated the work that Japan is doing in infrastructure projects in the North East of India,” he said.
During the last summit, the two countries had set up the ‘Act East Forum’ which has met thrice and a number of projects — bridges, forestry projects and road building projects — are already underway, the Foreign Secretary said.
Both of them agreed that prior to Abe’s visit to India later this year, a number of important meetings would take place, the most important being the first 2+2 ministerial meeting, he added.
“This is a new format which was agreed to when Prime Minister (Modi) visited Japan last year, in which the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers of the two countries will meet and discuss issues relating to defence, foreign policy and security,” Gokhale said.
“The Prime Minister (Modi) also said that in our neighbourhood, we could look into doing projects jointly and one of the important flagship projects that we are looking at is doing a cancer hospital jointly in Kenya and both prime ministers agreed that this was something we should take forward,” he added.
Modi also requested for Japan’s support for a new initiative that he will launch later this year, Gokhale said, adding it is a coalition for disaster-resilient infrastructure.
While explaining briefly what the initiative is about, the Indian Prime Minister said Japan’s support would be important for this as it has experience in management of disasters and in post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, Gokhale informed.
“This is a new initiative that India is looking at launching,” the Foreign Secretary said.
He added that the initiative would be “essentially a loose virtual coalition of countries which have capacity in handling post-disaster infrastructure development. That capacity could be financial, it could be human resources, it could be experience or it could be all of them together.”
Gokhale said, essentially, the thinking behind the initiative is that every time a major disaster occurs, immediate relief and rehabilitation is given and thereafter small countries, vulnerable countries and developing countries are left to fend for themselves.
“The Prime Minister’s view is (that) since there are capacities all over the world, is it not possible for us to link these capacities together, so that if a disaster occurs in any country the leadership and the government of that country understands whom to go to and how to access it rather than beginning from scratch,” the Foreign Secretary elaborated.
“This is a space which has not been filled by anybody yet,” he said, adding Modi felt that this is an area in which India, with its experience and capacity to handle disasters, can take a lead in.
“We will be approaching other leaders as Prime Minister meets them in the summit. The intention is actually to launch this sometime later in the year. Precise details will obviously be given later,” the Foreign Secretary said.
He underscored that it does not compete with UN organisations which are in relief or rehabilitation.
To a question on the issue of connectivity, Gokhale said the discussion related to the Act East Forum which is trying to connect the North Eastern parts of India to Bangladesh and Myanmar.
He said both leaders also felt that “we should jointly do projects in third countries in the neighbourhood.”
The countries were not identified but one of them is Sri Lanka and “we would certainly like to see if we can do some work with them (Japan) in countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar. Those are still under discussion and obviously, there was no specific discussion at this meeting.”