Japanese ambassador to India Satoshi Suzuki (left) is greeted by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. | Image Courtesy: CMO

External affairs minister S Jaishankar said that Assam has long been the bridge between India and the countries of the world to the east of India. The state acted as the natural arteries which have facilitated the flow of people, goods and ideas not just in South East Asia but far in Korea and Japan. Valleys of Brahamputra and Barak have acted as a central gateway to that process.

Speaking at the Act East Policy and India Japan Cooperation in Northeast India with Special focus on Assam in Guwahati in the presence of Japanese ambassador to India Satoshi Suzuki, Jaishankar said that strong cooperation with Japan has made a difference to India, specifically to the development of Assam.

He said that the Act East Policy must begin by giving the necessary attention and resources to the states in the East and Northeast. The union minister also said that the Act East Policy is an effort to create an infrastructure of connectivity within Assam and Northeast and beyond to connect the region with India’s South-East Asian countries – Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Japan by roads, seas and airs.

This has been done to expedite economic activities between Assam and other Northeastern states with ASEAN countries and beyond.

Jaishankar said that India shares closer and cordial relations with Japan. With every reciprocal visit between the two countries the warmth and friendship between India and Japan increase. The minister observed that the world has changed profoundly over the last few decades. The New focal points of businesses, demands, consumption have given rise to dictate the mutual interactions of the bilateral relations. The prominent among these is the ability to harness the international partnership of growth and development.

Jaishankar said that the government at the centre is constantly encouraging closer ties between Assam and other international states.

Speaking on the aspects of the bilateral ties on different sectors, which made a huge success, Jaishankar said that the Suzuki-Maruti joint venture project and Delhi metro project hold immense significance. Today the bullet train project from Ahmedabad to Mumbi holds similar importance, the minister exhorted.

Jaishankar also said that the two countries have been collaborating to advance the skills sets and training. He also said that the current agenda contemplates industrial township, training institutes, languages centres etc. He also said that during the tenure of Modi government, Japanese Foreign Direct investment has increased phenomenally. This economic cooperation has assumed strategic character.

Stating that conferring of Padma Bibhusan on former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo  Abe, Jaishankar said that Indo-Japan relationship in the last decade is one of the natural and close as the award was symbolic to closer ties between the two countries.

Regarding Guwahati water supply project, the minister said that he along with the Japanese Envoy and Guwahati development minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya visited the project site and said that the project would be inaugurated by next year. He also spoke on a collaborative programme with Japan on Guwahati Sewage project in South Guwahati, internship programme between India Japan, agriculture, fishery, food processing to enable Indian talents to access Japan’s expertise.

Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal termed the day historic in the development journey of Assam and the Northeast of India. The CM said that all these years though Japan has been a great trade and investment partner for India, unfortunately, there is no single Japanese company present in Assam or even in other Northeastern states. Again, while Japan’s bilateral trade with India has grown significantly over the years, there is hardly any trade between Assam and Japan, barring the export of tea.

He, however, said that the Japan government has been helping Assam in a multitude of state’s infrastructure projects in the urban civic amenities sectors like water supply and sewerage, for which he expressed his profound thankfulness. He also reiterated that there are still tremendous potentialities available in Assam for investment, which will be mutually beneficial for both Assam and Japan.

Japanese Envoy Satoshi Suzuki thanked India for its long good and friendly relations with Japan. He said Japan would not have been in a position to get out of the ashes of the destructions caused by World War II without the help from India. Reiterating Japan’s economic cooperation with India, Suzuki said that his country is also eager to deepen ties with Assam. Speaking on the similarity of between Japan and Assam, Suzuki said Assam is famous for its cocoon, muga silk and tea among others as the two geographical entities can work to boost the mutual interests of the both.

Stating that economic development of Assam and Northeast is crucial for India to become 5 trillion dollar economy, Suzuki said that there are several areas where both Japan and Assam can collaborate for the mutual benefits of both the geographical entities. Speaking on the proposed Dhubri-Phulbari bridge, Suzuki said that his country is pleased to be associated with the project as much as with other projects related to drinking water and sewerage in Guwahati.

He also said that Japan has brought its technology to complete the drinking water project soon so that people of Guwahati get clean water. The envoy also said that Japan is willing to partner with Assam to train its human resources to enable them to create job opportunities in Japan.

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