The workshop “India-Japan Partnership towards Meeting the Challenge of Infrastructure Development in India’s Northeast” was organized on 19 – 20th January 2016 at Dimapur, Nagaland by the India Foundation and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) with the support of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and the Toshiba International Foundation (TIFO). The objective of this initiative was to foster meaningful policy oriented discussion between experts from both India and Japan in an area of bilateral cooperation that is relatively new but to which both governments attach a great deal of importance.
The context for this workshop was the Tokyo Declaration for Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership, issued after the meeting in Tokyo on 1 September 2014, between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which places special emphasis on Japan’s cooperation for enhanced connectivity and development in Northeast India and linking the region to other economic corridors in India and to Southeast Asia. The Joint Statement released during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to New Delhi has further underlined this stating – Seeking the synergy between India’s “Act East” policy and Japan’s “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure”, the two Prime Ministers decided to develop and strengthen reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructures that augment connectivity within India and between India and other countries in the region. The two Prime Ministers pledged to advance industrial networks and regional value chains with open, fair and transparent business environment in the region.
The Inaugural Address was delivered by Hon’ble Chief Minister of Nagaland Mr. T. R. Zeliang. He pointed out that in the NER while Japan is more known for its role during the Second World War there is now a real opportunity for Japan to create a new image and memorial for itself in this region through active involvement in infrastructural development. He hoped that with the successful implementation of infrastructural projects in this region as part of India-Japan strategic partnership Japan will no more be associated with war, but with peace and development in the minds of the new generation of this region.
Notable participants included – Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation; Rajat Kathuria, Director and CE, ICRIER; Akio Isomata, Minister Economic, Embassy of Japan in India; Ram Muivah, Secretary, North Eastern Council; Naoyuki Yoshino, Dean, Asian Development Bank Institute, Tokyo; S. L. Meena, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region; Yasushi Ueki, Economist, ERIA; Akio Okamura, Director, Planning Division, South Asia Department, JICA; Y. Nakayama, Member, Japan Plus, DIPP, Ministry of Commerce; Prodyut Bora, Regional Expert & Commentator; M.P. Bezbaruah, Former Member, North Eastern Council; and Manoj Pant, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The workshop discussion agenda was structured around the following themes:
- Economic Development in NER: Current Status and Potential
- Connectivity Imperatives in NER: Inter-regional, With Rest of India and Cross Border
- Areas for India-Japan Cooperation
- Public Private Partnerships: Pointers from Japan’s Involvement in the Development of SEZ’s in Myanmar
- Strategies for Enhancing India-Japan Cooperation in Infrastructure Development in NER
The participants pointed out that primarily the NER states are all subsistence agricultural economies. Agricultural production is mainly for local consumption and not much is being done in terms of value added. The number and percentage of population below poverty line in NER is declining steadily but at the same time what is worrying is that the gap with “All India” is widening.
In this context connectivity is vital to promote trade, commerce and development of this region. The necessity and importance of strengthening connectivity is:
- For NER (own development)
- For India (balanced development)
- As a catalyst of BBIN (utilizing each comparative advantage, efficient access to sea from landlocked countries/areas)
- As a gateway between India and ASEAN (connecting vast economies/markets)
Further, it was pointed out that three main areas needed to be focused on with regard to NER connectivity – transport, energy and IT with connectivity at 4 levels in each category – within each state, inter-regional, with rest of India and cross border.
Participants agreed that India-Japan cooperation in NER had immense potential in terms of the creation of the necessary infrastructure. However in order to maximize the benefits of Japan’s assistance the following points were highlighted:
- The emphasis should be on ‘quality infrastructure’ utilizing the technical skills and technological expertise from Japan.
- Infrastructure development is not sufficient to achieve effective economic growth.
- In tandem there has to be a long-term economic development plan focusing on ‘value creation’.
- The planning process must be participatory and inclusive involving multilayered consultations among all stakeholders – the Central government, the State governments, the private sector as well as the wider community.
The valedictory address was delivered by Shri Ram Madhav, National General Secretary, BJP & Director, India Foundation and the session was presided over by Shri Himanata Biswa Sarma, Member, BJP. In his address, Shri Madhav said that the development of Northeast is one of the major priorities of the ruling government. He also emphasized that Japan is a very important ally of India for the development of Northeast and the government will immensely benefit from the proposals and suggestions offered at this important workshop.
To access the photo gallery of the Workshop, please use the given link: