New Delhi/Guwahati, Feb 15 (IANS) Ahead of the state assembly polls, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar during his visit to Assam along with a Japanese delegation on Monday said that the potential is immense for India’s collaboration with Japan in this northeastern state.
IANS last week was the first to report that the Minister had ratcheted up a mega plan for a strategic partnership with Japan in the poll-bound Assam.
Jaishankar was accompanied by Japan’s Ambassador to India, Satoshi Suzuki and others in Guwahati to review the several development projects funded by the Japanese government.
This was his first visit to the state as the External Affairs Minister.
“Our presence today not only reflects the strong cooperation that we have with Japan, but actually underlines how this India-Japan partnership can really make a difference not just to India, but specifically to the development of Assam,” he said, at a meeting attended by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of Finance Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP vice president Baijayant Panda among others.
“Given Japan’s many strengths and our very positive experiences of collaboration in other parts of India, it is evident that the potential for our collaboration in Assam is really immense. We are already contemplating capacity building in water supply and sewage treatment,” he said.
Jaishankar added the two countries were also exploring plans for disaster management and urban planning, besides the Bamboo initiative proposed by Japan.
The Sonowal government in Assam, he said has taken some proactive steps on the Japan Industrial Township.
After highlighting the work done by the Modi government in Assam, he said on the infrastructure side, Japanese development assistance is central to the 20 km-long bridge on Brahmaputra between Dhubri in Assam and Phulbari in Meghalaya.
The four-lane bridge is on National Highway 127-B and the total project cost which is more than Rs. 6,000 crores, India and Japan have a loan agreement for Rs 1,600 crores. The contract for the civil work packages was signed in December 2020 and the project is to be completed by its deadline in 2028.
The Minister along with Ambassador Suzuki and minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya, inspected Guwahati’s water supply project site. Its south-central and northern district waterworks facilities are being renovated and the executing agency is undergoing capacity development.
The loan amount is Rs 1,183 crore of a total project cost of Rs. 1,443 crores. For a variety of reasons, the project got somewhat delayed. “But we are very confident that we will be able to complete this hopefully by next year,” he assured.
Also significant is the Guwahati sewerage project to provide reliable services by construction of facilities and an extensive sewer network in South Guwahati with a state of the art sewerage treatment plant.
The project cost is Rs 1,460 crore and the Japanese loan here again is in an excess of Rs 1,000 crore. The scope of the project has undergone revision, necessitating a revised DPR.
India and Japan, he said are looking at the approach road to the Dhubri-Phulbari bridge that is about 55 kms long. The preparatory survey is being conducted for this Rs 717 crore project by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“Another road under consideration is from Dudhnoi to Dalu, via Baghmara. The two laning of this 125 km stretch will cost about Rs 1,500 crore and is included in our rolling plan.”
The two countries are also discussing upgrading of major hospitals and many smaller clinics. The procurement for preparatory survey by JICA is already in progress. The two sides are also exploring an ambitious project on agriculture and fisheries which will be in excess of Rs 3,000 crore.
“Any relationship in the final analysis is of course sustained only by the closeness of the people. We have recently signed an agreement with Japan on Specified Skilled Workers that builds on an earlier we had an internship programme with Japan, but this is something much bigger, its far more expansive, it is likely to lead to much greater training and eventually to much greater employment.
It covers fourteen trades, which includes nursing; fisheries; agriculture; food services; food & beverage manufacturing; lodging; aviation; auto maintenance; ship-building and ship related industry; construction; electric & electronic information; industrial machinery manufacturing; material processing and building cleaning.
“Our expectation is that its early realization would open the way for Indian talent to access the Japanese economy. We are also hopeful that Japan would build further on its relationship with IIT Guwahati and other institutions in Assam in the coming days.
Indeed, as there is a growing focus on Assam, its tourism potential, especially its nature reserves, can be a greater source of attraction and there to whether it is nature reserves or cultural heritage we hope to have discussions with the Japanese side on how we can include it in our cooperation.”
The Minister said India is headed today towards a 5 trillion dollar economy. “But, remember this, remember our history, India was a great country only when eastern India was prosperous and secure. That revival must happen again and that is very much at the core of the Modi government’s commitment to Assam.”
He said, “I am sure that the Ambassador looks forward to the day when we even have flights from Japan! Bringing more Japanese tourists to Kaziranga is certainly a prospect that we should all aim for in the coming years.”