New Delhi: Pledging its strong support to help India become a global "base" of economic growth, Japan today proposed construction of an energy network within the SAARC countries to boost untapped trade and investment opportunities in the region.
Calling his country's relationship with India as a "special one", Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the ties between the two nations can make the Indo-Pacific region an epicentre of global prosperity and took a subtle dig at China on the South China Sea dispute.
In an address at the Indian Council of World Affairs, Kishida said having "open and stable seas" was key to economic prosperity in the region and recalled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's proposal of "three principles of the rule of law at sea" including not using "force or coercion" in trying to drive claims.
Later, asked about Japan's indication that it may not be involved in infrastructure projects in Arunachal and whether it was due to China's position over the state, he said though his government wants to improve connectivity in the North East, there was no plan to provide any aid to the state.
"You specifically pointed out the state Arunachal Pradesh in North Eastern India which is a territory of India which is pending in terms of its dispute with China and for the moment to my understanding there are currently no plans of Japan to provide aid to this state," he said in reply to a question.
He said Japan was prepared to provide "robust" contribution and cooperation to enhance connectivity in the region and link it with neighbouring SAARC and ASEAN countries.
In his address, he said Japan will contribute to the 'Make in India' initiative so as to support India in becoming a base of economic growth for the Indo-Pacific region and ultimately for the world.
Noting that connectivity between South Asia and South-East Asia through both sea and land routes was key to realising vast economic potential of the region, he said "Japan intends to support the construction of an energy network within the SAARC region".
He said the 'Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership' agreed to at the summit meeting during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tokyo in September last year seeks synergies between "Abenomics and Modinomics."
Identifying terrorism as a major global challenge, Kishida said the menace is a "real danger" to Japan and India.
Referring to the terror attack on Paris, he said international community should make all-out efforts to deal with terrorism which continues to be a great challenge for the world.
"Japan resolutely condemns any form of terrorism including the terrorism incident in Paris.... I understand that tragic terrorism incidents have been occurring in various parts of India. Let us firmly confront terrorism," he said.
Kishida said strengthening connectivity in the North-East can help to improve transport links between SAARC and ASEAN which will encourage trade and economic activities.
"Japan will strengthen its assistance by supporting development initiatives in North-East India, which will serve as a connective node between the two regions," he said.
"We will sow the seeds that are vital to regional economy, then nurture them through a stronger partnership in the fields of science and technology," he said while referring to Indo-Japan cooperation in science and technology sector.
Talking about defence cooperation, he specifically referred to maritime exercise, discussions on amphibian aircraft US-2 which both sides may go for joint production and negotiations on cooperation in defence equipment.
"It is important to further strengthen our cooperation through defence equipment cooperation including the US-2 amphibian aircraft and Japan's continued participation in the India-US Malabar maritime exercises.
"Moreover, I believe that Japan-India cooperation in multilateral frameworks such as ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS) will become increasingly important. Therefore, we should even more proactively assume our responsibilities to protect 'Open and Stable Seas' under our special partnership," he said.
Kishida said he chose India as the first country to visit after his reappointment as Foreign Minister following elections in Japan recently.
"I chose India as the first country to visit following my reappointment because of my belief that the partnership between Japan and India is a special one. It is a partnership that should drive the advent of the new era; an era when the Indo-Pacific region becomes the epicentre of global prosperity," he said.
Calling Japan and India as the most successful democracies and free nations in Asia, he said leadership from both countries is essential for the Indo-Pacific region.