Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has said that Japan has engaged in very concrete discussion with India on how the two countries may advance the economic cooperation.
Speaking to CNN-IBN's deputy foreign editor Suhasini Haidar on her show World View, the Japanese foreign minister said that the two countries have not been able to capitalise on the huge potential because there has been a cap over it.
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
Suhasini Haider: Hello and welcome. Japan and India have just completed the sixth round of their strategic dialogue and their first round of their economic dialogue at the ministerial level, and with me to discuss those is the Foreign Minister of Japan, Mr Koichiro Gemba. Thanks so much for speaking with us here on World View.
India and Japan have spoken over the last year, in particular since the signing of the agreement as well about improving bilateral trade. But as of now, bilateral trade between the two countries is only about $10 billion, with an aim to take it up to about $25 billion. How do you propose to take trade between the two countries forward? Right now India and Japan really are not major trading partners of each other.
Koichiro Gemba: What you have said is really one of the major reasons why we sought that we should have not only the strategic dialogue amongst the ministers but also that we convene a ministerial level economic dialogue.
Of course there has always been bilateral dialogue between the finance ministers, but they tended to focus on politics and security. Now this time for the ministerial level economic dialogue, three relevant ministers together with three senior vice ministers and Parliament secretaries and various leaders have come to India. We have indeed engaged in very concrete discussions on how we might advance the economic cooperation. Between our two countries, I have every confidence that we have such a huge potential. But in the past we have not been able to capitalise on that potential because, shall I say there has been a cap or lid over that potential. But this time we are here so that we can remove those caps or lids and promote trade and cooperation.
Indeed, the number of Japanese businesses that have entered into India has increased over the recent years. But as we talk with the business managers in Japan, they point out that infrastructure in India is still underdeveloped and that there are many institutional deficiencies or challenges for the Japanese businesses. Now, we are here to find a solution to each of those problems. Your Prime Minister, His Excellency Prime Minister Singh will be visiting Japan later this year. We hope that between now and then, based on what we have discussed today, we will be able to deliver some very tangible, positive results, and if we can repeat such efforts on a ministerial level year after year, I am sure we will be able to increase investment and trade to the level which is commensurate to the potential.
Demographically, India is a very young country and you are growing your economy very rapidly. Now, we believe that India and Japan are the two major democracies in Asia sharing the same set of universal values. Now Japan has experiences, technology and also the funding capability. So if we could combine together those strengths of both countries, I am sure that we will be able to really enhance our cooperation.
Suhasini Haider: You spoke about enhancing infrastructure in India particularly and that is a concern of Japanese companies. On the Japanese side do you worry that a generation ago we talked about Sony and Suzuki; are you worried that the next generation in fact will not know the relevance of Japanese companies, that they will in fact talk about Chinese companies like a Lenovo or a Wowie?
Koichiro Gemba: I am not concerned and let me explain why that is the case. I am a believer that Japan still is a country of engineering and technological excellence. It might be the world's number two if not number one, and Japan will continue to develop and advance its economy based on technology. We have some very unique and excellent technologies as in the case of environmental technology. We will try to concentrate our resources and investment to promote the development of such innovative technologies in Japan, and if and when the private companies can only work to improve and enhance existing technology, then the government will take initiative and provide the R&D resources so that we will be able to come up with the new generation of innovative technologies, the breakthrough technologies, and in so doing I think we will be able to advance ourselves as a technology power.
Suhasini Haider: Let's talk about nuclear cooperation between the two countries. Japan turned around an old policy in offering India civil nuclear cooperation. But the fact is that pact has not gone any further in the past year. The question - does Japan really want India to sign a test ban treaty before it agrees to going any further in civil nuclear cooperation?
Koichiro Gemba: In simple terms, speaking of the nuclear cooperation. If the partner or the counter-party has such an expectation then Japan will indeed engage in such nuclear cooperation.
To be more specific, now we look at the expectation and the sense of confidence that such a party, let us say India in this case, places upon Japan and if there is a valid expectation and sense of trust, we look at other factors such as the situation of energy in India and we also look at the other bilateral relationship, and we'll go ahead with signing such a nuclear cooperation agreement. As it concerns your country, there is such a positive assumption and based on that assumption we will continue to negotiate this agreement.
I think the importance is substance - what is provided for by such a cooperation agreement and for Japan the nuclear test moratorium is imperative and essential. This is because Japan is the only country that has been victimised by the atomic bomb.
Suhasini Haider: That's certainly an important point Minister. The question is, in India, we have seen worries locally over the Kudankulum nuclear power plant, particularly Fukushima was used as an example. When locals wanted to protest against the nuclear power plant, they actually used the Japanese experience and said that they were concerned about nuclear power. Do you think after Fukushima, the Japanese government has had any second thoughts about nuclear energy, about the safety of nuclear energy?
Koichiro Gemba: I think there will be changes, in two aspects. The overall energy policies are being reviewed. In 2007, the National Energy Plan, the basic plan had been put together, and under the 2007 plan it was planned that by 2030 the nuclear energy will account for 53 per cent of the total energy as compared to 23 per cent in 2007. But definitely, as a result of our experiences we will have to review such a basic policy; and I believe that as a result the percentage accounted for by the nuclear power would be reduced. But what is important is that we try to develop technologies that would save energy and be more efficient, both in terms of consumption and also the generation of power. It is in that area - the energy saving technology - that Japan would focus and concentrate investment.
Of course, we have experienced this accident and as such, the nuclear safety has become a matter of even greater importance. Now, as I've said we will be reviewing the basic energy policy, but for some time to come we believe that we will have to operate some of the nuclear power facilities. But we would make sure that we will secure the utmost safety in operating such nuclear power plants and it is with the technology that we have and would advance, that we would try to secure the maximum security of the power plants.
We believe that is the duty of Japan, having experienced this nuclear accident, to share the experience and lessons learned from this incident and work together with the international community.
Suhasini Haider: When we talk about nuclear tests, North Korea seems to be just days away from a possible nuclear test. How much of a worry is this for Japan and how is Japan likely to react if in fact they do ahead and test?
Koichiro Gemba: As you know, the United Nations Security Council presidential statement has been issued and it is written with a very strong tone. For Japan and for the entire world this is an immediate threat to security. In preparing for this presidential statement, Japan also worked proactively, took the initiative to gather mostly permanent members of the Security Council to put together this statement. And the statement includes not only the condemnation, but also but also the admonition that is if and when North Korea should continue its act to conduct a missile launch or nuclear test, the United Nations Security Council would as a result take very strong action.
Therefore, as we have done so we will continue to work very closely together with the United States, Korea, China and Russia and also with India, who is a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Now, on the nuclear test, I believe to stop this act we have to work in coordination with China. I think China holds the key.
Suhasini Haider: Minister, finally, there is the India-US-Japan trilateral East Asia dialogue. Many think of this as an anti-China forum. The question I had very specifically is; India has been worried about China's claims in the South China Sea, particularly about drilling offshore from land claimed by Vietnam for the moment. The question really, would Japan support India's desire for offshore drilling in the South China sea, even if it's opposed by China?
Koichiro Gemba: I am an advocate of network diplomacy. Of course, we have to recognise the balance of power, but I think in the Asia-Pacific region it is important that we deploy diplomacy based on our networking and in this context, bilateral, multilateral and of course trilateral relationship would be a matter of importance. In this instance, it is Japan, India and the United States, but I am also suggesting that there will be a trilateral forum between Japan, United States and China.
Because I believe that it is important that we engage China into such networking.
But maritime issues are of international interest. South China Sea is an important sea lane for communication with Japan so if there's any negative development, it would definitely jeopardize the economic activities of Japan as well.
We have to secure the freedom of navigation and if and when there is a dispute, that must be settled by peaceful means. That is the order that I wish to construct in this region. Therefore, I believe that cooperation between our two countries will become even more important as we share the same set of values and implement the same set of rules. So I have an expectation for further cooperation between our two countries. One of my goals in diplomacy is to create a rich and stable world order based on democratic values in our region.
Suhasini Haider: And finally, the 60th year of India-Japan ties; is there a short word or a phrase that you hope will describe the year ahead?
Koichiro Gemba: Japanese people love India and the people, and there is a very special place in the hearts of many Japanese; there's an affinity. The 60th anniversary is a very happy and auspicious milestone, so let us take the advantage of this anniversary and make a major leap forward to grow our mutual relationship further.