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Jaishankar showcases Japanese investment in poll-bound Assam

By IANS Updated: Feb 15, 2021 11:08 pm
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar being presented with a traditional ‘japi’ during an event on Act East policy, in Guwahati, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. (PTI)

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 INR 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 INR 1,183 crore of a total project cost of INR 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 INR 1,460 crore and the Japanese loan here again is in an excess of INR 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 INR 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 INR 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 INR 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, it’s 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.”

Efforts are on for more foreign investment in Assam

Jaishankar further said that the government has been trying to develop infrastructure and connectivity, besides enabling the environment in Assam to attract more foreign investment.

Referring to the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) aided projects, the Minister said that several projects worth INR 9,000 crore to INR 10,000 crore are almost committed or implemented or under discussions.

He said that the major projects include, INR 1,600 crore Dhubri-Fulbari bridge, INR 1,200 crore water supply project, INR 1,000 crore sewerage projects, INR  700 crore Dhubri-Fulbari road project, INR 1,500 crore two laning of Dhudnoi-Dalo roads projects besides Health and Agriculture related projects together around INR 3,000 crore projects.

He added that some portion of the Kaladan Multi-Model Project in Myanmar already progressed.

“Bulding of link roads up to Mizoram is a problem. There are some law and order related problems also come on the way, but the project would be completed,” he said.

Jaishankar said that India and Japan governments are working together to enhance skill development, business, and investment in a strong manner.

“The visit of the Ambassador of Japan to India to Assam reflects how the Indo-Japan partnership can make a difference in India and more specifically towards the development of Assam. The Indian government took the Act-East Policy to an advanced level to further expand the connectivity with South-East Asia and the outcome is seen with several connectivity projects, economic flows and strategic cooperation,” he said.

The External Affairs Minister said that Assam can play a vital role in transportation and power sector for the northeast region.

Saying that Assam is a major player in producing refined petroleum products and the government is working to facilitate the sale of the product to larger regions, he said that the government is working on pipeline to supply diesel to Bangladesh.

Suzuki said that it is up to the Japanese investor to choose their projects and to invest in Assam with healthy competitions.

“We would provide necessary information to the Japanese companies.”

He said that Japan and India are collaborating for the development of many projects in different parts of India including the northeast region with special focus on Assam.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that there is tremendous potential in the state for investment in different sectors.

He said that the government has proposed for setting up a Japanese industrial township in a 600 acre plot in Nagarbera of Assam which in a long way will provide industrial development in the state and business for both the countries.

Assam’s Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was also present on the occasion and said that the state is keen in taking forward the act-east policy. A discussion was also held on “Act-East Policy and India-Japan Cooperation in North East India with special focus on Assam”.

Accompanied by Jaishankar, Suzuki arrived in Guwahati on Sunday and visited the JICA aided projects.

In his series of tweets, Suzuki said: “Visited Guwahati Water Supply project site with Dr S Jaishankar. Japan is pleased to support this important project. Clean water will soon flow to the homes in Guwahati.”

“Smart ideas for a smart city! Young Japanese entrepreneurs of Terra Motors India are building e-rickshaws in Assam. Japanese eco-friendliness meets Indian traditions. Very impressive! I discovered artisanal spirits of North East at Konyak store in Guwahati. These are all the crafts of Assam! One interesting idea would be to pursue Japan-India collaboration for upgrading bamboo crafts,” the visiting Ambassador tweeted.

By IANS Updated: Feb 15, 2021 11:08:49 pm