India and Japan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set up India Japan Act East Forum to enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in Northeast India.
It was one of the 15 major agreements signed between both countries during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India for the 12th Indo-Japan annual summit.
The purpose of forum is to converge India’s Act East Policy with Japan’s Free and Open Asia-Pacific strategy in the backdrop of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. It will enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in India’s Northeast region in an efficient and effective manner. It can complement India’s connectivity initiatives in Bangladesh, Myanmar and beyond, besides BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Motor Vehicle Agreements.
Japan has historic connection with India’s northeast and is among few countries that India has allowed a presence in eight landlocked northeastern states which are India’s gateway to ASEAN members countries. Japan has cooperated with variety of development projects in Northeast, ranging from connectivity infrastructure such as roads and electricity, water supply and sewage and environmental conservation such as forest resource management and biodiversity.
Japanese Contribution to North East
India and Japan have signed document on Japanese loan and aid for highway development in Northeast which can complement India’s connectivity initiatives in Bangladesh, Myanmar and beyond. Japan is also extending loan of Rs.2,239 crore to India for ‘North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project’ to improve National Highway 40 (NH-40) and construct a bypass on NH-54 in Northeast. These projects are expected to improve intra-regional and international connectivity through regional economic development.
China has expressed dissatisfaction over proposed Japanese investments in India’s North-East states. China warned that third-party should not meddle in border disputes between India and China. It held that negotiations are still on to settle eastern section of China-India border, so it is oppoing involvement of any third party in region in whatsoever form.