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Remarks by EAM, Dr. S. Jaishankar at the 2nd India-Japan Forum 2023

Posted on: July 28, 2023 | Back | Print

Minister Hayashi,
Indrani Bagchi,
Ladies and Gentleman,
Shubh Prabhat, Good morning.

It's a great pleasure to be with all of you and what I would like to do is really make three comments on preceding speakers and six points of my own. The three comments I have, I'll start with Mr. Tarun Das. I'd like to remind him that actually it was Japan where we first met which brought us together as well. It brought me together with other people but with you, I remember 1997 and Japan coming in as a partner country for the annual CII event. So when I think of India-Japan relationship for me, you are very, very central to it and I'm so happy today that we continue to have your leadership and guidance. To my friend Yoshi, we enjoy our Beatles conversation but I'm still not quite sure whether he is John Lennon or Paul McCartney but I think he thinks because of the India association that I'm George Harrison. So I think it's a subject of continuing conversation. And my third comment, I really, Minister Hayashi, valued what you said, I listened very carefully and I would say particularly the point you made about the explanation for, you know, a free and open Indo-Pacific, what is the thinking behind it is something I found very, very thought provoking.

So now let me come to comments on my own. What really does Japan mean to Indians and what does it mean therefore for the relationship? You know, the first point I would make is for India and I think not just for India, for many Asian countries. Japan is in many ways the exemplar moderniser, that it was Japan's effort to modernise and progress and industrialize in the 19th century which actually became a trend setter which, you know, obviously every country then followed in their particular moment, in their particular way. But it is still something which is very much I would say an example of relevance and in fact whether in India, across the political spectrum, this is something which is widely appreciated. It's also a country for which actually there is a lot of goodwill from history. So we view history as a tailwind not as a headwind and that is something which I think our Japanese friends need to appreciate. And they need to appreciate it because today under Prime Minister Modi we also have a great modernization effort. I mean if I were to actually pick a single word description for the Prime Minister, I would actually use the word moderniser more than anything else. And the idea of what we call Atmanirbhar Bharat, a self-reliant India and India that is very nurturing of its culture which can harmonize its tradition modernity, I think a lot of Japanese can and should relate to it. So that is my first point that Japan as an exemplar, Japan in a way as an influence and Japan therefore as a natural partner in this modernizing India which is also very much more confident about its culture and traditions.

My second point, the impact of Japan on India. I think Japan has truly unleashed a number of revolutions in this country. There is the Maruti revolution where it wasn't just the Suzuki car coming in, it wasn't only about a car coming in, it was a way actually for the entire lifestyle, it was a thinking, it was an industrial culture which got changed. The second revolution was the metro revolution. I think it's had a very profound impact on the urban infrastructure of India. The third revolution is in the making which is the high-speed rail. So I think when we complete that project, people will see in India what an enormous ripple impact it has. Again, well beyond the world of railways and movement of people that it actually has a transformational impact on the economy, on real estate, on mobility, even on social habits of people. And the fourth revolution which I see on the horizon which is emerging and critical technologies and semiconductor sphere where again I do believe that there is a huge potential for us to work on. And if you put them all cumulatively, I think Japan's had a very powerful impact actually on manufacturing in India, on our urbanization process, on the organization of logistics in this country, and as Minister Hayashi pointed out, also has been a source of support in the Northeast and that's one area not just in the Northeast but beyond the Northeast to neighboring countries. It's something that we hope to develop further. So while recognizing this I think my advice to our Japanese friends here would be that you are also witnessing a maturing or I would say an India with greater capacities so the relationship has to be far more collaborative than before. It will have to localize much more in India and you know we will have to keep changing with times if we are to keep expanding the relationship.

My third point, the foreign policy point. If I were to look back at the convergence of the last 25 years, to me the convergence happened because you had a Japan which was desirous of stepping out into the world and an India which was actually looking east and acting east and so an India moves much more out of its traditional comfort zone. Further east, Japan moves out of its comfort zone into the world and further west and I think that's where the big intersection in a way has happened. And bear in mind that each in their own way were also globalizing and today when Minister Hayashi speaks about Bangladesh or yesterday we had a discussion about Sri Lanka and that is where he's going from here, we find today ability and interest and inclination to work with Japan in a number of third countries. I think when I look at Japanese policies and goals and Indian policies and goals I think in many ways they are at least converging, in many ways actually supporting each other and I think this today is a very important aspect of our relationship.

My fourth point pertains to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad. I think the Minister as I said in a very thought-provoking way analyzed the concept of how Indo-Pacific is described. But I would like to step back and really underline the point of history which is that the Indo and the Pacific got really separated in 1945. It got separated because the dominance of the United States actually put the Pacific into particular spotlight because you had the Japan relationship, you had the events in China in the late 40s, you had the Korean War, you had the Vietnam War. So what happened was that became for the United States a theater all by itself. And today, as the world is globalizing, as the US itself feels the need to look for more partners, we are seeing the return to history, that the natural seamlessness between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, I think is today creating what is increasingly accepted concept of Indo-Pacific. In fact, I was very happy that at the East Asia Summit this time, that there was, you know, all the countries today recognized the validity of the Indo-Pacific. And in regard to the Quad, again, it's important to look at the Quad not in traditional terms, in orthodox terms, because very often, particularly the analytical world is a very habituated world that they apply old templates to new situations. So to me, Quad is the ability for countries in alliances to keep their alliances, but to look beyond alliances. And it is this, I would say, leap of strategic imagination which actually the leaders and the governments of Quad have shown, and to the analysts in the room, I hope that you too would match our openness of mind.

My fifth point, the future of the international order. The big challenge, really, the unknown world we are moving into. You know, people describe it artificial intelligence, quantum etc., but in many ways it's a world, it's actually the term knowledge economy and captures a lot of that. So if I were to look at four big characteristics of the era that we are poised to enter, which is the need to build resilient and reliable supply chains. Two, the need to ensure trust and transparency when it comes to digital domain. Three, the need to uphold political democratic values and market economy. And four, address the demographic challenge which the world is going to face, which is where the demand is, is not where the demographics is. And how do you synthesize these two? If I were to put these four as the primary characteristics of the world we are entering into, I would say that India, Japan are indeed natural partners because I think these are four very powerful reasons for us to work.

Finally, I would highlight to all of you, and again I'm building on a point which Minister Hayashi made about the people to people. But I think, you know, I travel a fair amount in India, I visit a lot of universities, I meet a lot of young people. I want to say really they find Japan very fascinating. Today Japanese culture, Japanese language, Japanese food, really Japanese aesthetics is enormously appealing to the younger generations of India. So yesterday in our own talks we had a discussion how to increase the number of students. I made the point that we need to think much more of online interactions because that is very much today a natural medium for young Indians to communicate and to actually relate. And that is something we need to build on.

So if I were to sum up these remarks, I would say today whether it is the future of the international order, whether it is strategy, whether it is economics, whether it's technology, whether it is culture, or indeed whether it's history or geography, I think we, India and Japan, have a lot going for each other. And I very much hope that a forum of people who are so invested in this relationship that in the course of the next two days you will be able to develop this further and strengthen us in the government as we proceed with this approach. Thank you very much for your attention.