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Abe's milestone visit to India begins today

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Fifty years after the first came to India and offered financial assistance to New Delhi for the first time, his grandson, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is going to replicate the gesture.
However, Abe, who begins his three-day visit tomorrow, is not coming with doles alone. He is also bringing with him 180 business leaders and nine vice-chancellors of Japanese universities, indicating Tokyo's interest in broadening relations with the third largest growing economy of Asia.
On Abe's visit, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said, "It is for the first time that vice-chancellors from India and Japan would be able to interact and figure out common strategies and students exchange programmes."
Abe would also address the Indian Parliament on Wednesday "" a privilege accorded only to close friends by the host country.
Besides, he would also hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
In yet another departure from the protocol, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is hosting a private dinner for Abe tomorrow evening, Menon said.
Shinzo's visit is part of the commitment between the two countries to have one summit meeting each year. Singh had paid a visit to Japan last year.
Japan is funding the metro rail and Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor projects in India. Though the metro rail is already operational, the government is working on the feasibility report of the trade corridor.
Though government and India Inc. are apparently overwhelmed by the visit of the top Japanese business leaders, there appears to be no consensus on what to propose before the visitors.
Divergent opinions on what India's focus should be to engage Japan emerged at a meeting organised by the Confederation of India Industries (CII).
National Council for Applied Economic Research (NACER) Director General Suman Bery said that India needed to work hard on igniting Japanese interest in getting them to shift manufacturing units here.
He said the Japanese foray into India in the 1980s was not as successful and for this reason Japanese businessmen would be cautious this time.
Bery asked the government to consciously avoid placing itself in conflicting situations between Japan and China on economic and political issues. "It should not be either China or Japan," he said.
V Raghuram, a consultant on energy and environment, said India must seek efficient energy utilisation models from Japan. This, he said, was important since India's energy consumption and green gas emissions would increase in coming years.
"Japan's energy consumption is most efficient in the entire world and we must try to seek co-operation in this,'' he said.

First Published: Tue, August 21 2007. 00:00 IST