One of India's biggest investments in the railways sector, the Rs 90,000 crore-plus Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, is expected to be finalized during the three day official visit to India of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The contours of the deal are being finalized with inputs from the NITI Aayog, sources said.
Apart from the bullet train agreement, India and Japan are also likely to strengthen their defence cooperation during Abe's visit. The two sides could ink an agreement to jointly produce amphibious military aircraft, the Japanese US2. At their last 'annual summit' in September 2014 in Japan, Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed their intent to develop "Japan Industrial Townships" and other industrial townships
with investment incentives for companies that would not be lower than under
the prevailing policy framework such as Special Economic Zone (SEZ), National
Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) in India. This will be taken forward, while Japan is also likely to announce support for Modi government's 'Smart City' project.
The two sides have also been discussing an 'Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy'. Negotiations had suffered after Japanese public opinion turned against civil nuclear technology in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster of 2011. An agreement with Japan is important for India to make its civil nuclear cooperation with the United States more effective, as two of the Japanese companies have tie ups with US suppliers of civil nuclear technology.
The Japanese PM lands in New Delhi on Friday. He is also expected to visit Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Modi, on Saturday. Modi will accompany Abe to Varanasi. India and Japan had signed partnership city agreement for Kyoto and Varanasi during Modi's visit to Japan in September 2014. Abe and Modi had last met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur in November.
As for the agreement on bullet trains or Shinkansen, officials said NITI Aayog was found to be the most appropriate organization to study the proposal because of the huge cost involved, a whopping Rs 90,000 crore spread over a period of time. "It is only after NITI cleared the project and gave a green signal to the same, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) went ahead and gave a formal nod to the Japanese, though it was being spoken off everywhere," the official said.
The erstwhile Planning Commission had also carried out preparatory work to study the viability of a high-speed train corridor and top officials from the Commission had also visited Japan to study Shinkansen. The first such corridor has been planned for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route. At their meeting in 2014, Abe had promised Japanese financial, technical and operational support to introduce Shinkansen