In Japan Modi needles China

SRINAGAR: Narendra Modi delighted his Japanese hosts on Monday, the key day of his state visit, with an apparent swipe at China and an offer to facilitate business from Japan. Modi, addressing Japanese industrialists, said that expansionism would never lead to progress in the 21st century, and referred to maritime tensions, a clear dig at China, locked in conflict with Japan over the Senkaku islands.

Japan’s relations with China, never cordial, have steadily worsened under PM Shinzo Abe, and the island nation is trying to build ties with India to counter its traditional rival.

Modi also promised to set up a special management  team for facilitating business with Japan directly under the Prime Minister’s Office, even offering to include two Japanese nominees.

The third day in Narendra Modi’s Japan trip, which could see a flurry of dealmaking, got off to a quiet start with a visit to an elementary school next to his Tokyo hotel.

Modi, who has come across as relaxed and cheerful on this trip, mingled with students and teachers at the 136-year-old Taimei Elementary, a minute’s car ride away from the Imperial Hotel where the Indian delegation is staying.

“We are trying to teach Japanese language in our schools, and we need teachers for that. I invite you all to come to India and teach,” Modi said.

The morning was devoted to courtesy calls by senior ministers from the Abe cabinet – foreign minister Fumio Kishida, finance minister Taro Aso and economy minister Toshimitus Motegi.

Modi is also playing host to more ministers – land infrastructure and tourism minister Akihiro Ohta and defence minister Itsumori Onodera.

The central event of the day is the official welcome ceremony at the Akasaka Palace, to be followed by a tea ceremony, a meeting with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, talks between the two delegations and the signing of agreements.

Abe, who travelled to Kyoto to welcome Modi when he got there on Saturday, then hosts a banquet at the palace for his Indian counterpart.

The Japanese have laid on the hospitality for Modi and his delegation, eyeing lucrative infrastructure deals and a chance to cock a snook at their Chinese rivals.

The Indian side is keen on getting a civilian nuclear deal through which will enable Japanese companies to supply components to nuclear reactors. The Japanese have been pressing for additional guarantees that the Indians will not test again; India has been resisting this on the grounds that it has already agreed to a moratorium on testing.

Other items on the table include negotiations for  the US-2 amphibious rescue and reconnaissance plane, investments in desalination plants and the Japanese bullet train.

CHINA REACTS GUARDEDLY: China Monday reacted guardedly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks of “expansionist” tendency among some countries, saying it is not clear what was he referring to and recalled his earlier comments that India and China are strategic partners.

“We have noted relevant information about Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan. You just mentioned comments made by him I don’t know what is he referring to,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing here when asked about Modi’s remarks made during his ongoing visit to Japan.

“But I can answer the question by quoting his (Modi’s) words. He said China and India are strategic partners for common development. Good neighbourliness and cooperation between the two counties is of great significance to the prosperity of the whole world and all mankind,” Qin recalled Prime Minister Modi’s comments made on an earlier occasion.

Modi today deplored the “expansionist” tendency among some countries which “encroach” upon seas of others.

“We have to decide if we want to have ‘vikas vaad’ (development) or ‘vistar vaad’ (expansionism) which leads to disintegration. Those who follow the path of Buddha and have faith on ‘vikas vaad’, they develop. But we see, those having ideas of the 18th century, engage in encroachments and enter seas (of others),” Modi said.

The Prime Minister did not name any country but the comments may be seen as targeting China which is engaged in territorial disputes with a number of its neighbours, including India, Japan and some others including Vietnam.

Asked how China sees Modi’s visit to Japan ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed visit New Delhi expected to be in the third week of this month, Qin said “I want to stress that China and India are major countries. We both advocate and practice the five principles of peaceful coexistence.”

“With regard to Xi’s visit to India, during BRICS summit, President Xi had a good meeting with Prime Minister Modi,” he said, adding that the two leaders agreed that Xi should visit India in the neat future.

“The two sides are in close communication on the relevant issue,” he said.

In February this year, Modi had accused China of having an expansionist mindset, a charge refuted by Beijing.

During a poll rally in Arunachal Pradesh, Modi had said, “China should shed its expansionist policy and forge bilateral ties with India for peace, progress and prosperity of both the nations.”

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