| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Aug 31 Indian Prime Minister Narendra
Modi arrived in Japan on Saturday seeking to capitalise on his
affinity with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to strengthen
security and business ties on his first major foreign visit
since his landslide election victory in May.
Modi is one of only three people that Abe follows on
Twitter, while the Indian leader admires the Japanese premier's
brand of nationalist politics.
"We will explore how Japan can associate itself productively
with my vision of inclusive development in India," Modi said
before departing on Saturday for the five-day visit.
He listed manufacturing, infrastructure and energy as key
areas for cooperation. In his previous role as chief minister of
India's fast-growing western state of Gujarat Modi had actively
courted Japanese investment.
Modi, 63, is embarking on an intense month of diplomacy in
which he will receive Chinese President Xi Jinping before
meeting U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington as he seeks to
carve out a stronger role for India as a global player.
In Japan, he will lobby for Abe to back a nuclear energy
pact, although hopes of striking a similar accord to one reached
with the United States in 2008 had faded in the run-up to the
Japan wants explicit guarantees from India, which has not
signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, to limit atomic
tests and allow closer inspection of its facilities to ensure
that spent fuel is not used to make bombs.
Speaking to Japanese reporters, Modi addressed those
concerns: "Our track record of non-proliferation is impeccable,"
he said, adding that India would uphold a "unilateral and
voluntary" moratorium on explosive nuclear weapons testing.
Also under discussion will be a proposal to formalise a 'Two
Plus Two' format for talks bringing together the foreign and
defence ministers of both countries, reflecting shared concerns
about an increasingly assertive China.
BUDDHISM AND BULLET TRAINS
Modi was due to attend a dinner with Abe on Saturday evening
in Kyoto, a city the Indian leader associates with a Buddhist
heritage shared by both Japan and India.
Modi also hopes that Kyoto will serve as a template for his
vision of building 100 'smart' cities in India - and to develop
the ancient Indian holy city of Varanasi on the river Ganges
that he represents in parliament.
At his next stop in Tokyo, Modi will seek to drum up the
inward investment he needs to bring to life the appeal to "Come,
make in India" he made in a speech this month to mark India's
India, Asia's third-largest economy after China and Japan,
needs faster economic growth to create work for the one million
young people who enter the workforce every month.
In early steps, Modi has allowed foreign investors to own
100 percent of railway projects with an eye to drumming up
interest in building India's answer to Japan's high-speed
'bullet' trains. He is also courting Japanese investment in an
ambitious industrial "corridor" to run between Delhi and Mumbai.
Japan's Honda Motor Co Ltd, Suzuki Co Ltd,
Sony Corp and Toyota Motor Corp are household
names in India. Yet, India accounts for only 1.2 percent of
Japan's total outward foreign direct investment.
"Companies in Japan have been considering India over the
last two, three years very actively, but probably the political
environment was a little tricky," said Harish H.V., a partner
and head of corporate finance at advisory firm Grant Thornton.
"Now that we have a new government which is considered
pro-investment, ideally it's a good time."
(Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi and
Sumeet Chatterjee in Mumbai; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)