Minister Akio Isomata is currently attached to the Embassy of Japan in India. He took up this position this month itself, and has been on the Japanese foreign service for nearly 30 years. Besides working at the headquarters of MOFA and the Cabinet Legislation Bureau in Tokyo, he has been posted in Beijing, Switzerland (Geneva), and the Philippines as his overseas assignments in the past. In an exclusive interview with RN Bhaskar of dna, he speaks about his perspectives on India. Given below are edited excerpts:
Investments from Japan into India have been growing, but not at the rate they were expected to. Could we have your views?
I believe India, as an investment destination, has many positive aspects such as democracy, independent institutions, market economy, and a big and young labour force. The Japanese business community feels that India has great potential as an attractive investment destination, as both economies are complementary in many ways. Especially, when Japan is taking bold steps to revitalise its economy under "Abenomics" tapping dynamic and vibrant economies in Asia, an increasing number of Japanese companies are keen on coming to India. This is clearly shown by the steady increase in the number of Japanese companies operating in India. In 2006, it was only a little more than 250, but the number increased to nearly 1,100 in 2013, fourfold in 7 years. However, it is also true that there is a perception among Japanese companies that India is not an easy country to operate in. Its basic infrastructure — power, roads, railways and its water facilities— needs further improvement. There are areas where regulatory framework is rather opaque and policy measures related to investment lack consistency and predictability. With these issues and concerns promptly addressed, I believe there will be a greater number of Japanese investors willing to make investments in India.
Both India and Japan are looking forward to the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Japan very soon. How do you view this visit?
We are eagerly waiting for the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Japan as his first official bilateral visit outside South Asia region. We are certain that the visit will be another milestone for further enhancing Strategic and Global Partnership between the two countries. We expect that through this visit our bilateral relationship will be elevated to a new height by further strengthening and consolidating cooperation in various fields; political, security, economic, cultural and people-to-people exchange. Economic cooperation is, no doubt, one of the major areas where we expect big outcome from Mr. Modi's visit. We would like to see as many good cooperative projects as possible discussed by the two leaders, including those in the field of infrastructure, manufacturing, skills development, science and technology, etc.
During his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Modi showed great interest in supporting and promoting Japanese business activities in the State of Gujarat. We are certain that this visit would lead to boosting economic ties between us further both in government and private sectors.
Do you think that this visit will accelerate the flow of investments from Japan?
As I mentioned earlier, we would like to see further cooperation between the two countries in such areas as electronics sectorthe SME [small and medium enterprises] sector including supporting industries such as auto-parts industry not only through ODA [Official Development Assistance from Japan, but also or rather through further investment from Japanese companies.
Japan is also ready to support India to create high-speed railway, build next generation infrastructure, strengthen connectivity with ASEAN as well as to improve living standards of the people.
We also hope that the Indian government will expedite the process for ongoing big ticket projects such as Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor including smart community projects, Dedicated Freight Corridor (the new construction of railways dedicated for freight transportation) and Chennai Bangalore Industrial Corridor. Japan wants to see implementation of these major economic projects accelerated, as well as prompt resolution of investment-related concerns of business addressed, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Modi. With this being matched with cooperation from both government and private sectors of Japan, I am confident that India will be Japan's largest investment partner in the region in not too distant a future.