India asks Japan to help achieve infrastructure targets

Tokyo, Oct 25 (IANS) India envisages financial outlays of over $1 trillion in the next Five Year Plan and while much of this would come ‘from within’, it would welcome support from Japanese companies, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Japanese business leaders Monday.

‘During India’s next Five Year Plan from 2012 to 2017, we envisage financial outlays of $1 trillion on infrastructure projects. Private investment will play a large role in achieving this target. We would welcome a much greater role by Japanese industry in the development of economic infrastructure in India,’ the prime minister said at a business lunch hosted by the industry lobby Nippon Keidanren.

Hoping to attract Japanese investment, the prime minister stressed India’s infrastructure needs and said in the next 20 years about 40 percent of India’s population would be living in urban areas.

‘We seek your help in raising urban infrastructure,’ he told the gathering, citing needs like control of urban waste and water supply.

The meeting, also hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Japan-India Business Cooperation Committee, was attended by India Inc – Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Enterprises’ chief Sunil Bharti Mittal, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh and Fortis Healthcare’s Malvinder Singh among others.

India’s business leaders had addressed the 3rd Japan-India Business Leaders Forum ahead of the lunch.

On the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) – India and Japan are expected to announce conclusion of negotiations on the pact – the prime minister said the first priority was to ‘convert the agreement into a legally binding document’.

‘We are working on it at the level of the government,’ he said, adding that it might go to parliament next.

Manmohan Singh, who noted the ‘welcome sign’ that the number of Japanese companies with an established business presence in India had more than doubled in the past four years, said: ‘Bilateral trade has made a robust rebound in 2010 and should exceed $20 billion by 2012. However, you will agree with me that India-Japan trade is still at a low threshold apart from being unbalanced.’

He said he had long believed that India and Japan should work together to create a business environment conducive to much greater two-way trade and investment flows.

‘It was with this perspective that we launched negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement almost four years ago.’

He also noted that nuclear energy could provide India’s growing economy with a clean and efficient source of power. ‘Cooperation in this area will enable Japanese companies to participate in India’s ambitious nuclear energy programme.’

(Minu Jain can be contacted at minu.jain@ians.in)

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