Modi is all a-twitter over Japan trip

Modi is all a-twitter over Japan trip
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) waves to unseen wellwishers as he arrives to meet with Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala following a meeting at the prime minister's office in Kathmandu on August 3, 2014.

AHEAD of a visit to Japan this weekend to boost India's ties with Asia's second-largest economy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is tweeting up a storm - in Japanese, no less.

Mr Modi, 63, tweeted in Japanese about his excitement over his five-day visit and meeting with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. He is leading a delegation of top industrialists, including India's richest man, Mr Mukesh Ambani, and biotech queen Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, on a trip that has both economic and security cooperation high on the agenda.

The Indian leader expressed admiration for the "scale of innovation" in Japan on his personal Twitter handle. He also explained that "friends from Japan" had asked him to speak "directly" to the Japanese people. The tweets were also available in English.

"Am particularly excited to meet (PM Abe). I deeply respect his leadership and enjoy a warm relationship with him from previous meetings," he said in one of eight tweets in Japanese.

In another, he said: "I see the Japan visit as an opportunity to take our ties with Japan to a new level and increase cooperation in various fields."

Political ties between India and Japan have warmed in recent years as economic ties have also burgeoned.

Japan has been involved in major infrastructure projects in India with the metro in Delhi one of the most visible signs of that cooperation.

The two countries are also collaborating on the US$100 billion (S$124.7 billion) Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor to link the political capital of Delhi to India's financial capital.

During his visit, Mr Modi is expected to push for progress in talks for Japanese firms to sell nuclear reactors and technology for plant parts to India.

He will also explore closer military and security cooperation.

According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, the two sides will agree on a deal that will see Japan importing 2,000 tonnes of rare earths from India annually.

Tokyo is trying to reduce its dependence on China for the minerals crucial to making high-tech products such as smartphones.

Underscoring their personal rapport, Mr Abe is travelling to Kyoto to welcome Mr Modi and host a dinner for him tomorrow, ahead of their official talks in Tokyo on Monday.

There are "great expectations" from the visit, said Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin yesterday. Ties between India and Japan, drawn closer by China's growing assertiveness in the region, will benefit from the personal rapport between Mr Modi and Mr Abe, say analysts.

Mr Modi visited Japan in 2012, while Mr Abe visited Gujarat in 2000, when Mr Modi was its chief minister.

"Rapport is necessary at the highest level to clinch deals," said Professor Srikanth Kondapalli of New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 29, 2014.
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