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Japan's investment in Assam

The visit of Japanese Ambassador to India Satoshi Sukuzi and India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Guwahati

Satoshi Sukuzi

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  16 Feb 2021 4:45 AM GMT

The visit of Japanese Ambassador to India Satoshi Sukuzi and India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Guwahati to take part in a daylong conclave on Act East Policy has put the spotlight on the infrastructure projects implemented in Assam with Japanese assistance. However, poor pace of progress of work of two Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-assisted water supply projects for Guwahati city has cast a shadow of gloom over upcoming JICA-assisted projects in the state. Both the Japanese Ambassador and the Indian External Affairs Minister visited the JICA-Assisted Guwahati Water Supply Project at Kharghuli to take stock of the progress. The Japanese envoy has gone record saying that his country is pleased to support the project and that clean water will soon flow to the homes in Guwahati. It is hoped that Guwahati Development Department will ensure that new deadline of July 2021 will not be missed. These two projects have missed several target dates of completion and physical progress after 11 years since the work began is around 70 per cent. One of the two water supply projects under construction in Guwahati has been funded by Asian Development Bank and the other with fund from Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission. Inordinate delays in implementation of the water supply projects of supplying treated water from the river Brahmaputra to city households has led to alarming depletion of ground water tables. Private water suppliers have been rampant in extracting ground water for selling it to households that do not have piped water supply. Deep tubewells installed by many households for drawing underground water by incurring huge expenditures have gone dry due to depletion of the water table and compelled to buy water supplied by private suppliers at exorbitant prices. The Guwahati Municipal Corporation has been collecting huge amount of water tax as a component of property tax even from households to which they have not supplied piped water. It is an irony even though a perennial river like the Brahmaputra is flowing by the city, city residents are grappling with water crisis despite the abundance of water even after more than a decade has elapsed since these water supply projects were initiated with external aid. Japan will also be supporting construction of the longest river bridge in India that to be built over the Brahmaputra river connecting Dhubri and Phulbari. The Japanese commitment for such mega infrastructure projects in the state can be attributed to India's northeast region being pushed to occupy a key place in strategic and economic cooperation between India and Japan. The deepening engagement between the two countries around India's Act East Policy has brought the opportunity for the Assam government to propose for setting up a Japanese industrial township on a 600-acre plot in Nagarbera in Kamrup district. India's emphasis on centrality of ASEAN while pushing for its India Pacific Oceans' Initiative have brought Act East Policy into renewed focus. India's strategic partnership with ASEAN paved the way for pushing connectivity projects like India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and Kaladan multimodal projects through Myanmar for deepening transborder projects connecting northeast across the land and maritime borders. Dr. Jaishankar said that the Trilateral highway project is on an advance stage now and the government is also focusing on the development in aviation sector of the region. Latest development in Myanmar after the Myanmar Army seized governance control is going to have its implications over evolving global architectures of multilateral cooperation. The ASEAN is the largest trading block with China which also poses strategic challenges for India in advancing its Indo-Pacific approach with ASEAN centrality. The economic opportunities, brought to the northeast region, under various multilateral engagement between India and other countries including Japan, therefore, are not without global strategic challenges in the Asian, South Asian, and South East Asian theatres. Expeditious execution of projects facilitated by India's bilateral and multilateral engagement around the northeast region is critical to deepening the relations. Convergence of India's Act East Policy and Japan's Indo-Pacific vision is poised to turn India's northeast into a new theatre of multilateral cooperation. "The Northeast is situated where India's Act East Policy and Japan's vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific converge. To be 'free and open' is critical here in Assam. That is why Japan is supporting various connectivity projects in this State," said the Japanese envoy in his speech. This explains Assam becoming a stage of the collaboration between India and Japan. Cancellation of Japanese Prime Minister Shino Abe's scheduled visit to Guwahati for an annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 in the wake of violent protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 triggered a speculation over the fate of proposed Japanese investments in the state. The Japanese envoy's visit is a clear message that the collaborative projects are very much on the cards.

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