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Japan vows infrastructure loans

Nivedita Mookerji/Phnom Penh 21 Nov 12 | 12:39 AM

Days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo was called off at the last minute as Japan was headed for a sudden poll, he squeezed in a meeting with Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda on the sidelines of the last day of the Asean summit. Noda wanted to discuss the next steps in the Indo-Japanese relations here as they could not meet in Tokyo for the annual summit, according to an official statement.

Asean, or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a geopolitical and economic grouping of 10 countries in Southeast Asia. On November 14, a day before the prime minister’s Japan tour was scheduled to start, the external affairs ministry had announced that the visit was postponed “due to some internal developments in Japan".

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In his sixth bilateral meeting during the summit, Prime Minister Singh was assured that Japan would soon announce the second round of yen loans under ODA (official development assistance) for the second phase of the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) venture and a third infrastructure project in south India.

The loan amount is likely to be 184 billion yen ($2.26 billion, or Rs 12,450 crore), sources said. Noda also said Japan wanted to continue its consultation on high-speed railway, while Singh said the Delhi Metro Rail Corp was a fine example that other cities wanted to follow.

The Delhi-Mumbai Dedicated Freight Corridor was a $90-billion project with technical and financial aid coming from Japan. The project covers 3,300 km, including 1,500 km of the western arm, along the Delhi-Mumbai stretch, between Dadri near Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, traversing Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The eastern arm of the project would stretch from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in West Bengal.

A memorandum of understanding for the project was signed in 2006 and the target date for completing the western arm is March 2017.

Singh and Noda began their talks on regional and international issues at a gala dinner last night, and continued it to the bilateral talks today. The focus was on political and defence dialogues and the ongoing cooperation between the navies and coast guards.

Besides Japan, India today held a bilateral meeting with Brunei too. Singh met Sultan Hasnal Bolkiah of Brunei, ahead of the East Asia summit, which is being attended by the US, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t turn up for the summit, though. Brunei is set to take over the chair of Asean for 2013, from Cambodia.

Indian oil import from Brunei is pegged at $1.2 billion for the current financial year. The two leaders discussed possibilities of expanding cooperation in this area, including  liquefied natural gas.

In the past two days, Singh had bilateral talks with four other countries—Singapore, Philippines, China and Thailand. Although Cambodia was also among the countries with which bilateral talks were scheduled, it was dropped from the list due to a packed schedule during the PM's two-and-a-half day visit to Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama met Singh briefly on the sidelines of the summit today. Although there were hopes of a one-to-one meeting between the two, all that happened was a handshake and exchange of pleasantries, according to sources. Since the morning, the two are learnt to have shaken hands thrice in various meetings. This was the first time that the prime minister was meeting Obama after he was re-elected earlier this month. Obama is learnt to have said that India was a big part of my plan.

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