Home >Politics >Policy >Japanese agency ready to finance projects in Arunachal Pradesh

As part of Japan’s growing engagement with India, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is willing to finance infrastructure projects in Indian border areas that abut China, like Arunachal Pradesh.

This comes in the backdrop of multilateral lending agencies often expressing reluctance to do the same.

In 2009, China protested the inclusion of a water management project in Arunachal, parts of which India’s northern neighbour lays claim to, as part of a $2.9 billion loan that Asian Development Bank (ADB) had promised India. The row forced ADB to introduce a disclaimer in its project documents that, while stating that it has no position on territorial disputes, effectively discourages applicants from pushing for assistance for projects in disputed areas.

In response to a direct question about the JICA financing projects in Arunachal Pradesh, Shinya Ejima, chief representative, JICA India Office, said: “It depends upon the decision first by the Indian government and also the government of Japan. But, as far as JICA is concerned, I don’t think (there’s) any problem in Arunachal because JICA is the lending, implementing agency of Japanese foreign assistance."

“We know that Arunachal is a little bit sensitive area, but we still think that it is a territory of India," said Shinya Ejima while adding, at “JICA India office in our map, it (Arunachal Pradesh) shows as Indian territory, and if the request is made by the government of India, then it is accepted by our government. We have no problem to implement it". China claims 90,000 of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and occupies around 38,000 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Also, under a China-Pakistan boundary agreement signed in March 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 of Indian territory in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to China. Also, there is Japanese unease over Chinese claims over islands with Japan in the East China Sea.

Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida, during his visit to India in January this year, said Japan was ready to fund development activity in northeastern states of India, but refused to make any commitment regarding Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety.

Experts termed it a smart move. Jabin T. Jacob, assistant director and fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies said, “The Japanese are playing the China game. Only the Chinese are disputing Arunachal Pradesh. Everyone else accepts it. As far as the Japanese are concerned, they are willing to fund a project in Arunachal Pradesh, which is under India’s administrative control."

India has stepped up efforts to develop border infrastructure as key to the nation’s so-called Act East policy—a focus on South-East Asia. This follows the Japan Plus initiative, which was started after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan last year.

The initiative refers to a special panel of officials created by Modi to speed up Japanese investments in India.

Mint reported on 8 September 2014 that India will pursue major electricity transmission projects in the states that border China, going it alone if multilateral lending agencies, such as the World Bank, back out. A decision to this effect was taken by the cabinet committee on economic affairs for the so-called Comprehensive Scheme for Strengthening of Transmission and Distribution System in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim—states that border China—at an investment of 4,754.42 crore. State-owned Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd has planned these strategic electricity transmission links.

This also comes at a time when Japanese lending institutions and banks are willing to aid India’s quest for providing power to people still living without electricity by supporting coal-fuelled power projects, even as multilateral funders have stopped doing so.

JICA disbursed 162.2 billion yen (about $1.42 billion) in official development assistance loans for India in 2014-15. The amount disbursed is the highest among countries where JICA extends such assistance.

Japan has been involved in helping India develop large infrastructure projects, including the western dedicated freight corridor and the high-speed rail project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. It is also interested in helping India develop projects in its northeast that would improve India’s connectivity with its South Asian and Southeast Asian neighbours.

India has also stepped up efforts to develop border infrastructure, such as roads and railways. Some of the important projects planned for the northeast region include the 670-km east-west corridor, connecting state capitals with a broad gauge railway network and developing a greenfield airport in Itanagar.

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