India-Japan friendship foretells dawn of new era
Looking back at the history, the cultural relation between India with Japan was established in the sixth century only when Buddhism reached there. Since then, the relations have been good. There is no mention of any acrimony in the pages of history. Rather, during the freedom struggle of India, the Japanese royal army had cooperated with the Azad Hind Fauj of Subhas Chandra Bose in every way.
After independence, the foundation of good relations with Japan was laid by our first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and after that all the prime ministers tried to make relations even better. However, when India conducted a nuclear test in Pokhran, many countries of the world including Japan had imposed several restrictions on us. Following this, the then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had sent a non-governmental all-party delegation to Japan, in which I was also involved. We told Japan that we are a country that follows the principles of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavir and our nuclear programme is aimed at ensuring durable peace. Later, Japan understood out point of view. During our visit, we realised that despite the old relations, there is not as much attraction for India in the younger generation as it should be. There is an atmosphere of indifference towards India in tourism or other sectors there.
However, it should be expected in the new era that the Japanese youth should develop an attraction towards India. There is a growing friendship at the government level. In December 2006, the then prime minister Manmohan Singh had visited Japan. At that time, many agreements were signed between the two countries in the areas of defence cooperation and partnerships in other areas. In 2008, there was an agreement between Japan and India, under which Japan assured a $450 billion aid for the Delhi-Mumbai High Speed Train corridor. It is in the context of the same agreement that the foundation of the bullet train to run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai has been laid. There were several summits between former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe was also our guest at the Republic Day celebrations of 2014. Here I would like to tell that Shinzo Abe is also a very good person. I have got good fortune of proximity and friendship with him, and I have seen him from close quarters. He is a fantastic host. He has immense respect for India. Therefore, the graph of friendship is rising.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands that India’s friendship with Japan is very important in this era, so he chose Japan for his first visit outside of the Indian subcontinent.
He won over Shinzo Abe with his warm-hearted gesture. Since Japan’s relations with India are equally important, they also responded in equal measure. Economic cooperation between the two countries is also very important. Japanese companies such as Sony, Toyota and Honda have established their plants in India and have played an important role in the development of India. Suzuki, along with Maruti, started the automobile revolution in India. Japan has been a significant contributor to the construction of significant projects ranging from Delhi Metro to the Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South and East-West Corridors.
Indeed, Japan is as much important for us as India is important for Japan. India is not only a huge market with huge potential but the partnership between India and Japan with regard to relations with China is very important too. There is a sea border dispute between Japan and China. Situated in front of the city of Shanghai in China are Japanese cities like Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Nagasaki across the sea. China has staked its claim over large parts of the sea, which Japan calls illegal. China poses a grave threat for Japan through North Korea. China also has a border dispute with India and the controversy has erupted many times. That is why the India-Japan friendship remains an irritant for China.
The frustration of China is constantly visible through its media. It is trying to convince India that India should not form any group against China. China clearly feels that India, Japan, America and Australia are banding together so that India can get more attention than China in Asia. There is nothing wrong in China thinking so. Last year, India, Japan and the United States of America together conducted a joint war drill in the South China Sea. It is worth mentioning that China is engaged in developing many illegal islands in the South China Sea. This joint war drill in the South China Sea amidst the growing tension is considered as a threat by China. Here, in response to China’s One Belt One Road project, India and Japan are looking forward to make the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor a reality.
One aspect of the friendship between India and Japan is that both have two different but important capabilities. Japan is ahead in technology and India can lead. Obviously, Japan and India want to jointly share their capabilities with each other. China knows that the new era will emerge from the friendship of India and Japan, so it has put Pakistan in its lap to disturb India. I believe that howsoever hard it may try, China can not stop the development journey of India. The alliance of India with Japan, America and Australia is going to be a big challenge for China.
Before I conclude
The country is angry with the constant surge in prices of petrol and diesel. People are not able to understand that when the price of petroleum has almost been half as compared to 2012-13 in the international market today, why the price of petrol is spiralling? Already, the prices of fuels in India are so high because of 45 to 52 percent taxes. It is arguable why petrol and diesel are not being included in the GST. The highest rate of GST is 28 per cent and this obviously will reduce the prices of fuels.
Need to transform Indian Railways
When India’s first passenger train between Bori Bunder (Mumbai) and Thane was flagged off on April 16, 1853, there were only 400 people on board and three engines named Sahib, Sindh and Sultan were used to pull the 14-coach train! Today, more than 2.30 crore passengers travel by Indian Railways every day.
This number is only slightly less than the Australian population (2.40 crore). Of course, Indian Railways has made a lot of progress, but comparatively, China has made a lot more progress than us. When we got independence in 1947, India had 53,596 route kilometres of rail network, which has now increased to 66,787 kilometres. That is, we added only 13,191 route kilometres of rail network in 70 years. In 1945, China had 27,000 kilometres of track which was half the length of track we had. But China now has 88,000 route kilometres of rail network. China has reached number two position after the US vis-a-vis rail tracks. In the last one decade alone, it laid about 20,000 kilometres of rail line. Russia is at number three followed by Indian Railways at number four.
The US, China and Russia, and all the countries in Europe have achieved the target of zero accident, but in India accidents occur anywhere, anytime. A large number of people are killed and injured. So the big question is, what is the reason behind it? The Indian Railways claims that 70 per cent of accidents are due to human error and this is true as well. Official statistics show that in the last three years, 361 train accidents occurred, out of which 185 accidents were caused by the errors of the railway employees. So are these accidents occurring due to the pressure of work on the employees? It seems to be so because 2.25 lakh posts of employees in group C and D categories, considered to be the backbone of Indian Railways, are vacant. Of these total posts, 1.22 lakh posts fall in the safety category. Actually, the railways have not paid attention to the staff crunch. When the era of economic liberalisation began in 1992, the Indian Railways had a total of 8,000 trains and 18.5 lakh employees. Today, the number of trains has gone up to 20,000 while the number of employees has come down to 13 lakh.
This is a matter of human error! Now look at what is the condition of the rail tracks of the Indian Railways? In 2012, the Kakodkar committee had stressed the need to replace 19,000 kilometres of railway tracks with immediate effect. In terms of replacing tracks, there is actually a great backlog.
Former Railway Board chairman A K Mittal had made it clear to the Parliamentary Committee that it is necessary to replace 5,000 kilometres of track every year but only 3,000 kilometres of track is actually replaced. Obviously, about 2,000 kilometre is added each year to the 19,000 kilometres of track that Kakodkar had talked about.
The reality today is that the financial condition of the railways is delicate. When we got independence, the railways’ share of freight transport was 80 per cent, which has now come down to 32 per cent. 70 per cent of the railways’ earnings come from freight trains while 30 per cent comes from passenger trains, catering and advertising. Exactly opposite, the trains carry 70 percent of passengers. Obviously, due to the population explosion, the pressure on the passenger trains has increased. Today, nearly 150 trains are running on the route on which 100 trains were supposed to run vis-a-vis the capacity of the tracks. Obviously, if more trains run on the tracks, they will cause attrition, needing immediate replacement!
Today, 3,000 bridges need to be rebuilt. The Hansraj Khanna Inquiry Committee had clearly said that the bridges that are 100 years old need to be constructed again, but the economic constraints has come in the way here too!
It is highly unbecoming for any developing country to say that it does not have money! Transportation is the country’s soul. The entire development cycle revolves around it. If the transport system is not up to the mark then how will the farmers take their goods from one place to another? Today, there is a lack of rail line in most parts of the country, including the North-East.
In the North-East, rail tracks are needed strategically too but every time lack of financial resources becomes the stumbling block! If the government wants, it can adopt some other way too. For instance, parts of the railways can be privatised as many countries of the world have done. Finances can also be arranged from public participation. The railways also owns the largest amount of land in the country. Money can also be generated by utilising that land.
The government will have to understand that providing safe and better rail travel is its social responsibility. The government can not brush aside its responsibility by stating that it lacks money. Especially, the safety and comfort can not be overlooked. The distasteful catering and filth characterise the Indian Railways. In fact, the need of the hour for the railways is to change. Use state-of-the-art aluminium wagon. Use the latest system of safety and security! The is the least country expects from Modiji!
Before I conclude
Abhishek Patel has really done an amazing thing! He is a head-constable at Chitora in Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh. He got the tip-off that a bomb has been planted in school. At that time there were 400 children in school. There was no bomb disposal squad! Patel thought that the life of more than 400 children was more precious than his own life. He picked up the 10 kg bomb on his shoulder and carried it to a deserted place a kilometer away. But I am surprised that the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced cash prize of only Rs 50,000. Prizes worth crores of rupees are squandered on those winning matches and medals, but only Rs. 50,000 for this hero?