Japan has committed an investment of $34 bn in India’s infrastructure projects over five years. What has the progress been so far?
At the summit meeting held in September last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced The Japan- India Investment Promotion Partnership. They set concrete targets of doubling Japan’s FDI and the number of Japanese companies in India, and realising 3.5 trillion yen (around $30 bn at the present exchange rate) of public and private investment and financing from Japan to India, both within five years. So far, figures show robust Japanese investment. According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Japanese FDI in the first half of CY2015 is approximately US$ 1.1 billion. When we aggregate fresh investments in India announced by Japanese companies since last September, it amounts to over US$ 10 billion. This figure is quite encouraging. We are also facilitating the processing of ODA loans to India. In July this year, the Master Plan for Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC) was completed with good prospects for further infrastructure projects in the corridor ahead. The number of Japanese companies in India is also on the rise. According to a survey conducted by the Embassy of Japan in India, there were 1,209 Japanese companies in India as of October, 2014, with an increase of 137 companies from 2013.
Share with us your views on the investment climate in India and the challenges. How do Japanese corporations stand to benefit from the Make in India campaign?
Improvement of investment climate in India is critical to achieving the aforementioned shared target of 3.5 trillion yen. In this regard, we appreciate activities of the Japan Plus team, which was set up last year within the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. We are also impressed with various policy initiatives, encouraged by reforms that have been taken so far and keen to see more reform measures to be put in place on ground. Challenges for Japanese business in India include, taxation and infrastructure bottlenecks.
As far as the Make in India campaign is concerned, this April, India and Japan decided to take steps to develop Japan Industrial Townships in India and identified 11 sites for the same. Furthermore, state governments are becoming more and more active in trying to attract Japanese manufacturers to India. One of the best examples is the Madhya Pradesh. This October, the state announced a special incentive package for Japanese investment into an industrial park there. Through these efforts to improve business environment, including giving incentive measures for investors, we strongly hope that more states will become vibrant destinations for Japanese investment, thereby contributing to the Make in India programme.
Indian tourist arrival in Japan increased by 18 per cent between January and December 2014 and accounts for under 1 per cent of global tourist arrival in Japan. What are the steps taken by the Japanese Government & Tourism Board to promote Japan as a tourist destination to the Indian traveller?
We have been focusing on promotion of Japan tourism in India because we would like to introduce the pleasure and the excitement of visiting Japan to as many Indians as possible.
First, as the tourism information about Japan is still limited, we are trying to strengthen the promotional activity at public places such as movie theatres and shopping centres. Secondly, we are inviting the local media and travel agencies to Japan and offering them the opportunity to have a real experience of travelling in Japan, in order to help them promote more tours to Japan. Also some possible factors that cause anxiety when choosing Japan as a travel destination are: the cost of travel, the language barrier and meals (for vegetarians). As compared to the past, these worries are no longer of much concern today. The recent change in the exchange rate of Japanese Yen to foreign currency has made accommodation and shopping in Japan more affordable for foreign tourists. More and more tourist information offices and tourist facilities are now equipped with English-speaking staff and signboards for foreign tourists. To cater to visitors who want vegetarian meals, the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) is compiling a vegetarian restaurant guide. We fully understand these requirements and are making serious efforts to provide reliable information.
What are the prospects for Indian students in the field of research and higher education in Japan?
The number of Indian students are studying in Japan remains low, with just around 700 in the year 2014. In this regard, many universities in Japan, especially in the science and technology departments of graduate schools, have launched degree courses in English. The Japanese language is, therefore, no longer a barrier in many cases, to study in Japan. As far as research is concerned, many opportunities are being offered to young Indians. Among these opportunities is the SAKURA Science Program produced by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). Under this project, Japanese universities are planning short visit programmes, in cooperation with Indian universities, which comprise of experiments at Japanese institutions and discussions with eminent Japanese researchers. In addition, Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) offers various kinds of fellowships, which are available for young Indian researchers. Also, in order to promote academic collaboration with Indian institutes, the Government of Japan has designated four universities – University of Tokyo, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Nagaoka University of Technology and Ritsumeikan University – which will promote exchange of faculty and young researchers.