Khurshid calls for people-to-people exchanges between India and Japan

Tokyo, Mar 26 (ANI): External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today said that India and Japan should promote people-to-people exchanges, saying that while politics and economics are indeed important, perhaps it is the interaction between the people of any two countries which is a significant variable in relations between nations.

Speaking at Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Khurshid said: "While our economic interaction and political and security exchanges are strong and expanding, the one area in our bilateral ties which continues to remain weak is in the area of people-to-people exchanges."

"While politics and economics are indeed important, perhaps it is the interaction between the people of any two countries which is a significant variable in relations between nations This is where the Governments of our countries are paying their greatest attention since tourism flows can indeed be strengthened as can student exchanges," he added.

He further said that the direct flights between cities in India and Japan have increased over the last two years, but are still far below potential.

"Given the fact that our combined population is nearly 1.4 billion, we are very aware that we can do far better in attracting more Japanese tourists to India. Indeed, the same is true of Indian tourism in the direction of Japan," he said.

Stating that universities in each of our countries can institute more scholarships, which may attract more students from the other country, Khurshid said: ""The number of Indian students in Japan does not exceed a few hundred. Perhaps, Universities in each of our countries can institute more scholarships, which may attract more students from the other country. There are Chairs of Indian Studies at the University of Tokyo as well as at Ryokoku University. I encourage Rikkyo University to establish a Chair in Indian Studies. It will help spark increased interest in India."

"I would venture to state that both India and Japan need to work on ensuring a confluence of our peoples if we are to ensure that bilateral ties continue to stay on their high trajectory. I am told that Indian movies are beginning to make an entrance into the Japanese market and that may bring our people closer together," he added.

Emphasising that political and security cooperation between India and Japan has a significance which goes beyond our two countries, Khurshid said: " We are both members of the East Asia Summit process and we desire to see this architecture being open, transparent and inclusive. We have a bilateral joint declaration on security cooperation and an action plan to advance security cooperation that spells out a detailed dialogue mechanism which has been meeting regularly and its decisions implemented steadfastly. We have annual Summits between our Prime Ministers and we hope to have our prime minister visit your country soon."

"We also have an annual Strategic Dialogue between the Foreign Ministers of our countries and I myself am here in Tokyo for the 7th dialogue with Foreign Minister Kishida whom I will meet later this evening. We expect to talk about the entire range of issues in our bilateral ties as well as regional and global issues. The discussions between us are usually frank, candid and constructive in keeping with the partnership our countries enjoy. Japan is the only country with which India has a 2 Plus 2 dialogue between the defence and foreign ministries of our governments," he added.

Sating that Prime Minister Abe has also contributed immeasurably to the India - Japan strategic partnership, Khurshid said: " In his earlier stint as Prime Minister of Japan he visited us in India in 2007 and delivered a memorable address to a joint sitting of our Parliament. At that time, he had eloquently spoken of the confluence of the two seas which gave rise to the term 'Indo-Pacific' that is commonly used by strategic thinkers today."

"There can be little doubt that countries like India and Japan must cooperate in ensuring the security of the global commons including freedom of navigation on the high seas that is critical to both our countries which import large amounts of oil and gas. Let me say clearly today that India stands with Japan, and other like minded countries, in pursuing and implementing these goals and objectives," he added. (ANI)

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