Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lay the foundation stone for India's first bullet train in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state this week, in a tightening of ties just days after New Delhi ended a dangerous military confrontation with China. The move by Abe, who starts a two-day visit to India today, highlights an early lead for Japan in a sector where the Chinese have also been trying to secure a foothold, but without much success. Modi has made the 500-km- (311-mile-) long high-speed rail link between the financial hub of Mumbai and the industrial city of Ahmedabad in western Gujarat a centrepiece of his efforts to showcase India's ability to build cutting-edge infrastructure. The leaders will launch the start of work on the line tomorrow, India's railways ministry said in a statement.
"This technology will revolutionize and transform the transport sector," said Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, welcoming the prospects for growth brought by Japan's high-speed "shinkansen" technology. In Tokyo, a Japanese foreign ministry official told reporters, "We would like to support 'Make in India' as much as possible," referring to Modi's signature policy to lure investors in manufacturing. "And for that, we want to do what's beyond the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line and achieve economies of scale."
India would make "all-out efforts" to complete the line by August 2022, more than a year earlier than planned, the government said this week. Japan is providing 81 percent of the funding for the 1.08-trillion-rupee ($16.9-billion) project, through a 50-year loan at 0.1 percent annual interest. Ties between India and Japan have blossomed as Modi and Abe increasingly see eye-to-eye in countering growing Chinese assertiveness across Asia. Japanese investment into India has surged in areas ranging from automotives to infrastructure in the remote northeast, making Tokyo its third-largest foreign direct investor.