EAM S Jaishankar and Assam Cabinet Minister CM Patowary at LGBI Airport

Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Japanese envoy Satoshi Suzuki arrived in Guwahati on Sunday on a two-day visit. Assam’s Industries and Commerce Minister CM Patowary welcomed the high-level delegation at the LGBI Airport.

The significant visit comes even as the state prepares for the Assembly polls which are likely in March or April.

Jaishankar, the Japanese delegation, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, senior cabinet ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma and Patowary among others will take part in a programme on Act East policy at the Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati on Monday.

They will have lunch at the Taj Vivanta, where they are likely to interact with industry leaders and senior officials according to an Assam government official.

The official said that governments of India and Japan are likely to sign a memorandum of understanding.

According to the website of the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi, Japan’s official assistance to the Northeastern region totals over Rs 1,600 crore.

The Japanese agency is funding biodiversity conservation in Sikkim, water supply and sewage projects in Guwahati, the Dhubri-Phulbari bridge on the mighty Brahmaputra, road connectivity projects in Meghalaya, Assam, Mizoram and Tripura among others.

Assam government is wooing Japanese industries to set up base in Nagarbera in Kamrup district where 600 acres of land has been set aside for them.

To deepen ties, both countries set-up an India-Japan Act East Forum in 2017. “The Forum will identify specific projects for economic modernization of India’s North-East region including those pertaining to connectivity, developmental infrastructure, industrial linkages as well as people-to-people contacts through tourism, culture and sports-related activities,” a statement post the launch of the forum said explaining its agenda.

The fifth meeting of the forum was held in January in New Delhi. “The AEF reviewed progress of ongoing projects in the North Eastern Region of India in various areas including connectivity, hydropower, sustainable development, harnessing of water resources, and skill development,” a statement by MEA said post the meeting on January 28. “They discussed several new projects being undertaken under India-Japan bilateral cooperation and also exchanged views on cooperation in new areas such as healthcare, agro-industries and SMEs, bamboo value chain development, smart city, tourism and people-to-people exchanges,” the statement added.

“Japan attaches a great importance to the cooperation for the development of India’s North East, anchored by its historical ties, trust and friendship,” a release by the Japanese embassy said on January 28. “The North East stands on a place strategically important to realise a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific; and Japan is proud to have been a partner with the people of North East in their aspirations for a better and sustainable future. Japan is the only country which has an independent framework for discussing the development of India’s North East and the one at such a high-level,” the statement by Japanese Embassy added.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Guwahati in December 2019 to take part in India-Japan summit along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to be postponed after protests broke out in Assam following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

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