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Cablegate: Japanese Prime Minister Visits Kolkata to Boost Economic and Cultural Ties

VZCZCXRO9076
PP RUEHCI
DE RUEHCI #0256/01 2361033
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 241033Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL KOLKATA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC
INFO ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO
VIENNA IAEA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KOLKATA 000256

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
3

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL EINV ETRD EIND IN JA
SUBJECT: JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER VISITS KOLKATA TO BOOST ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL TIES
3

REF: KOLKATA 197, KOLKATA 54

KOLKATA 00000256 001.7 OF 002


1. (U) ON AUGUST 23, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER ABE ARRIVED IN
KOLKATA ACCOMPANIED BY A MORE THAN 120-MEMBER BUSINESS
DELEGATION. JAPAN HAS INVESTED HEAVILY IN THE STATE OF W.
BENGAL AND PROVIDED MILLION-DOLLAR LOANS FOR PROJECTS IN THE
CHEMICALS AND ENERGY SECTORS AS WELL AS INFRASTRUCTURE. ABE WAS ALSO LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR JAPANESE COMPANIES IF A PROPOSED NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN THE STATE IS SET UP IN THE FUTURE. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF HISTORICAL TIES, ABE USED THE VISIT TO
STRENGTHEN THE GOODWILL BETWEEN JAPAN AND EAST INDIA BY OPENING A NEW FRIENDSHIP CENTER AND VISITING FAMILIES OF IMPORTANT BENGALI HEROES. ABE IS THE THIRD PRIME MINISTER TO VISIT
KOLKATA IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS, A SIGN THAT COUNTRIES ARE EAGER
TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE IN
THIS PART OF INDIA, AND OF THE REALIZATION THAT CHIEF MINISTER
BUDDHADEB BHATTACHARJEE PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA-MARXIST'S (CPM) RELATIONS WITH THE NATIONAL UNITED PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE (UPA) GOVERNMENT. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) ON AUGUST 23, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER ABE ARRIVED IN
KOLKATA ACCOMPANIED BY A MORE THAN 120-MEMBER BUSINESS
DELEGATION. THE DELEGATION INCLUDED COMPANIES REPRESENTING
JAPAN'S INFRASTRUCTURE, FINANCIAL SERVICES, HEALTH AND ENERGY
(INCLUDING NUCLEAR ENERGY) SECTORS. WEST BENGAL IS HOME TO THE
LARGEST SINGLE JAPANESE FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (FDI) PROJECT
IN INDIA -- MITSUBISHI'S USD 380 MILLION CHEMICALS PTA FACILITY
IN HALDIA. THE COMPANY IS NOW INVESTING USD 370 MILLION MORE TO
DOUBLE THE FACILITY'S CAPACITY TO PRODUCE 800,000 TONS (UP FROM
THE PRESENT 400,000 TON) OF PTA, A PLASTIC INDUSTRY
INTERMEDIATE.

3. (U) APART FROM COMMERCIAL FDI, THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HAS
INVESTED HEAVILY IN DEVELOPING WEST BENGAL'S INFRASTRUCTURE.
THIS INCLUDES FOUR FLYOVERS AND ROAD PROJECTS IN AND AROUND
KOLKATA (USD 15 MILLION) AND THE 900MW PUMP STORAGE ELECTRICITY
GENERATING UNIT IN PURULIA (USD 650 MILLION). MOREOVER, JAPAN
HAS PROVIDED A USD 12 MILLION LOAN TO THE WEST BENGAL STATE
ELECTRICITY BOARD TO HELP IT REDUCE POWER TRANSMISSION AND LOSS.ALL THESE HAVE BEEN MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH SOFT LOANS FROM THE JAPAN BANK FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION (JBIC). IN ADDITION,
JBIC IS NOW IN THE ADVANCED STAGES OF NEGOTIATION TO BUILD AN
EAST-TO-WEST ROUTE FOR KOLKATA'S METRO RAILWAY SYSTEM (USD 600
MILLION). ABE REFERRED AS WELL TO PLANS FOR FUNDING A
HIGH-SPEED FREIGHT RAILWAY LINK BETWEEN KOLKATA, MUMBAI AND NEW
DELHI. THE NUMBER AND SCALE OF THESE PROJECTS HAS GENERATED
SUBSTANTIAL GOODWILL FOR THE JAPANESE IN W. BENGAL.

4. (SBU) THE POSSIBILITY OF THE COSTAL TOWN OF HARIPUR BEING
CHOSEN AS A SITE FOR A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT HAS GENERATED GREAT
JAPANESE INTEREST IN W. BENGAL. AS A MEMBER OF THE NUCLEAR
SUPPLIERS GROUP, JAPAN VIEWS ITS INTERACTIONS WITH THE LEFT
PARTIES - MORE SPECIFICALLY, CHIEF MINISTER BUDDHADEB
BHATTACHARJEE -- AS A MEANS OF PROMOTING NUCLEAR-RELATED
BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS WITH JAPANESE COMPANIES IN THE FUTURE.
ABE'S DELEGATION IN KOLKATA INCLUDED COMPANIES LIKE HITACHI AND
MITSUI WHO ARE POTENTIAL SUPPLIERS OF TURBINES TO THE HARIPUR
PROJECT.

5. (SBU) WHILE ABE SPOKE IN NEW DELHI IN TERMS OF BIG PICTURE
ISSUES, SUCH AS ASIA'S SHARED SECURITY DOCTRINE AND THE
POSSIBILITY OF A RUPEE-YEN SWAP (REFTEL), IN KOLKATA HIS FOCUS
WAS ON REKINDLING CULTURAL, SOCIAL AND SENTIMENTAL TIES.
KOLKATA IS AN IMPORTANT GATEWAY FOR JAPANESE BUDDHIST TOURISTS
VISITING WEST BENGAL'S NEIGHBORING STATE OF BIHAR, WHERE
IMPORTANT BUDDHIST PILGRIMAGE SITES LIKE BODH GAYA, SARNATH AND
NALANDA ARE LOCATED. THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE
CHARITIES HAVE DONATED GENEROUSLY TO PRESERVE BUDDHIST HERITAGE IN BIHAR.

6. (U) IN KOLKATA, ABE VISITED THE NETAJI RESEARCH BUREAU AND
PAID HOMAGE TO SUBHASH CHANDRA BOSE WHO ALLIED WITH THE JAPANESE AGAINST THE BRITISH DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. BOSE IS A NATIONAL HERO IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY AND PAYING TRIBUTE TO BOSE SERVED AS A PUBLIC RELATIONS EXERCISE DESIGNED TO
STRENGTHEN GOODWILL BETWEEN BENGALIS AND JAPAN. IRONICALLY,
LOCAL COMMUNISTS WHO EARLIER BRANDED BOSE AS A "RUNNING DOG OF
TOJO," HAVE ALSO YIELDED TO POPULAR SENTIMENTS AND REHABILITATED
BOSE'S IMAGE AS A WAR HERO AND PATRIOT. ABE ALSO WENT TO POET
LAUREATE RABINDRANATH TAGORE'S HOUSE AND VISITED THE TAGORE
MUSEUM. ABE ALSO USED THE OPPORTUNITY TO OPEN THE NEW
BHARAT-JAPAN CULTURAL CENTRE: RABINDRA-OKAKURA BHAVAN. THE
LARGE FACILITY TOOK THREE YEARS TO CONSTRUCT AND DWARFS OTHER
SIMILAR INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL CENTERS, SUCH AS THE BRITISH
COUNCIL, GERMANY'S MAX MUELLER BHAAN AND OUR AMERICAN CENTER.


KOLKATA 00000256 002.3 OF 002


7. (U) MORE CONTROVERSIALLY, ABE REKINDLED ANOTHER KOLKATA-TOKYO
LINK BY EXPRESSING A DESIRE TO VISIT THE FAMILY OF JUSTICE RADHA
BINOD PAL. PAL WAS A MEMBER OF THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY
TRIBUNAL FOR THE FAR EAST THAT TRIED JAPANESE WAR CRIMINALS
AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR. JUSTICE PAL IS FAMOUS FOR BEING THE
SOLE DISSENTER FROM THE TRIBUNAL'S GUILTY VERDICTS, SAYING THE
JUDGMENTS WERE INVALID AND "VICTORS JUSTICE." ABES
GRANDFATHER NOBUSUKE KISHI WAS JAPAN'S INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE
MINISTER BETWEEN 1941 AND 1945. KISHI WAS IMPRISONED AS A
SUSPECTED CLASS A WAR CRIMINAL FOR THREE YEARS, THOUGH UNLIKE
TOJO AND OTHERS IN THE CABINET, HE WAS NEVER TRIED BY THE
TRIBUNAL. KISHI LATER WENT ON TO BECOME JAPAN'S PRIME MINISTER.

8. (U) ABE'S SIGNALING FOR GREATER COMMERCIAL AND STRATEGIC
INVOLVEMENT WITH EASTERN INDIA WAS RECIPROCATED BY THE W. BENGAL
CPM-LED LEFT FRONT GOVERNMENT OF CHIEF MINISTER BUDDHADEB
BHATTACHARJEE. BHATTACHERJEE SKIPPED THE ONGOING COMMUNIST
PARTY OF INDIA-MARXIST (CPM) CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEETING IN NEW
DELHI TO RETURN TO KOLKATA TO HOST PRIME MINISTER. (NOTE: THE
CENTRAL COMMITTEE WAS IN SESSION TO DISCUSS THE CPM POLITBURO'S
OPPOSITION TO THE U.S.-INDIA 123 AGREEMENT ON CIVIL NUCLEAR
COOPERATION. END NOTE.) BHATTACHARJEE'S PRACTICAL INTEREST IN
PROMOTING BENGAL-JAPANESE LINKS CLEARLY OVERCAME POSSIBLE
IDEOLOGICAL CONCERNS ABOUT HOSTING A CONSERVATIVE JAPANESE PM
WHOSE VISIT HIGHLIGHTED THE BENGALI LINKS TO THE FORMER IMPERIAL
JAPAN.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: ABE'S VISIT TO KOLKATA IS THE THIRD SUCH
VISIT BY A FOREIGN PRIME MINISTER TO THE CITY IN THE PAST SIX
MONTHS, FOLLOWING THE VISITS BY ITALIAN PM ROMANO PRODI AND
VIETNAMESE PM NGUYEN TAN DUNG (REFTELS). AS WITH PRODI, WHO LED
A DELEGATION OF OVER 300 BUSINESS PEOPLE, A STRONG FACTOR IN
ABE'S VISITING WEST BENGAL WAS THE GREAT COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL IN
THE STATE AND REGION. JAPAN HAS ALREADY MADE SIGNIFICANT
INVESTMENTS WITH THE PRESENCE OF MITSUBISHI AND OTHER COMPANIES
AND THE GOJ IS SEEKING TO FOSTER AN EVEN GREATER CORPORATE
PRESENCE. ANOTHER FACTOR WAS THE REALIZATION BY THE GOJ THAT
THE CPM HAS A SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCE ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION
AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL, AS DEMONSTRATED BY THE PRESENT IMPASSE
OVER THE INDO-U.S. CIVIL NUCLEAR AGREEMENT. BHATTACHARJEE AND
THE CPM LEADERS IN WEST BENGAL ARE SEEN TO BE MORE TRACTABLE AND
USEFUL FOR THE INFLUENCE THAT THEY CAN BRING TO BEAR ON THE CPM
AT THE CENTER TO POSSIBLY MODERATE COMMUNIST IDEOLOGICAL
POSITIONS. GIVEN THE PRESENT POLITICAL DYNAMIC, ABE APPARENTLY
BELIEVED THAT THE GREATEST POLITICAL BANG FOR THE YEN IS IN WEST
BENGAL, AND SO KOLKATA WAS HIS ONLY DESTINATION OUTSIDE OF NEW
DELHI ON HIS FIRST OFFICIAL VISIT TO INDIA.
JARDINE
B T
#0256
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