Diplomacy

Lockdown: Japan Asks India to Help Its Firms Resume Operations

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar tweeted that his discussion with the Japanese foreign minister had “dwelled on economic recovery challenges including supply chain resilience”.

New Delhi: Even as the number of coronavirus patients continues to climb, Japan has asked India to allow Japanese companies to restart their operations. Restrictions on economic activities were also relaxed slightly as part of the extension of the lockdown this month.

This was conveyed by Japanese foreign minister Motegi Toshimitsu during a phone conversation with external affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday, according to a statement released by the Japanese foreign ministry.

The Indian side has not issued a readout of the phone call, but Jaishankar had tweeted that their discussion “also dwelled on economic recovery challenges including supply chain resilience”.

The Japanese foreign ministry’s press release gave a glimpse of Tokyo’s priorities in the phone call.

“He also requested cooperation for the resumption of activities by Japanese companies in India,” said the statement. Around 1,400 Japanese firms have a presence in India.

In a bid to slow down the spread of COVID-19 virus, India has been under a complete lockdown under March 25, which had led to a near-standstill in economic activity, especially in non-essential areas.

When the lockdown was extended, it had led to some relaxation in the operation of manufacturing and export-oriented units, but most face immense challenges.

A senior Indian government sources on Friday said New Delhi values the contribution of Japanese companies in India. “We understand there have been some disruptions. We are working with the companies to address their concerns. As we go into post lockdown gradually depending on the COVID-19 situation, solutions to their issues will be found,” he said, circumspectly.

This is not the first time that Japan has expressed concern about India’s restrictions related to coronavirus pandemic.

In early March, Japan had issued a demarche to India asking for review of decision to cancel e-visas to all Japanese nationals. In the early days of the pandemic, India had cancelled validities of visas of Japan, together with Iran, Italy and South Korea.

According to the Times of India, Japan had told India that the blanket ban on visas would hurt economic engagement, including work on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail.

Japan is also involved in the development of Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor with 12 industrial townships and the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC).