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Friday November 24th, 2017 12:31AM

India, Japan start work on high-speed train during Abe visit

By The Associated Press
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AHMADABAD, India (AP) — India and Japan launched work on a high-speed train line in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Thursday during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The "bullet train" will link Ahmadabad, the main commercial city in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's native state, to India's financial capital of Mumbai.

The 500-kilometer (310-mile) project will be financed by a Japanese credit of $17 billion and is expected to be completed by 2022. The loan carries a nominal interest rate of 0.1 percent to be paid over the next 50 years.

Abe and Modi also laid the foundation stone for an institute that will be set up in Gujarat's Vadodara city to train around 4,000 people to run the high-speed train system.

Analysts say building the train line will give a boost to infrastructure development in India's fast-growing western industrial region, contribute to economic growth and decongest crowded cities.

"A strong India is in Japan's interest and a strong Japan is in India's interest," Abe said after he and Modi pressed a button at the foundation laying ceremony for the train line.

Talks between Modi and Abe focused on security at a time when both countries share concerns about a rising China, an Indian official said.

The two countries made progress on an Asia-Africa growth initiative to pool Indian and Japanese efforts to strengthen infrastructure in African countries, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told reporters.

Following the talks, officials from India and Japan signed 15 agreements aimed at widening and deepening their partnership, including an "open skies" policy to promote more flights between the two countries, an acceleration of Japanese investments in India and a policy of enhancing connectivity in India's remote northeastern states that border China.

Jaishankar said Japan raised concerns about North Korea following its recent nuclear test.

"There was a lot of discussion understandably on North Korea. Japan underlined its concerns in strong terms and it was an issue where there was a complete meeting of minds," Jaishankar said. India will fully observe a U.N. Security Council resolution on tightening sanctions again North Korea, he said.

The two countries also stressed the importance of holding accountable all countries that have supported North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, a reference to China.

Trade between Japan and India at $15 billion is only a quarter of India's trade with China. Japan is currently India's third largest investor.

The countries are almost polar opposites. India's chaotic cities and its youthful population contrast starkly with Japan's orderly society, immaculate streets and mature economy. But those differences complement each other, and Abe and Modi repeatedly emphasized shared interests and values.

___

George reported from New Delhi.

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