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India dials Japan for 5G tech, subsea cables

Japan and India plan to sign an agreement for closer cooperation in installing 5 G wireless networks and submarine fibre optic cables to counter China's influence on telecommunications and digital infrastructure, according to Japanese government officials, cited by <em>Nikkei Asia</em> magazine.

The news report from Tokyo stated that as part of this proposed agreement, Japanese companies will install 5G networks and submarine cables in India and the governments of the two countries would be supporting the initiative. India, on its part, will use its vast pool of software engineers to provide Japan assistance in developing a workforce of professionals well versed in digital technology. Currently Japan lacks adequate skilled manpower in this field.

The tie-up will involve projects totaling tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars), the report said.

Preparations are underway to sign a memorandum of understanding for concluding a comprehensive agreement at an online meeting in December between Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda and Ravi Shankar Prasad, India's telecommunications minister.

After the clash on the Ladakh border with China in June, the Indian government had as part of the retaliatory measures decided to exclude Chinese telecom giant Huawei from 5G trials in the country. The company has also been banned in the US and Europe for security reasons. India has also barred the use of several Chinese apps including video-sharing social networking service TikTok, in the country.

Increased tensions with China are prompting India to promote closer cooperation with Japan in the field of communications.

The proposed agreement will include the use of 5G technology, whose commercial application has yet to start in India, as well as the development and international standardization of 6G technology, which is planned to be put into practical use in the 2030s.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a plan to lay a submarine fiber-optic cable to connect mainland India with the Lakshadweep islands in the Arabian Sea. Japanese company NEC, which is about to complete the construction of a submarine cable for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, will seek the order with the support of the two governments, the <em>Nikkei Asia</em> report said.

For 5G technology, Rakuten is planning to export a cloud-based mobile network that will reduce the cost of installation and operation. The company has already opened a laboratory in Bengaluru to sell the technology to local carriers.

HAPSMobile, a Tokyo-based subsidiary of SoftBank, is also holding talks with a leading Indian telecom company to sell technology for stratospheric telecommunications by means of a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle.

The two countries will also cooperate in educating and securing professionals familiar with digital technology. Although Japan is stepping up efforts to reinforce cybersecurity and advance the digitization of government services, it is short on professionals familiar with information technology and other digital tools. As India has a large number of qualified people in the digital field, Japan hopes to gain Indian know-how to produce such people as part of the alliance.

India is a core country, along with Japan, the U.S. and Australia, in the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" strategy. As China has got isolated due to its coercive foreign policy, the importance of Japan in telecom infrastructure is growing.

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar had in fact pointed out at the four-nation Indo-Pacific Quad meeting that the alliance should also be viewed as an economic cooperation group.

New Delhi has withdrawn from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade agreement (RCEP) signed by Japan, China and 13 other countries as the pact would have hurt India’s economy. However, the Tokyo-New Delhi alliance will shows that India is still ready to partner friendly countries in economic ventures that work to the mutual advantage.

China is strengthening its presence in the Asia-Pacific region through its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure development strategy. The agreement with Japan is expected to counter this strategy..