New Delhi, Aug 22 - Spelling out his vision for a 'broader Asia' to be marked by a Japan-India strategic global partnership, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asserted Wednesday that the changes in relations now taking place between the two Asian powers were unprecedented.
Addressing Indian MPs in the Central Hall of parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh listening to him intently, Abe said that 'a strong India is in the best interest of Japan and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India'.
'By Japan and India coming together in this way, this 'broader Asia' will evolve into an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the US and Australia,' he said, repeatedly evoking applause from a receptive audience.
Abe, 53, is the third Japanese leader to address Indian parliament after prime ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1984 and Toshiki Kaifu in 1990. He spoke in Japanese language.
Beginning his speech by paying tribute to those who have died in floods in northern India especially Bihar, Abe listed out the commonalities between Tokyo and New Delhi and listed what needed to be done to move ahead.
'We are now at a point at which the 'Confluence of the Two Seas' is coming into being,' Abe said, referring to the title of a book authored by Mughal prince Dara Shikoh in 1655.
'The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling of seas of freedom and of prosperity. A broader Asia that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form.'
While maintaining that changes taking place in both countries were without precedent, Abe said Japan was discovering India.
'Japan has undergone the discovery of India, by which I mean we have rediscovered India as partner that shares the same values and interests,' he said.
Referring to growing economic ties, Abe mentioned the over 200-strong business delegation accompanying him, with special reference to diversified Japanese conglomerate chairman Fujio Mitarai.
Abe mentioned the upsurge in bilateral trade and said it had the potential to reach $20 billion in the next three years.
'Prime Minister Singh and myself are steadfastly convinced that Japan-India relationship is blessed with the largest potential for development of any bilateral relationship anywhere in the world,' he said.
'We are also in perfect agreement that a strong India is in the best interest of Japan and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India.'
Delving on plans to connect Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata with a freight corridor totalling 2,800 km in length, with an average speed of 100 km per hour, Abe said feasibility reports would be drawn up in two months.
'This is a project of tremendous significance and Japan is actively considering means for financial assistance,' he said.
Japan is already the main foreign financial backer of the $90bn project to build a Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).
Abe also made references to his country's Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in afforestation programmes and sought India's cooperation in his 'Cool Earth 50' initiative aimed at halving global emissions by 2050 from current levels.
'I urge you to walk with us down this difficult but unavoidable road where we strive to strike a balance between economic growth and fight against climate change.'
While paying glowing tributes to India's manifold contributions, Abe also referred to the country's challenges.
'India is trying to fight poverty that still persists today and to overcome social issues that are symbolic of demographic movement while consistently upholding democracy, and, at the same time striving to achieve high economic growth,' he said.
'This, I believe, (are) precisely the challenges India faces today.'
Abe, who arrived Tuesday with his wife Akie, was given a ceremonial welcome on the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Abe will stop on Thursday at Kolkata, where he is set to meet Prashanta Pal, the son of the late Indian judge Radhabinod Pal, who dissented from the post-World War II Tokyo tribunal that convicted Japanese war criminals.
Abe conspicuously avoided making any mention about India's plea to Japan to support its case at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) following its civil nuclear agreement with the US.