Japan’s warning to India asking it to review the cancellation of all e-visas to Japanese nationals emphasises the need for New Delhi to tread warily on this sensitive issue. Apparently, the Japanese are upset that they have been clubbed with Iran, Italy and South Korea where the incidence of exposure to the dreaded coronavirus is far greater.

Indeed, Japan has told India that while South Korea had 5,328 cases of infection, Italy has 2,502, and Iran 2,336, Japan is only dealing with 284 cases as on March 4, 2020 as per World Health Organisation statistics. India has been advised to at least not block visas for workers involved in works relating to the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train which has a 2023 deadline.

While India has said that Japanese nationals can still seek visas from the embassy in Tokyo, it is seen as a mirage because it is easier said than done.

There indeed is a case for review because while it is wrong to assume that tests could be waived, the Japanese cannot but be acknowledged as the most important partner for India’s economic transformation who should be entitled to speedy clearance if found free of the virus.

Japan’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) supports India’s efforts for accelerated economic development particularly in priority areas like power, transportation, environmental projects and projects related to basic human needs. Indeed, Japan is helping to build the western dedicated freight corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor with 12 industrial townships and the Chennai-Bengaluru industrial corridor.

India must indeed find ways to extend special facilities to the Japanese so that while coronavirus spread concerns are addressed, there is no harassment caused. The embassy in Tokyo must be equipped to speedily clear applications for visas after due tests besides an honest review of the move to cancel all e-visas.

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Free Press Journal