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Japan Maintains Aid to India, While US Plans Cuts


While the Bush administration is proposing to cut U.S. aid to India by 35 percent in its latest budget, India's largest outside assistance provider - Japan - says it has no plans to reduce aid to the South Asian nation. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

The president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Sadako Ogata, told reporters that much work still needs to be done in India by international aid agencies.

Even though India has a rapidly developing economy, she says it would be premature to cut back aid assistance to a country that still requires significant technical support and social services.

"Sometime in the future horizon there may be a time to change the directions or even reduce [the aid] - there is still a lot to do," she said.

Ogata, the former U.N. Commissioner for Refugees, visited New Delhi and Bangalore on her first trip to India for the Japanese aid agency.

In the capital, she met with several leading politicians, including the President Abdul Kalam, Congress Party head Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

In Bangalore, she inspected a project jointly funded by her organization and the U.S. Agency for International Development. This aims to bring more clean water and sanitation to the rapidly expanding city of nearly six million people.

The Japanese aid agency is also conducting a feasibility study for two ambitious freight corridors, across the east and west of India, to relieve pressure on the country's overburdened rail network. Japanese rail technology is the centerpiece of the $4 billion project.

The Japanese engagement represented by Ogata's trip comes as Indians are concerned about a possible drop in promised aid from the United States.

U.S. direct financial assistance to India has been thinning for decades. In its latest budget the Bush administration proposes cutting the annual amount of aid to $81 million, from the current level of $125 million.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in New Delhi says the United States will remain "fully engaged" in providing help to India. The huge country has a booming economy, but also several hundred-million people living on less than a dollar a day.

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