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  • The Abe Statement: Reading the Politics behind the 70th Anniversary of WW II

    The Abe Statement: Reading the Politics behind the 70th Anniversary of WW II

    While it is Japan’s responsibility to pave the road to reconciliation, but for any meaningful progress China and South Korea must reciprocate since reconciliation is a two-way process.

    August 24, 2015

    70th Commemoration Anniversary of the End of WW II: Japan's New Security Legislation and the Spotlight on Its War 'Apology'

    70th Commemoration Anniversary of the End of WW II: Japan's New Security Legislation and the Spotlight on Its War 'Apology'

    For the 70th commemoration anniversary of the end of World War II to be meaningful, Japan, China and South Korea need to jointly address the issues involved through a combination of moral responsibility and political maturity.

    August 03, 2015

    Anil Choudhary asked: How do the views of India and South Korea differ on the two Asian giants - China and Japan?

    Titli Basu replies: The ‘views’ of a nation concerning another sovereign state are shaped by several variables such as the national interest, ideological orientation, security concerns and strategic goals, historical experiences, economic imperatives and shared values.

    Gaurav Moghe asked: In order to prevent China from further augmenting its influence in the South and East China Seas, how feasible and effective is the idea of a US-Japan-India tripartite on issues of common strategic and economic concern?

    Titli Basu replies: The debate on the US-Japan-India trilateral framework has intensified as evident from repeated references to the trilateral framework in some of the recent joint statements including the Tokyo Declaration for India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership (September 2014), the US-India Joint Statement – “Shared Effort; Progress for All” (January 2015), and the eighth India-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue (January 2015). In fact, the sixth round of the trilateral dialogue was held recently in December 2014.

    Japan’s white paper on defence: An overview

    The dominant challenges for Japan apart from China remain North Korea. The document expresses concerns on the launching of multiple ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan along with the possibility, for the first time, that the North Koreans may have acquired nuclear warheads.

    September 01, 2014

    Xi-Abe handshake, not yet an embrace

    Xi-Abe handshake, not yet an embrace

    Escalation of tension has scarred relations between Japan and China. The fallout of this has been reflected in the trade and economic ties between the two. Stabilizing China-Japan bilateral relations is critical for peace in the East Asia and it has to be seen how this four-point agreement will translate into action.

    November 24, 2014

    Tarun Maheshwari asked: How was the Meiji period of Japan influenced by and in turn influenced the colonial developments in Asia?

    Pranamita Baruah replies: During the 19th century when many Asian nations were colonised by the Western powers, Japan too had to face a similar fate. It was forced to sign unequal treaties with the Western powers which granted the latter one-sided economic and legal advantages over Japan. As Japan had adopted an isolationist policy, closing itself to any outside influence, the interaction with the Western civilisation was an eye opener for the Japanese. It largely pushed Japan to turn itself into a democratic state emphasising on equality among all. Feudalism was brought to an end and boundaries among social classes were gradually broken down. Japan even introduced a European-style constitution in 1889 and took initiative to develop a parliamentary democracy. Rapid industrialisation also brought about drastic economic development within Japan. Thus, the political, economic as well as societal developments of the Western colonial powers had tremendous impact on Japan during the Meiji era.

    The Meiji period, however, also had a strong influence on the colonial development in Asia. After the Meiji Restoration (1868), Japan opened up and was determined to close the economic and military gap between itself and the colonial powers. To demonstrate itself at par with the West and to reap economic benefits just like the colonial powers, Japan colonised Korea and Taiwan. After Japan's victory over China in 1894-95, just like other colonial powers, Japan signed a treaty with China which gave them special rights on China's Liaotung Peninsula. Japan's emergence as a colonial power as well as a strong military and economic power can be treated as a significant development in East Asia during the pre-War era.

    Posted on April 25, 2014

    Akhila asked: What is Asian “security diamond” as proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe?

    Shamshad Ahmad Khan replies: Actually, it is “Democratic Security Diamond” which Shinzo Abe had mooted just before he took over as prime minister in December 2012. He envisaged a strategy whereby “Australia, India, Japan, the US state of Hawai form a diamond to safeguard maritime commons stretching from Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.” If you put a dot on a map against the countries and the region identified by Abe and connect them with each other, it will look like a diamond. That is why it is called as “security diamond.”

    During his previous stint as prime minister (2006-07), he had envisaged an “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity”, a multilateral framework consisting of Australia, India, Japan and the US. However, it could not materialise as Abe resigned owing to health reasons and plummeting public approval rating of his cabinet. It is a known fact that Japan, which does not have a full fledged military and has legal restrictions on use of force by its Self Defence Forces, has long been dependent on the US for its security. However, as the US went to Afghanistan and Iraq and remained preoccupied for years together, its focus shifted away from the Asia Pacific countries including Japan.

    Japan believes that with the rise of China, there has been a relative decline in the US power. Therefore, it wants to complement the US-Japan security alliance by signing partnership agreements with other democratic countries in Asia. The idea is to fill in the security void due to declining American influence in the region. Yuriko Koike, a senior Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politician and former defence minister, observed in an opinion piece that “America alone cannot construct a viable security structure for the region. From India to Japan, every Asian country must play its part”, adding that “fear of provoking China should not stop Asia’s leaders from seeking a regional security consensus, such as the proposed code of conduct for disputes in the South China Sea.”

    A close look at the statements made by Abe and Koike suggest that the idea to forge such a security network is primarily aimed at securing the global commons. However, it is not clear whether Abe would aggressively push for the “Democratic Security Diamond.” This proposal may have been mooted at a time when the US was pre-occupied with wars in other parts of the world, but now it is re-committing its troops to the Asia Pacific as part of its “pivot to Asia” policy in which Japan remains the key player. So, in the present scenario, it is unlikely that the idea of forging “Democratic Security Diamond” will take off.

    Also, refer to my commentary, Limitations of the “Natural Partners”, tehelka.com, June 04, 2013.

    The Rise of Nationalism in Japan and China

    Both the Chinese and Japanese political leadership are whipping up angst and anger against each other and channelling domestic content into feverish nationalism.

    July 29, 2013

    Fukushima Impact: A New Nuclear Safety Regulations in Japan

    The new nuclear regulation calls for installing additional safety measures and imposes strict conditions for re-starting nuclear reactors to avoid the recurrence of Fukushima like nuclear meltdown.

    July 22, 2013