India-Japan Relations

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  • Micheal asked : What could be the possible implications of India-Japan relations on India’s relations with other East Asian neighbours?

    Rup Narayan Das replies: Relations between any two countries, be it India-Japan or for that matter other countries, are primarily based on enlightened national interest and convergence of outlook and approach between the two countries. In recent times, the mutuality of economic interests has been one of the main drivers of the bilateral relationship. Japanese investments in India, such as, the Metro Rail Project and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, are just some examples of the robust economic engagement between the two countries. There are also possibilities for cooperation in the nuclear energy sector. It is, thus, not fair to look at the relationship between any two countries entirely through the prism of any third country.

    Relationship between India and Japan has their own imperatives. There is, however, a perception that the growing India-Japan strategic partnership may have some strategic implications for China. It is true that there is some security dilemma and strategic distrust between Japan and China, but it is equally true that there is a dialogue mechanism available between them. New Delhi on different occasions has pointed out that India-Japan strategic partnership is not aimed against any third country, least of all China. There is also a strategic partnership existing between India and China, which is not only India’s largest neighbour, but also its largest trading partner.

    India and Japan being maritime democracies, however, espouse freedom of navigation and safety and security of sea the lanes of communication. China’s assertiveness in this regard has given rise to a perception in some sections of the strategic community about the possible implications of India-Japan strategic partnership. These are challenges and one has to calibrate relationship between and among nations in such a manner so as to promote mutual trust and confidence. In the triangular relationship among India, China and Japan, there should not be any ‘zero-sum’ game of the Cold War era.

    Aravind Devanathan asked: Why has India restricted the two-plus-two dialogue with Japan only?

    Shamshad Ahmad Khan replies: A close look at the functioning and outcomes of the existing two-plus-two dialogue mechanism comprising ministries of defence and foreign affairs suggest that this mechanism sets the agenda for a summit level interaction between the leaders of the two states. The two-plus-two dialogue mechanism is between countries which have institutionalised annual dialogue or at least a regular dialogue between the political heads of the two states. The US has institutionalised a regular bilateral dialogue with Japan and Australia whereby a summit level meeting between the US president and the Japanese prime minister and the US president and the Australian prime minister is a regular feature. Both Japan and Australia also have similar summit level interaction between them on a regular basis. The two-plus-two dialogue comprising ministries of defence and foreign affairs discusses issues of bilateral cooperation threadbare and identifies new areas of cooperation, which are generally finalised later at the summit level interactions between the political leadership of the two states.

    India and Japan too have an institutionalised annual summit level dialogue between the prime ministers of the two countries. It has been taking place annually since 2007, alternatively in New Delhi and Tokyo. The two-plus-two dialogue comprising India’s defence and foreign secretaries and their Japanese counterparts takes place annually before the interaction of the two prime ministers. The dialogue sets the agenda of their talks and issues of bilateral agreements to be signed between the two countries. Since India currently has an annual summit level interaction with Japan only, the two-plus-two dialogue too remains limited to Japan. If India formalises such summit level dialogues with other countries on an annual or a regular basis, perhaps, a similar mechanism would be required.

    Karthik asked: How is Japan an indispensable partner in India’s quest for stability and peace in Asia?

    Shamshad Ahmad Khan replies: India and Japan, two major democracies in Asia, have been cooperating with each other in various multilateral, regional and bilateral forums. This cooperation is based on shared values of freedom, democracy and rule of law. Both the countries, ever since the institutionalisation of prime ministerial level annual summit meetings in 2006, have enhanced their cooperation in economic and security fields.

    A close look at the joint statements issued by the prime ministers of the two countries over the years, suggest that their objective is to preserve peace and prosperity in the region by sustaining economic growth. Apart from forging complementary economic relations by signing Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which is expected to propel economic growth in both the countries, they are cooperating with each other on maritime affairs as well. Both India and Japan heavily depend on sea lanes for their inbound and outbound trade. They adhere to “freedom of navigation” and unimpeded commerce based on principles of international law. They believe that hindrance in the flow of their goods would adversely impact their economy and over all prosperity. However, the quest for stability and peace is not uni-dimensional. Japan considers India an important and an equal partner in its effort to maintain peace and stability in Asia.

    India-Japan Strategic Partnership

    Japan’s endorsement of India’s candidature for the four major multilateral export controls regimes seems to be the principal achievement of the Indian PM visit to Japan.

    June 11, 2013

    Is the Return of Shinzo Abe Good News for India?

    With Abe taking a nationalistic stance and confronting China over the Senkakus, India-Japan cooperation could suffer since it does not seem to be in India’s interest to confront China.

    January 08, 2013

    The Return of Shinzo Abe as Japan’s new PM: What does it mean for India?

    With China increasingly wary of the developments taking place on its Pacific seaboard, it would perhaps be in a much better frame of mind to listen to Indian concerns.

    December 19, 2012

    Om Pratap Singh asked: Why Japan provides her maximum Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to India?

    Shamshad Ahmad Khan replies First of all let us understand what the Official Development Assistance (ODA) is. It is a low-interest and a long-term loan offered by Japan to developing nations including India. Japan claims that it is a tool to maintain good relations with other countries. To begin with, Japan extended large amount of soft loans to Southeast Asian and East Asian countries including its erstwhile colonies to achieve twin purposes: gaining their goodwill and maintaining presence in their market through Japanese-funded projects. However, the fact that it is driven by Japan’s entrepreneurial interest cannot be negated as ODA was mostly a “tied aid” under which the recipient countries had to buy technical equipments for Japanese funded projects from the Japanese companies. Later, post-1990s, Japan left the option open for the recipient countries to buy technical equipments through open biddings.

    India was one of the first countries to receive Japanese ODA loan in 1958. In 2007, India became the largest recipient of Japanese ODA loan when Japan had to cut the ODA loan to China owing to people’s demand. Japan’s ODA Charter stipulates that the country will halt its ODA loan to countries that violate human rights, do not promote democracy, invest hugely in defence, or are involved in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    Major portion of Japanese loan to India goes to infrastructure development projects. Japan wants to lower its presence in China in view of growing tension between the two countries over disputed territories in the East China Sea. Also, studies suggest that China will become an ageing society in the next 20 to 30 years (if it does not ease its one-child policy), and in that scenario the consumption of Japanese manufacturing products will decrease. So they want to shift their productions to India which still has a large youth population and a growing middle class. But since the infrastructure in India remains poor, they believe that it will hamper the flow of their goods from one corner of India to another. This explains why Japan has been extending loans for infrastructure development projects in India, including road and railway corridors. Japan also wants to make India its export hub to reach out to the West Asian economies and to minimize the shipping costs.

    The Implications of Noda’s Visit to India

    Noda’s visit to India is a demonstration of Japan’s long-term commitment to scale up India–Japan bilateral ties to a higher trajectory.

    January 13, 2012

    Ajai Vir asked: The recent visit of the Japanese prime minister to India was viewed as part of ongoing efforts for containment of China. In principle, why should any country need to contain another?

    R.N. Das replies: It is true that India’s relations with Japan have undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with the signing of ‘India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership’ in December 2006. In October last year, the two countries signed the joint document, ‘Vision for India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership in Next Decade.’ The India-Japan-US trilateral took place in the US in December. All these, however, should not mean to suggest a containment strategy, though there has been such a perception in some sections of the strategic community both in India and elsewhere.

    Prime Minister Mammohan Singh, time and again, has asserted that the India-Japan strategic and secureity cooperation is not aimed at any third country, least of all China. India has neither the inclination, nor the capability or for that matter any need to contain China. The two countries are carefully engaging each other to overcome the trust deficit. For example, in spite of the spat over ONGC Videsh’s foray into the South China Sea, the postponement of the talks between the special representatives, and the latest episode of alleged ill-treatment meted out to the Indian diplomat in Shanghai, the two countries have handled the issues very deftly. Prime Minister Singh’s recent statement in Bhubaneswar that China is well ahead of India in terms of research and development in the field of science and technology, and External Affairs Minister Krishna’s appreciation for Beijing’s handling of the issue of Indian traders held captive in Yiwu near Shanghai by the local authorities, clearly suggests that India is serious about engaging China. There should not be any zero-sum game between the two countries.

    India-Japan-US Trilateral Dialogue: A Promising Initiative

    There certainly exists some logic behind India, Japan and the US working together, and that too in a region that lacks solid security architecture.

    November 22, 2011

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