Menu Close

5.4 India Japan Relations

Overview of India Japan relationship.

Japan appears to be India’s closest partner. If we go by Kautilya’s mandal Siddhant, Japan is India’s natural ally. Neighbour’s neighbour. Prime Minister Modi has expressed the uniqueness of India Japan relations in following words. ‘Mutual trust and faith, understanding of each other’s interest and concerns, sharing the core values of democracy, peace and rule of law, regular high level interactions is the uniqueness of India Japan relations’.

According to experts, India Japan relations are going through Cherry Blossom phase. (Amitabh Mattoo) The best of the phase is evident in some extra-ordinary steps.

1] Japan ended its hesitation in signing civil nuclear agreement despite its sensitivity to the nuclear issue.
2] Japan has ended self-imposed moratorium from selling defence equipments. There is a possibility of Japan exporting US2 Amphibious aircraft. It will increase India’s surveillance capacity.
3] Japanese emperor and empress visited India, which is a very rare occasion.
4] There is a great personal chemistry between Modi and Shinzo Abe.
5] Shinzo Abe has always been in favour of close relations with India. In his book TOWARDS THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY he has mentioned about India.
6] This is for the first time that Japan has taken the strategic view of Indian ocean and considers Indo Pacific as a single geo-political entity.
7] India has also ended the hesitation and became the part of QUAD.
8] India and Japan are working together in Asia Africa Growth Corridor.
9] Japan is the only country permitted by India to develop the infrastructure in the sensitive north eastern region.
10] India will be supplying rare earth elements, crucial for Japan’s electronic industry.
11] Japan is also dependent on India for the security of its sea lines of communications.
12] Currency swap agreement of $75bn.
13] Cooperation in space. ACSA – Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement. It would allow to use each other’s base for logistical support. India can use Japan’s base in Djibouti and Japan can use India’s ase in A&N islands.

Strong India is in the best interest of Japan and strong Japan is in the best interest of India.

Shinzo Abe.

Japan and India are the lynchpin for the rule based Indo Pacific.

Bramha Chelani

Reality Check

Rohan Mukherjee.
The academic assessments are far more ambitious that the actual state of affairs. We can say that India Japan relations is ‘marriage of convenience’. However we cannot ignore the pragmatism in the relationship. There is a implicit bargain in the relation. The best way to describe.

Why it is not so ambitious?
1) There is no military alliance. 
2) Even together they cannot balance China. 
3) Though there is a lot of talk of rule of law, yet neither alone nor together they are in position to enforce it.

Current foreign policy of Japan. Like any other country, there are two imperatives.

1) Security. Rise of China, Nuclear and missile developments in N Korea plus dramatic developments on Korean peninsula. North and South Korea coming together. USA’s reconciliatory approach towards N Korea without getting any guarantee of de-nuclearizations. Even China is nervous because the Koreans do not want external interlocutors. 
2) Economic issues. Near zero growth rate, stagnating prizes, heavy debt (because of its social security programs) and demography.

By David Malone in his book DOES THE ELEPHANT DANCE? says that the Indo Japan relations remained tepid in reality.

Why relations were tepid?
1) Cold War and India and Japan were in opposite camps.
2) Japan’s sensitivity towards nuclear issue and India’s nuclear tests.
3) Indian economy was a closed economy, still India remained the largest recipient of Japan’s official development assistance. Special strategic global partner.
4) India also has 2+2 dialogue with Japan. 
5) The main driving force of India Japan relations so far has been strategic, rather than economic. There is a need to balance economic pillar. There is a huge disappointment in Japan towards India’s economic policies. India and Japan have entered into comprehensive economic partnership agreement in 2011, still it has not resulted into any significant increase in the bilateral trade. India Japan trade is languishing at $15 bn since 2013 whereas Japan China trade is $ 300 bn.
6) Japan has a huge concern about i) Poor infrastructure, ii) Poor skills and iii) Red tapism.

PM Modi promised that when Japanese businessmen will come to India, they will find ‘red carpet’ rather than red tape. He has involved the two Japanese advisors in his economic team. Thus there is a need to strengthen the economic engagement to add to the strategic element of India Japan partnership. There is a perfect coherence between India’s Act East policy and Shinzo Abe’s ‘Free and Open Indo Pacific’. In his book, Shinzo Abe has mentioned that it would not be surprising if in coming years, India Japan relations will overtake Japan US and Japan China relations. It is to be noted that Japan was the only country to extend public support to India during Doklam crisis.

According to C Rajamohan, THE CASE FOR ALLIANCE article. There is a strong case for India Japan alliance. India as well as Japan need to ensure against wide oscillations in USA’s policy. As China’s neighbour, they have stakes in cooperative relations with China as well as to temper China’s unilateralism.

Even Japanese experts believe that the relations have gone beyond transformational stage and are poised for alliance.

However according to Rajesh Basrur WHY NO TO ALLIANCE AND YES TO STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS article, Alliance is a characteristics of cold war era. In present age of interdependence, it does not fit. Strategic partnership allows flexibility, country can go for engagements with common adversary and can avoid being dragged into partner’s dispute.

Japan’s current state of relations

With USA – Not a good state of relations. Trump’s approach towards allies. Rapprochement with N Korea.
Before coming to G20 summit, Trump tweeted ‘US will fight on behalf of Japan and Japanese will watch it on Sony TV’.
What US wants? US wants Japan to pay more. Japan needs to think to pay more and still remain uncertain or change the constitution and even Japan may have its own nuclear option.

With Russia – Shinzo Abe took exceptional steps to improve relations with Russia. However territorial issues is a spoiler.

With China
There is a existential threat to Japan from China. China makes claim on Senkaku islands and other islands in East China sea. It regularly deploys its maritime forces and escalate tensions.
Unilateral incursions in air space.

Recent trends.
Since 2017, relations have started improving.
Why? China wants to build its positive image to dilute opposition to BRI. On background of US-China trade war.
In 2018, Shinzo Abe visited China after 7 years to celebrate the 40th anniversary of 1978 treaty of peace and friendship.
They signed 52 memorandums of cooperation over wide range.
Tokyo Tower was lit up with Chinese Red colour, to celebrate Chinese new year.
China has ended the trade embargo on agricultural products.
Negotiations on RCEP.
They declare starting of new historical point.
Shinzo Abe held China is indispensable country for Japan to keep growing

Kanti Vajpayee. India Japan Strategic Partnership for 21st Century.

Contrary to official pronouncements, India and Japan have never been too close. Yet the rise of China has creative imperatives to come closer. How they are responding to the rise of China? Whenever, there is a rise of new hegemon, countries opt for following policies.

1] Hiding. Means to remain out of the gunsight. Both Japan and India are too close to China that it is not possible.
2] Hedging. Hedging means
_ Taking strategic engagements to deal with worst case scenario.
_ Pursuing economic engagement.
_ Not much scope because China is mercantilist.
3] Bandwagoning.
_ Japan was the part of middle kingdom’s empire at some point in history. But India was never a tributary.
_ Not possible for India. Why? It means accepting China’s position on territorial disputes.
4] Balancing.
_ After the collapse of Westphalian order in 2nd WW, never ever the balance of power has become as relevant as today. Balancing is of two types.
_ A) Hard balancing (internal and external.)
_ B) Soft balancing (non military activities which complicate the choices of militarily superior adversary.) – Using legal instruments, creating public opinion.

According to Kanti Vajpayee, as of now soft balancing is best option for both. There is no point taking the risk of confrontation at this stage.

Views of Rajeshwari Rajagopalan.

Traditionally India has resisted taking sides in great power competition. But in the era of uncertainty, driven by shifting Asian balance of power, strategic partnerships improve the room for maneuverability.

Asia is witnessing a strategic flux where power is diffused, demarcation of geopolitical and geo-economic interests are blurred, it is pertinent that New Delhi does not adopt zero sum approach, objectively contextualize India Japan strategic partnership amidst fast changing variables of emerging strategic equations.

Que. Do you agree that the growing assertiveness of China is leading to multilayered Indo Japan relations. Comment.

International politics is in the state of flux. We see the power transitions. There is a prediction of China displacing US hegemony. China has shed its reluctance of earlier policy represented by Deng Xiaoping. Hide and bide, rather than becoming assertive.

In 19th party congress, XI Jinping has stated the goal of China is to become the most powerful country by 2045. Even China Dream goes beyond the earth and has dream of flying in the sky, controlling the space.

Growing assertiveness of China is a cause of concern for both India and Japan. The two immediate neighbours of a rising hegemon do not have a harmonious past with China. They have territorial disputes e.g. Japan in East China Sea and India in Aksai China, Arunachal Pradesh. China is also recognized as a revanchist, revisionist power. Rise of China brings India and Japan together as they emerge as a natural ally, if we apply mandal siddhant.

Historically, the relations have been described as ‘tepid’ by David Mellon, but in post cold war world order, we see the new warmth.
In 2008, Shinzo Abe held that rising India is in the interest of Japan and vice versa. India and Japan became strategic partners, elevated to special strategic and global partnership, started maritime engagements between the naval forces…. Quad…

Strong India is in the best interest of Japan and strong Japan is in the best interest of India.

Shinzo Abe.

They reflect convergence on the world order in Asia Pacific…. Free and open Indo Pacific…
In 2011, started Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership… According to the scholars, like Amitabh Mattoo, Rajeshwari Rajagopalan, assertiveness of China is a strong imperative for multilayered relationship, yet it may be partially true.

Que. Is there any linkage between a shift in China’s relations with Japan to its perceived shift in her relations with India. Examine in light of China’s so called ‘Anti Encirclement struggle. 2012.

John Chipman has given the concept of fast power. According to it, in the present age, rule of game is not the survival of the fittest but fastest. More agile a country is, more it will be in a position to secure itself.
The very reason behind the concept of fast power is the understanding that the world is changing fast. As world is changing fast, we see the shifts in the relations. This also proves the maxim that in international politics, there is no permanent friend and no permanent enemy.

The year 2018 has shown a perceptible shift in how China and Japan are dealing with each other. Till 2017, China’s stand was aggressive, but now we see the shift…..

The change in attitude of China towards the neighbouring countries like Japan, India, Philippines, Vietnam can be seen as Chinese strategies to check USA’s anti-encirclement or containment approach.

USA’s shift as a Asia rebalance and later on the focus on Indo Pacific, materialization of QUAD, growing defence partnership between India and USA, strengthening the strategic partnership between Japan and India has led the rising hegemon to change its approach.

China was also facing opposition to its mega projects like BRI. It is to be noted that hegemon should posses not just hard power but even soft power.

Posted in PSIR 2B

Related Posts

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments