India and Japan Relations
India and Japan Relations
Japan and India is said to have begun in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Indian culture, filtered through Buddhism, has had a great impact on Japanese culture, and this is the source of the Japanese people's sense of closeness to India.
After World War II, in 1949, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru donated an Indian elephant to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. This brought a ray of light into the lives of the Japanese people who still had not recovered from defeat in the war. Japan and India signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations on 28th April, 1952. This treaty was one of the first peace treaties Japan signed after the World War II.
Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries have enjoyed cordial relations. In the post World War II period, India's iron ore helped a great deal Japan's recovery from the devastation. Following Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi's visit to India in 1957, Japan started providing yen loans to India in 1958, as the first yen loan aid extended by Japanese government.
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s visit to India in August 2000 provided the momentum to strengthen the Japan-India relationship. Mr. Mori and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided the establishment of "Global Partnership between Japan and India". Since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to India in April 2005, Japan-India annual summit meetings have been held in respective capitals. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan in December 2006, Japan-India relationship was elevated the "Global and Strategic Partnership". In September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an official visit to Japan and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They agreed that Japan-India relationship was upgraded to “Special Strategic and Global Partnership.” In December 2015, Prime Minister Abe paid an official visit to India and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two Prime Ministers resolved to transform the Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership into a deep, broad-based and action-oriented partnership, which reflects a broad convergence of their long-term political, economic and strategic goals. They announced “Japan and India Vision 2025 Special Strategic and Global Partnership Working Together for Peace and Prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region and the World” a joint statement that would serve as a guide post for the “new era in Japan-India relations.”
In November 2016, Prime Minister Modi paid an official visit to Japan and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe. Prime Minister Abe stated that this summit meeting was a magnificent meeting that substantially advanced the "new era in Japan-India relations," and he hoped the two countries would lead the prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific region as a result of coordinating the "Free and Open India and Pacific Strategy" and the "Act East" policy.
Cooperation in Security Fields
During Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Japan in October 2008, two leaders issued "the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India". There are also various frameworks of security and defense dialogue between Japan and India including “2+2” Dialogue, Defense Policy Dialogue, Military-to-Military Talks and Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard cooperation . At recent summit meetings, two Prime Ministers appreciated Japan’s regular participation in the Malabar Exercise and the entry into force of the two Defense Framework Agreement concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information.
During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan in September 2014, two leaders agreed to set a common goal of doubling Japan's direct investment and the number of Japanese companies in India by 2019, in order to build a win-win relationship through synergies between Modinomics and Abenomics. Prime Minister Abe intended to make an effort to realize 3.5 trillion yen of public and private investment and financing, including Official Development Assistance (ODA), to India over the coming five years.
Japan expects India for improving the business environment, including the easing of regulations and the stabilization of the system. India established the “Japan Plus” office in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in October2014 as a "one-stop" location for resolving problems faced by Japanese companies. Japan and India agreed to set up for 11 candidates of Japanese industrial townships around DMIC and CBIC areas in April 2015. Prime Minister Abe requested India's early decision on introducing special incentive packages in Japanese industrial townships in December 2015 and November 2016.
India decided to introduce the Shinkansen system in December 2015, when Prime Minister Abe visited India. The Japan’s Shinkansen system is in a highest class of High-Speed Railway systems around the world in terms of its safety and accuracy. Japan and India confirmed that the General Consultant would start its work in December 2016, the construction work would begin in 2018, and the railway's operation would commence in 2023.
India has been the largest recipient of Japanese ODA Loan for the past decades. Delhi Metro is one of the most successful examples of Japanese cooperation through the utilization of ODA. Japan will cooperate on supporting strategic connectivity linking South Asia to Southeast Asia through the synergy between ''Act East'' policy and ''Partnership for Quality Infrastructure.''
In terms of human resource development in the manufacturing sector in India, Japan announced its cooperation of training 30,000 Indian people over next 10 years in the Japan-India Institute for Manufacturing (JIM), providing Japanese style manufacturing skills and practices, in an effort to enhance India's manufacturing industry base and contribute to “Make in India” and “Skill India” Initiatives. JIM and the Japanese Endowed Courses (JEC) in engineering colleges will be designated by Japanese companies in India, and this is a good example of cooperation between the public and private sectors. In summer 2017, the first four JIMs started in the States of Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, and the first JEC was established in the State of Andhra Pradesh. Those institutes are also expected to give more Indian students the ambition to study the Japanese language.
The year 2012 marked the 60th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and India. Various cultural events took place both in Japan and in India to promote mutual understanding between the two countries, under the theme of “Resurgent Japan, Vibrant India: New Perspectives, New Exchanges.”
During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Japan in November 2016, the two Prime Ministers agreed to mark the year 2017 as the Year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges to further enhance people-to-people exchanges between Japan and India. The year 2017 also marks the 60th anniversary since the Cultural Agreement came into force in 1957. Various commemorating events are taking place in both countries.
Shinzo Abe visit to India for the 12th Indo-Japan annual summit comes at a particularly interesting time. Both nations are grappling with the trajectory of China's rise and struggling to keep pace with a geopolitical order thrown into turmoil over doubts about America's role as a global security guarantor. And as if the world needed a dash of more uncertainty, the tinpot from North Korea has decided that this is the right time to test a hydrogen bomb and threaten Donald Trump.
These rapid variables have forced India and Japan to snuggle closer, and both nations appear on the cusp of a major upgradation in bilateral ties. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe wasn't bluffing when he called both nations as "natural partners" in 2015. The intervening two years have only pushed the two democracies closer.
China's powerplay is, of course, a huge factor but it's not the only issue that is driving India and Japan's bonhomie.
In terms of personal bond between Modi and Abe, their leadership style, synergy in domestic compulsions, commonality of national interests, shared strategic vision, greater military cooperation, expansion of development partnership, respect for rules-based international order in foreign policy and in the urge to provide an alternative development model for Asia and Africa (Asia Africa Growth Corridor), both countries have more in common with each other than with anyone else.
In each of these areas, Modi and Abe have shown a willingness to push the envelope, and the effort is sure to have far-reaching implications. China is well aware and is keeping a close eye on proceedings as Abe landed in India on a two-day visit and proceeded to break bread with Modi on a rooftop restaurant in Gujarat on Wednesday.
A columnist in China Daily, for instance, warned India on Wednesday to steer clear of US-Japan chessboard where he claimed New Delhi would be treated as no more than a sacrificial piece.
Foreign policy is shaped to a large extent by domestic needs. Here, too, both nations have a similar stimuli. After neglecting for decades the need to develop maritime advantage that is offered by its huge coastline, India is only waking up to the fact that China has beaten it to the game.
As author and Carnegie India director C Raja Mohan has written in his Indian Express column: "India had taken its regional primacy for granted all these decades. China had never accepted the proposition that the Subcontinent is India’s exclusive sphere of influence. It now has the will and resources to challenge that premise on a routine basis. That leaves India scrambling to restore its economic and strategic centrality in the region."
As if neglecting its backyard wasn't enough, India had long miscalculated its role in the region under a belief that the strategic interests of the smaller nations around it will be defined by its own interests. This arrogant misconception has led to interventionist foreign policies with the result that countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal harbour a deep resentment towards for the 'big brother' despite being firmly within India's sphere of influence.
The Modi government has sought to change this policy. India has started to adopt a more consultative and friendly approach towards neighbours but the course-correction provided enough space and time for China to butt in. It is rapidly striking sea port deals with countries around India such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The elaborate nature of the projects and the deep debt funding allow Xi Jinping a virtual free hand in building sustained economic (and even military) influence.
India badly needs to counter projects such as the ones in Hambantota or Kyaukpyu but it doesn't have the economic bandwidth to match geopolitical needs. This is where Japan comes in. Shinzo Abe wants to restore Japan's influence in the Indo-Pacific region to achieve greater economic and strategic security, and his 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy' synergises well with Modi's Act East policy. There is a lot of space here for cooperation between the two nations. Options may range from joint development schemes to partnerships based on maritime security.
As Titli Basu, associate fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, reminds us: "There is India-Japan Maritime Affairs Dialogue since 2013 where maritime security including non-traditional security threats, prospects of cooperation in shipping, marine sciences and technology, marine bio-diversity are discussed. There is a 2+2 dialogue framework between the Foreign and Defence Secretaries of both countries since 2010, as mandated by the Action Plan to Advance Security Cooperation concluded in December 2009."
Abe's visit could see an institutionalisation of this framework. The groundwork was laid during former defence minister Arun Jaitley's recent meeting with his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera this month where talks were held on closer collaborations on joint defence production, India's purchase of ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japan (long-awaited deal) and strengthening of the defence and security cooperation.
Japan is eager for a greater commitment in the bilateral relationship because Abe has put nearly all his foreign policy eggs in the US basket, developing an antagonistic relationship with China. Trouble is, Trump is a mercurial personality and an unreliable ally. A stronger relationship with India is crucial for Japan to hedge against Chinese aggression.
The signals are strong from Japan that it wants India to emerge from ennui and show greater dedication in nurturing the ties. For a country that considers strategic autonomy as a cornerstone of foreign policy (a step up from non-alignment), it won't be easy for Modi to break the mould. A lot will depend however, on the personal chemistry between the two leaders. Modi reportedly trashed protocol to receive Abe at the airport. It is possible that we may witness a new chapter in bilateral ties.
A report in Wednesday's edition of Japan Times, for instance, reveals that upgrading security talks with India to ministerial-level dialogue within a two-by-two framework will be high on Abe'a agenda. "Tokyo," says the report, "put forward a similar proposal in 2014, but it did not come to fruition as New Delhi opted to avoid irritating Beijing, a diplomatic source said. Given the recently deepening security cooperation among Japan, India and the US, Japan has judged that the time is ripe for pushing for the new framework again."
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