Source: The Hindu dated 01/05/2021

Context : Recently, the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with the new United States President. Both the the leaders have set the agenda for the wider Indo-Pacific engagement.

Given that the Japanese Prime Minister plans to visit India as soon as the situation permits following the Covid-19 pandemic, his dealings with the U.S. are a preview of what India can expect from Japan.

Outcomes of US-Japan Summit

  • Both sides affirmed the centrality of their treaty alliance, for long a source of stability in East Asia, and pledged to stand up to China in key regional flashpoints such as the disputed Senkaku Islands and Taiwan.
  • Both powers repeatedly emphasised their vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
  • Both emphasised multilateralism and the rule of law while exercising joint leadership to build a resilient global community as part of the new “Japan-U.S. Joint Leaders statement: Global Partnership for a New Era”. 
  • They set out a new Competitive and Resilience (CoRe) partnership, which was alluded to at the Quad Summit and now given bilateral teeth.This is significant in light of China’s recent pledge to invest a mammoth $1.4 trillion in emerging technologies
  • Global Digital Connectivity Partnership to include third-country partners for secure connectivity and cybersecurity is being created.
India – Japan relations

PM Modi once remarked that mutual trust and faith, understanding of each other’s interests and concerns, and continuous high level interactions mark the uniqueness of Indo-Japan relations.

What are the different dimension of this relationship?

Defence and Security Cooperation 

  • Defence Framework Agreements concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology and concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information.
  • Expansion in scale and complexity of the MALABAR Exercise.
  • Defence equipment and technology – Unmanned Ground Vehicles and Robotics 
  • C Raja Mohan writes that languishing Defence (Military) partnership needs to be given a push.

Civil Nuclear agreement:

  • Apart from the Russian reactors, India’s planned nuclear reactors with France and US also depend on Japanese parts.
  • Moreover, GE, Westinghouse, and Areva, the companies planning reactors in India, have important ownership stakes of Japanese companies such as Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, which were stopped by the Japanese government from doing business with India without a final nuclear deal.
  • Signals a wider acceptance of India’s status as a responsible nuclear actor.
  • Japan has civil nuclear treaties with 13 countries, including the US, France and Russia, but this is the first with a nation that is not part of the NPT.
  • Entered into force in July 2017 against the backdrop of China’s reluctance to support India’s candidacy for NSG, the deal assumes great salience.

Trade and Economy & Infrastructure development

  • Tremendous complementarity in economy for India-Japan ties.
    • India is the largest recipient of Japanese foreign aid. Japanese have also made record investment in private equity and venture capital in India.
    • Both Japan and India must aspire for two-way trade of $100 billion, annual investment by Japan in India of $25 billion and at least 100 joint manufacturing/research and development centres on a global scale within the next ten years.
    • The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement i.e. CEPA (2011) between India and Japan and is one of the most comprehensive agreements concluded by India.
  • The SCRI(Supply Chain Resilience Initiative),formally launched by the trade ministers of India,Japan and Australia aims to counter China’s dominance of supply chain in the Indo Pacific region.

  • Infrastructure sector:
    • Bullet Train project – ₹ 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) HSR (bullet train) project. Of this 81 % is through soft loan from Japan.
    • Delhi Metro rail, Next phase of Mumbai subway – funded by JICA.
    • Japan is working on developing 12 Industrial townships called Japan Industrial Townships (JITs) which will operate like Little Japan with all the infrastructure to support the operations of Japanese companies.
    • Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).
    • Chennai Bangalore Industrial corridor (CBIC), also a dedicated freight project in southern India. 
    • In Smart City Mission: Chennai, Ahmedabad and Varanasi; to turn them into a ‘smart city’ with help from Kyoto.

Connectivity – Prospects for India-Japan cooperation 

  • There is a congruence in India’s “Act East Policy” and Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” and “Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure (PQI)


  • For Shinzo Abe, who first discussed the idea of a quad a little over a decade ago, the four-nation forum is, in essence, a coalition of “maritime democracies”. Abe argued that the maritime democracies have a stake in securing a rules-based global order, liberal trading system and freedom of navigation.
  • With the US Japan Summit helping the transition of Quad from a security dialogue to multifaceted cooperation,India will do well to actively participate in the initiative.
What to expect in the upcoming India-Japan meet?
  • 1) Continuation of balancing security policy
    • One can expect a continuation of the balancing security policy against China that began in 2014.
    • Crucially, India’s clashes with China in Galwan have turned public opinion in favour of a more confrontational China policy.
    • In just a decade, New Delhi and Tokyo have expanded high-level ministerial and bureaucratic contacts, conducted joint military exercises and concluded military pacts such as the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) logistics agreement.
    • Both countries need to affirm support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and continued willingness to work with the Quad.
  • 2) Expanding cooperation in various sectors
    • The two powers will look to expand cooperation in sectors such as cybersecurity and emerging technologies.
    • Digital research and innovation partnership in technologies from AI and 5G to the Internet of Things and space research has increased between the two countries in the recent past.
    • Issues of India’s insistence on data localisation and reluctance to accede to global cybersecurity agreements such as the Budapest Convention may be discussed in the summit.
  • 3) Economic ties
    • Though Japan has poured in around $34 billion in investments into the Indian economy, Japan is only India’s 12th largest trading partner.
    • Trade volumes between the two stand at just a fifth of the value of India-China bilateral trade.
    • While India can emerge as a large market for Japanese infrastructure system exports (one of the core components of Abenomics), there have been incredible delays in the commencement of the projects. While there is the shining example of the Delhi Metro Rail, the delays with DMIC, CBIC are disappointing.
    • India-Japan summit will likely reaffirm Japan’s support for key manufacturing initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and the Japan Industrial Townships.
    • Further, India will be keen to secure continued infrastructure investments in the strategically vital connectivity projects currently under way in the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • 4) Joint strategy toward key third countries
    • In years past, India and Japan have collaborated to build infrastructure in Iran and Africa.
    • Both countries have provided vital aid to Myanmar and Sri Lanka and hammer out a common Association of Southeast Asian Nations outreach policy in an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in these corners of the globe.
    • However, unlike previous summits, the time has come for India and Japan to take a hard look at reports suggesting that joint infrastructure projects in Africa and Iran have stalled with substantial cost overruns.
    •  Tokyo will also likely try to get New Delhi to reverse its decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Way forward

That Japan was the only nation to extend public support to India during the Doklam confrontation with China is symbolic of the extraordinary transformation of relations between the two Asian powers over the last few years.She also backed India during the Galwan valley clashes saying it opposes any “unilateral attempt to change the status quo” on the Line of Actual Control(LAC).Rise of China and uncertainty over America’s role in Asia has brought Japan and India closer. Modi and Suga should overcome the bureaucratic inertia that limits the relationship’s possibilities and realise Shinzo Abe’s dream of a “broader Asia”, linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans to form the Indo-Pacific.

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