The official two-day visit by PM Kishida indicates that Japan seeks closer cooperation between the Indo-Pacific countries
A list of outcomes of the visit includes the fourth tranche of JPY 300 billion for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail and a memorandum of cooperation in the field of Japanese language education in India.The centrality of India in Kishida’s speech on the Indo-Pacific is difficult not to miss. So is the articulation of concerns arising from “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” which poses a fundamental challenge to the world of defending peace. He said his new thinking was guided by the rise of the Global South and the rise of countries like India. China was not mentioned anywhere, but in talking of his principles on the rule of the law at sea, he noted that states should make their claims within the bounds of international law and “not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims” and settle disputes peacefully. He said that as part of this, Japan would strategically use its ODA and expand this in various ways. A new framework that would also help mobilise private capital could help raise more than US $75 billion in private and public funds by 2030 for infrastructure. In his remarks at the joint press conference, Prime Minister Modi referred to the G7-G20 connect and the use India was making of Japanese ODA and the progress in the Japanese investment as part of Kishida’s 2022 commitment. He said that the two sides had exchanged views on defence equipment and technology cooperation, trade, health and digital partnership. In addition, under a 2019 India-Japan initiative, India was taking advantage of enhancing the competitiveness of the Indian industry.
Japan laid the foundations for a new set of defence and security policies for the years to come, in the process, it has taken a giant step to shed the self-imposed post-World War II constraints on its military.The developments in Europe have acted as a catalyst of sorts in pushing the Japanese decision-making. In the past year, Japan laid the foundations for a new set of defence and security policies for the years to come, in the process, it has taken a giant step to shed the self-imposed post-World War II constraints on its military. Kishida has done away with the 1 percent ceiling on defence expenditure which will now rise to the 2 percent mark and Japan will overtake India to become the third-largest defence spender after the United States (US) and China. In December, the Kishida government revised three key documents relating to its security perspective in the region. These were the new National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the Defense Buildup Program. Taken together, these are addressing new domains and challenges, including space, cybersecurity and economic security. The new NSS said that Japan was “facing the most severe and complex security environment since the end of World War II.” A major concern was that China could attempt to reunify Taiwan by force in the coming decade. Tokyo does not quite yet designate China as a “threat”, its chosen designation is “the greatest strategic challenge that Japan has ever faced.” The next month, January 2023, Kishida went to Washington to fine-tune Japan’s most important relationship—that with the US. Ahead of the visit, the two countries signed agreements to enhance their cyber-security cooperation and conducted a meeting of their Security Consultative Committee, the US-Japan version of the “2+2” dialogue involving their defence and foreign ministers. The fine-tuning provided for a more agile US marine regiment in Okinawa to look after the islands that extend towards Taiwan, US defence commitments to Japan’s space assets and agreements on defence R&D and supply chain security. But perhaps the most significant development was the sentence in the Biden-Kishida joint statement which said that not only had the alliance never been stronger but that the allies “strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion, anywhere in the world.” More than anything else, this statement marks the change in Japan’s global posture.
The fine-tuning provided for a more agile US marine regiment in Okinawa to look after the islands that extend towards Taiwan, US defence commitments to Japan’s space assets and agreements on defence R&D and supply chain security.India-Japan defence ties have been a slow-motion process. A 2010s effort to cooperate in making an amphibious aircraft in India failed, as did an effort to acquire Japanese submarine technology. But the two sides already have undertaken a maritime affairs dialogue since 2013 and participate in joint exercises. In June 2021, India and Japan signed a Reciprocal Provision of Supplies Agreement (RPSS) that would facilitate the smooth and prompt provision of supplies and services between the Japanese and Indian militaries. An earlier signal of closer Japan-India ties was the launch of their inaugural “2+2” format meeting in 2019. Earlier this year four Indian SU 30MKI multirole fighters accompanied by two IAF C-17 Globemasters and an Il-78 tanker participated in Exercise Veer Guardian at an air base near Tokyo. The exercise had been originally planned for 2020 but was postponed. Japan and India have been participating with the US and Australia in the Malabar naval exercise for a few years now. In his 2022 visit, Prime Minister Kishida had announced a target of JPY 5 trillion (INR3,20,000 crore) investment in India. In his remarks at the joint press meeting, Prime Minister Modi indicated that India was making good use of this initiative. India is the largest recipient of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA).In recent years, Japan has been focusing its development plans in India’s Northeast region by promoting development projects relating to roads, bridges, forest management, and capacity building. The two countries have also sought to promote the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. Japan and India are also part of the Trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative along with Australia.
Among the major infrastructure projects funded by Japan are the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed train project, several metro projects, and the Dedicated Freight Corridor.Japanese companies have a significant presence in India with 11 Japan Industrial Townships already functioning. Among the major infrastructure projects funded by Japan are the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed train project, several metro projects, and the Dedicated Freight Corridor. But ties between the two on the economic front are way below their potential and India has a lot of catching up to do with China. As The Economist has pointed out, China accounted for 24 percent of Japan’s imports and 22 percent of its exports, while India accounted for 0.8 percent of Japan’s imports and 1.7 of its exports. The goal of India-Japan cooperation is to stabilise the Indo-Pacific region by restraining Chinese behaviour. Geography shapes their responses differently, with Japan focusing on maritime capabilities, and India on the land. There are differences, too, in the fact that fellow Quad members Japan and Australia are formal military allies of the US, while India is not. But what is shaping the new initiatives and orientations are fears of China and in this, Japan and India provide the two key lynchpins of the free and open Indo-Pacific.
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Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...Read More +