Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Feb 27, 2020
The increasing geopolitical convergence between India and Japan demonstrates traditional strength, deepening trust, matured partnership and strong democratic values in addressing strategic challenges
India-Japan Strategic Cooperation: Impacting Indo-Pacific The dimensions of India-Japan relations have transformed in recent years into a robust and matured partnership based on convergence in their strategic geopolitical and security concerns regionally and beyond. The upcoming 14th India-Japan Annual Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe under the framework of “Special Strategic and Global Partnership,” is expected to further intensify cooperation on an entire gamut of strategic issues that are of mutual concerns. Expectations are ripe that the ensuing summit will bolster defence cooperation while tackling regional security issues in conjunction with enhancing economic and trade relations to its true potential. Modi and Abe are particularly expected to deliberate on exploring ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific for ensuring regional stability and boosting strategic ties in the co-development of military and technology hardware facilities. Apart from reviewing progress on the decisions made in the 13th annual summit held in 2018 and subsequent meetings in 2019, the 14th annual summit is all set for effecting major breakthroughs in enhancing bilateral defence production, intelligence sharing and strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific maritime corridor that interfaces security and trade concerns of both New Delhi and Tokyo. The choice of Guwahati as preferred venue for the upcoming summit is symbolic that reiterates India’s high priority to project the country’s North-East as the gateway to the wider dimensions of strategic “Act East Policy” wherein Japan is a key partner in expanding New Delhi-Tokyo ties towards shared economic growth and prosperity in greater Indian Ocean region with special focus on maintaining peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific. To meet such objective New Delhi even unveiled its “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” in November 2019, which envisages Tokyo as a pivotal partner. India and Japan’s initiatives for realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, including also the recent Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, all strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is inclusive and open to all countries in the region”  Continuing the trend the upcoming summit is going to enormously boost economic ties with massive investment of Japan in India’s manufacturing sector along with technology sharing consistent with “Make in India” initiative. Simultaneously, North-East as a probable location for the 14th annual summit reflects Japan's growing engagement in that part of India as focal point of connectivity with immediate investment of about Rs. 13,000 crores towards infrastructure and manufacturing projects, that is also consistent with “India-Japan Act East Forum” instituted during the 13th summit. Strategically, North-East also symbolizes New Delhi and Tokyo’s united stand against China’s controversial One Belt-One Road initiative that India unilaterally had rejected earlier, thereby indicating that the two countries are determined to play pivotal role in shaping regional geopolitics in accordance with the Vision Statement of the 13th summit. The Indo-Pacific maritime domain has been at the forefront of deliberations between PM Modi and PM Abe during the 13th Annual Summit followed by four successive meetings of the two leaders in 2019 on the sidelines of various international fora, apart from instituting maiden India-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial meeting in November 2019. Keeping the high stakes in perspective the 13th annual summit in its vision statement reiterated “unwavering commitment” between India and Japan “to working together towards a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Modi and Abe specified that enhanced synergy would be embodiment for collaborative projects between India and Japan in the Indo-Pacific region. During the 13th summit the two leaders also recognized urgency to accelerate maritime security cooperation, high frequency of bilateral naval exercises and deepening level of the Malabar exercises coupled with expanding maritime domain awareness (MDA) in the Indo-Pacific region. Tracking similar roadmap the upcoming 14th annual summit aims at boosting the ongoing strategic approach encompassing enhanced defence, security, technological and economic cooperation with concrete action framework for peaceful Indo-Pacific maritime corridor. The ensuing summit is going to enhance initiatives on New Delhi-Tokyo joint military and naval exercises on a regular basis in the Indo-Pacific and greater Indian Ocean region as prioritized by the 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting. The delicate nature of maritime security and trade perspectives of Indo-Pacific has propelled India and Japan to come closer in recent years while fostering synergy and enabling formation of symmetrical balance of power. Since both New Delhi and Tokyo depend critically on sea- borne trade for sustaining their economies while strongly committed to respecting freedom of navigation, overflight and unimpeded commerce in open seas the upcoming 14th summit is expected to reiterate united stand in resolving outstanding disputes in the Indo-Pacific and South China Sea without resorting to threats, use of force, or unilateral action. To transpire such objectives into reality the 14th summit is poised to endorse the idea of a multi-polar Indo-Pacific with no single regional power assuming a preponderant and unilateral position. As New Delhi and Tokyo recognize the profound significance of an enhanced strategic role that Japan-America-India (JAI) trilateral alliance can play in the Indo-Pacific for ensuring regional and global peace, the 14th annual summit is likely to propel the United States for its robust presence while accelerating the momentum of joint exercises in all the three wings of the defence forces encompassing JAI synergy in the Indo-Pacific and Malabar for safeguarding the extended maritime corridor. The strong personal friendship of PM Modi and Abe with President Trump can be effective in activating JAI conglomerate to its true potential while containing hostile forces in the greater Indian Ocean region. With President Trump embarking on a state visit to India in February 2020, Prime Minister Modi is most certainly going to push for a robust JAI partnership in the Indo-Pacific and Malabar, thereby facilitating India and Japan to play bigger role in concert with the U.S. for ensuring peace and stability in both regional and global geopolitical architecture.
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