Author : Harsh V. Pant

Originally Published 2017-09-15 05:16:59 Published on Sep 15, 2017
China’s belligerence has cemented India-Japan relationship

India-Japan relationship has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years and Modi-Abe camaraderie has taken this relationship to a new high. This was reflected in Modi’s comments when he remarked that “a good friend is timeless and sees no borders. Japan has shown it is this kind of a friend. We are able to get this project off the ground so quickly and the credit for that goes to Abe, he took a personal interest in it to ensure there are no delays or difficulties.”

Abe always had a special place for India in his vision of the emerging order in the Asia-Pacific. Much before anyone else, he could foresee the need to view the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a cohesive unit. In Modi he has found a kindred spirit. Both have a vision for the region in which the Indo-Japanese relationship plays a central stabilising role.

Abe’s visit has seen the relationship moving in areas including academia, research, capacity-building, skills upgrade, science and technology and people-to- people exchanges.


In their joint statement, the two nations called on Pakistan to bring to justice perpetrators of terror attacks including 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot attacks. They have decided to convene 5th Japan-India consultation on terrorism and to strengthen cooperation against terrorists threats from groups including Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and their affiliates. Defence cooperation is also now moving beyond the maritime sphere to include the Army and the Air Force of the two nations.

Regional security situation has been worsening in recent years in the Indo-Pacific. China’s rapid rise has been causing anxieties in regional capital. Japan has been sparring with China in the East China Sea while India was recently engaged in a long stand-off with China on the Doklam Plateau. China’s aggressive foreign policy is making it imperative for regional powers to collaborate and cooperate. Malabar exercises which have taken a trilateral route have become central to how India and Japan view the management of regional security issues. There are growing questions about the Trump administration’s reliability as the guarantor of regional stability. North Korea’s nuclear tests have made the regional security environment extremely precarious for Japan in particular.

India and Japan are, therefore, trying to build a broader coalition of like-minded countries with the US and Australia to manage the unfolding strategic realities in the broader Indo-Pacific.


Abe had articulated a need for such a security architecture way back in 2012 when he had suggested: “a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US state of Hawaii form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific.”

It is this security diamond, which China’s belligerence is giving shape to, that has brought the four countries closer. This was reflected in the Abe-Modi joint statement which “welcomed the renewed momentum for trilateral cooperation with the US and Australia” in order to “ensure a rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.” China had taken strong exception when such formulations had first emerged in the form of a democratic quad. But by relentlessly pursing an expansionist agenda, Beijing has made it impossible for India and Japan to ignore such mechanisms. This time too, its reaction was predictable with its foreign affairs spokesperson underlining that “regional countries should stand for dialogue without confrontation and work for a partnership instead of an alliance.”

But Abe’s latest visit to India has once again made it clear that India and Japan are intent on taking their relationship to a new level as the two are completely in sync on bilateral, regional and global issues. China is only one factor shaping the relationship. It is the larger convergence between New Delhi and Tokyo that will shape the emerging strategic realities in the Indo-Pacific.

This commentary originally appeared in DNA India

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Harsh V. Pant

Harsh V. Pant

Professor Harsh V. Pant is Vice President – Studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. He is a Professor of International Relations ...

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