Event ReportsPublished on Jun 16, 2016
The expanding horizons of India-Japan partnership

Japan’s Ambassador to India, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, articulated his views on the evolving strategic and economic partnership between India and Japan during his lecture on the “The challenges and prospects of Japan’s diplomacy in the context of India-Japan relations” at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, on June 7, 2016. The lecture attracted a large audience composed of academia, diplomats, media persons and prominent public figures.

The Director of ORF, Mr Sunjoy Joshi, moderated the session. In his opening remarks, Mr Joshi stressed the importance of the bilateral partnership as a key component in the emerging strategic and economic architecture of the Asia-Pacific region. With a strong mutual commitment to such ideals as democracy, rule of law, human rights, etc, both India and Japan are deeply interested in working towards a regional order which is open, inclusive, and rule based, he said.

Echoing Mr. Joshi’s views, the Japanese Ambassador expressed his confidence about the future directions of the India-Japan partnership which has witnessed several significant strides, especially since 2006, from ‘global partnership’ to ‘strategic and global partnership’.  In 2014, it was upgraded to a ‘special strategic and global partnership’. Following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India in December 2015, both countries signed a joint statement on ‘India-Japan Vision 2025’.

Ambassador Hiramatsu began his presentation by referring to the historic speech delivered by Japanese Prime Minister Abe in the Indian Parliament in August, 2007 on the “Confluence of the Two Seas”. Indeed that speech marked the beginning of a new thinking on the Indo-Pacific region as well as on the bilateral security cooperation. Since his return to office in 2012, Mr. Abe has taken several legislative measures to strengthen Japan’s defence. All these measures, as the Ambassador explained, are not meant to make Japan a military power, but only to enhance its own defence at a time when there are serious threats to regional peace and security. However, the Ambassador emphasised that Japan will continue to stick to its traditional policies such as commitment to the security alliance with the US, and the three non-nuclear principles. Further, use of force will be permitted only when there is a serious threat to Japan’s sovereignty.

The Ambassador then referred to the steadily growing security cooperation between India and Japan. He mentioned the Malabar naval exercises and pointed out how Japan has become a regular participant in the exercises. He also mentioned that the triangular dialogue between the US, Japan and India has been meeting since 2011 and it has now been upgraded to the ministerial level. Similarly, the broadening partnership between India, Japan and Australia is an important step to promote peace and stability in the region.

Both Japan and India see bright prospects of cooperation in the sphere of defence production and transfer of technology.  Both countries are expected to sign an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation soon. He hoped that the sale of Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft will materialise in due course.

Ambassador Hiramatsu  then turned his focus on the deepening Japanese involvement in several infrastructure projects in India like the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor, metro projects in Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed railway, setting up of several Japanese industrial townships,  etc. He also referred to the rich contributions of the Japanese ODA to several sectors of the Indian economy. Indian states are vying with each other to get the Japanese economic assistance and investment.

The Ambassador said while India strikes Japan as a young and vital emerging market, Japan has the technology that India needs in numerous sectors. On Japanese private investment, the Ambassador pointed out that it has started increasing in the last two years thanks to several measures taken by the Modi government, like the Make in India policy.

Ambassador Hiramatsu concluded his lecture on an optimistic note that the bilateral partnership will broaden and deepen in all spheres in the coming years.

In his concluding remarks, Prof. K. V. Kesavan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, hoped that the India-Japan partnership will be further consolidated following the visits to be made by India’s External Affairs Minister and Prime Minister Modi to Japan later this year.

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