This essay is a part of a series of Articles on International Relations by Nayantara D. You can check for her future International Relations Articles by visiting : http://forumias.com/portal/IR
THE STORY OF INDO-JAPAN RELATIONS[caption id="attachment_18254" align="alignleft" width="326"] IFS Officer Nayantara D with Honourable Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. She is currently serving as the Third Secreatry, Embassy of Seoul.[/caption] In the context of 21st Century, among all the bilateral relations, Indo-Japan relations have all the potential to transcend this era into an 'Asian century'. This relationship, which incorporates no dispute- ideological, cultural or territorial, was embarked upon in 6th century A.D. when Bhuddhism was introduced in Japan. Direct exchange in modern times commenced only in Maiji era (1868-1912), when Japan set off the process of modernization. Japanese support and assistance to Netaji and INA continue to persist in popular imagination. Although diplomatic relations between two countries were established in 1952, it was only in august 2000 when Japanese PM Yoshiro Mori and his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpeyi set in motion 'Global partnership in 21st century'. Commonalities such as shared democratic values, commitment to human rights, pluralism, open society and rule of law are foundation blocks of this global partnership.
Complementarities: Why are both important to each otherVaried factors have supported momentum of this partnership viz. India's economic resurgence, its engagement with USA and its increasing interest and stakes in East Asia in the form of Look East Policy in 1992 and Act East Asia Policy in 2015. On similar lines, for Japan, India has emerged as an alternative economic partner and important constituent of Asia's emerging security order. A transition of power is unfolding in Asian continent and the shape and substance of Indo-Japan relationship is one of its spin-off. Notwithstanding, strengthening of the Indo-Japan relations is not the only consequence of rise of china and USA's shifting of regional policy in the form of "Rebalancing of Asia". Factors like domestic perception of the alliance partner, which is amicable, have stimulated this relationship. Japanese perception of India has also been molded by the dissenting opinion of Radha Binod Pal- the Indian judge at famous Tokyo trials - who declined to convict Japan's top military brass as war criminal proving that Japan's imperial history has been discounted by Indian consciousness. In addition to this, personal bonding between Japanese PM and his Indian counterpart, who are leading single party majority government in respective countries, is a class by itself.
Cooperation in Various Domains: Strategic cooperationIncrement in china's military expenditure was almost one and half times bigger in 2014 than defense outlay in 2010. This expansion is a cause of concern for both countries, since both countries are engaged in negotiation with China over Arunachal Pradesh (India) and Shenkaku Island (Japan). New Delhi and Tokyo are apt to hedge against USA's possible failure in containing china's growing assertiveness in the region in the backdrop of this era of power transition. This hedging strategy can be analyzed in three main categories-
- Firstly, increasing bilateral defence partnership against fear of American retrenchment,
- Secondly, economic engagement against an over-dependence on china and
- Finally, multilateral hedge against China's rising influence in international and regional institutions.
Defence CooperationIn the sphere of defence, in 2009, 2+2 dialogue (foreign and defence ministerial) were initiated. India has always supported freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters in sync with UNCLOS vis-à-vis South China Sea dispute and East China Sea issue. India invited Japanese navy to participate in annual Malabar exercise in 2014 with USA in pacific waters, reviving an earlier practice of joint India-USA-Japan trilateral exercise. Negotiations on possible trade in defence equipments from Japan, as per Tokyo deceleration, are in the pipeline. Indian interest is in Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft for surveillance purpose in the Indian Ocean is high. If this deal is realized then it will signify for the first time Japanese export of defence goods and technology since World War II.
Can we collaborate in Defence?Collaborative projects in defence equipment and technology is under consideration. Tokyo has lifted ban on six Indian firms involved in defence R&D blacklisted after 1998 nuclear test, commencing towards transfer of Japanese military technology. Tokyo declaration of 2014 underscores the significance of strategic cooperation between two of Asia’s largest maritime democracies and castigates states indulging in expansionist policies in the region. In 2010 china accounted for 28% of total military spending in Asia. Its share has increased to 38% by 2014. Its DF-21d anti-ship ballistic missile is capable of targeting the entire South China Sea, Malacca Strait, most of Bay of Bengal and parts of Arabian Sea. After south Korea and USA jointly announced they would deploy USA Missile Defence System Terminal High Altitude Area Defence(THAAD) in South Korea in 2016 in order to devise a fitting line of regional deterrence , Japan is rushing forward to do the same. These strategic maneuvers dictate steps in the direction of balance of power in Asian continent, which is tilting in favor of China.
Change in Article 9Japan has revised Article 9 of its Constitution to allow Japan’s self-defence forces to act more like a conventional army. The clause forbids Japan from using force to settle international disputes and restricts its land, air and naval forces to a strictly defensive role. Japan has scrapped the article to reform its pacifist, post-WW-II constitution to develop its military for collective self defence. Balance of military power and ever accentuating territorial and recourse nationalism in Asia has paved intensification of strategic cooperation between India and Japan. Although Japan controls Senkaku island, its sovereignty has been aggressively contested by China, as is evident in Beijing’s decision to establish an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the Eastern Asia in Nov. 2013.
China's AggressivenessChinese revisionism is also evident in South China Sea (SCS) where Beijing claims ownership over "Nine Dash Line" which if established by force, would entail that almost all of the SCS will be the exclusive economic zone of China. SCS is endowed with fossil fuels and vital for merchant and international free navigation given the fact that 71% international cargo passes through this region. Hague Arbitration Tribunal in Phillipines V/S China case in 2016 rejected China's claim Of Nine Dash Line and the historic rights of Middle Kingdom off the hand. But China does not subscribe to UNCLOS, adding to tensions in the region. On the Himalayan side, transgressions in Demchok, Ladakh, Chumar and Depsang areas tell a story of territorial hunger of China. Although India-China relations look normal but distrust lingers deep within, which is a fallout of 4000 km. long Himalayan border dispute resulting from 1962 war. Indian side has suspicion for huge investment sponsored by china in developing port and deep underwater ports (which can be used for military purpose) in India's neighborhood through Maritime Silk Route Project. This is owing to the fact that it resembles China's earlier policy of "String of Pearls" theory - encirclement of India through a series of ports in different maritime countries in India’s neighbourhood. Development of Kyaukphu port and deep underwater port at Maday island (Arakan coast ) in Myanmar nearby North East region of India and development of Gwadhar port in Pakistan near Western India is supposed to be a part of this grand scheme. In addition to this, Great Coco Island and Little Coco Island are controlled by Myanmar. Since the early 1990s, there have been frequent reports of China using those islands for military and naval purposes but there is no certain proof of whether the islands are actually under Chinese control. Thus, Chinese presence on the Coco Islands, developing intelligence systems and other naval facilities, is unnerving for nearby India. While it is yet not certain whether the Great Coco island hosts Chinese intelligence systems, there is greater acknowledgement on the building of runways and other connectivity infrastructure on the Cocos. This represents an array of attempts by China to intrude into the Indian ocean region to surround India from all four corners.
Economic cooperationFor 2011-12 India-Japan bilateral trade stood at $18.31 billion. The comprehensive trade pact between India and Japan aims to double bilateral trade nearly to $25 billion. Japan is looking to boost trade and investment ties with India. The reasons behind this interest in India is obvious. India offers a large domestic market base. Besides, mutual synergies between businesses in the two countries are driving initiatives-
- Firstly, Japan’s ageing population (23% above 65 years) and India’s youthful dynamism (over 50% below 25 years)
- Secondly, Japan is a relatively labour scarce, capital abundant country that complements India’s rich spectrum of human capital.
- Thirdly, India’s prowess in the software sector lends synergy to Japan’s excellence in the hardware sector 4. India’s abundance of raw materials and minerals matches well with Japan’s capabilities in technology and capital to produce knowledge-intensive manufactured goods 5. India’s large domestic market has been the main factor for investments by Japanese companies.