India Japan Relationship – Explained, pointwise

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The 2+2 Ministerial Meeting between Defence and External Affairs Ministers of India and Japan was recently held in Tokyo, Japan. In the Joint Statement issued after the meeting, both India and Japan acknowledged the need of global cooperation to address acute security challenges and reaffirmed their commitment to a rules-based global order that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations. In recent years, the India Japan relationship has steadily expanded and deepened. Both India and Japan share a global vision of peace, stability and prosperity, based on sustainable development. They also share democratic values and commitment to human rights, pluralism, open society, and the rule of law underpin the global partnership between the two countries.

How has the India Japan Relationship evolved?

India and Japan share a historical close relationship that has existed since ancient times. The exchange is said to have begun in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Indian culture, through the influence of Buddhism, has had a profound impact on Japanese culture. Throughout the various phases of history since contacts began, the two countries have never been adversaries.

After World War II, India and Japan signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations in April, 1952. This treaty was one of the first peace treaties Japan signed after World War II. India Japan relationship has traditionally been strong particularly so since the beginning of India’s “Look East” policy in the 1990s. Japan was among the few countries that bailed India out of the balance of payment crisis.

The India Japan relationship was elevated to ‘Global and Strategic Partnership‘ in 2006. Strong bilateral trade and aid relations have expanded toward security-based relations. The relationship has been pursued with a new vigour since the visit by the Japanese Emperor and Empress in 2013 and the PM Shinzo Abe in January 2014. The relationship was further elevated to ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership‘ in September 2014.

Both India and Japan are looking to increase their presence in the Asia-Pacific, alongside the United States. Concerns regarding China’s intentions in the region have led to strengthened trilateral cooperation, but none of these countries wish to threaten China with the developing partnership. Rather, policy and security coordination between these three countries can benefit the entire Asia-Pacific region.

What is the current status of India Japan Relationship?
Strategic and Defence Cooperation

The Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between India and Japan was issued in October 2008. There are also various frameworks of security and defense dialogue between Japan and India including Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (‘2+2’ meeting), annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue and Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard dialogue. The first ‘2+2’ meeting was held in November 2019.

In September 2020, the Agreement concerning Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services (RPSS) between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Indian Armed Forces was signed (‘Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement‘ or ACSA). ACSA enables mutual logistics support, including accommodation and food, during joint exercises and training. India is one of 5 countries with which Japan has an ACSA, along with Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. ACSA has enabled increased maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indian and Japanese forces regularly hold joint exercises like Shinyuu Maitri (Air Force), Dharma Guardian (Army), JIMEX (Navy), Sahyog-Kaijin (Coast Guard) and Malabar (Navy, multilateral).

Both India and Japan support each other’s candidature for permanent membership in UN Security Council’s expansion. Japan supported India’s inclusion to Missile Technology Control Regime and India joined the group in 2016. Strategic and Defence cooperation is a key dimension of India Japan relationship.


India and Japan signed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2011. The economic cooperation has made a rapid progress since 2014. Japan is regarded as a key partner in India’s economic transformation. Japan’s interest in India is increasing due to reasons like India’s large and growing market and its resources. India Japan bilateral trade stood at US$ 13.7 billion in 2020, with Indian exports worth US$ 4.3 billion and imports worth US$ 9.4 billion. India’s primary exports to Japan have been petroleum products, chemicals, non-metallic mineral ware, fish & fish preparations, metalliferous ores & scrap, clothing & accessories, iron & steel products, and machinery etc. India’s primary imports from Japan are machinery, electrical machinery, iron and steel products, plastic materials, non-ferrous metals, parts of motor vehicles, organic chemicals, manufactures of metals, etc.

Investments and Development Assistance

Between 2000-2019, Japan has invested ~US$ 32 billion. It now ranks 3rd among major investors in India. Japanese FDI into India has mainly been in automobile, electrical equipment, telecommunications, chemical, financial (insurance) and pharmaceutical sectors.

Japan is the largest bilateral donor for India. Japanese ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) supports India’s efforts for accelerated economic development particularly in priority areas like power, transportation, environmental projects and projects related to basic human needs. Several high-profile infrastructure projects crucial for India’s economic transformation like the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor with 12 industrial townships, the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC) are being supported by Japanese assistance.

Digital Partnerships and Start-ups

India-Japan Digital Partnership‘ (I-JDP) was launched in October 2018. In May 2018, both countries signed the Joint Statement on Japan-India Startup Initiative setting up the first Startup Hub in Bangalore. Collaboration in start-ups has emerged as a vibrant aspect under this Partnership. Till date Indian start-ups have raised more than US$ 10 billion from Japanese Venture Capitalists (Softbank being the largest investor).

Science and Technology

The bilateral Science & Technology Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1985 and it underpins the bilateral S&T cooperation. The India-Japan Science Council (IJSC) was established in 1993. It has so far supported 250 joint projects. Several Institutional Agreements/ MoUs in the areas of life sciences, material sciences, high energy physics, ICT, biotechnology, healthcare, methane hydrate, robotics, alternative sources of energy, earth sciences, outer space etc. have been signed between the science agencies of both countries. The India-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy came into force in 2017.

Both countries also have cooperation in the field of ICT, in areas such as 5G, telecom security, submarine fibre optic cables, smart-city technologies etc.

Technology cooperation has also increased through the Quad and provided a new dimension to India Japan relationship. Quad has established a critical and emerging technology working group, focused on technology principles, standards development, telecommunications, monitoring of technology trends, and critical technology supply chains.

Skill Development

An MoC was signed in 2016 to train 30,000 shop floor leaders. Japanese companies have established 12 Japan India Institute of Manufacturing (JIM) in India and 4 Japanese Endowed Courses (JEC) in Indian Engineering Colleges. An MoC has also been signed on Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP).

Other Areas of Cooperation in India Japan Relationship

What are the issues limiting India Japan Relationship?

First, Japan has a strained relationship with Russia. India continues to pursue its strategy of ‘multi-alignment’ and ‘strategic autonomy’, balancing relations between the West and Russia. India remains heavily reliant on Moscow for the support of key capabilities in its armed forces. By contrast, Japan’s interest lies in taking a united position against Russia to defend the rules-based order.

The response of India and Japan to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine is also in stark contrast. Japan also objected to Russia’s holding of maritime component of Vostok-2022 exercises near Kuril Islands. India has participated in Vostok exercises.

Second, despite expansion in economic ties, the trade between India and Japan is limited and far below potential. Japan barely makes to India’s top 15 trading partners. India-Japan bilateral trade is less than one-fifth of India-China trade.

Third, on multiple global issues (especially issues related to developing vs developed nations gap) India and Japan end up on opposite sides. These include trade related aspects at the WTO like India’s tariff structure on imports.

Fourth, The Asia Africa Growth corridor has not achieved much so far. The joint infrastructure projects in Africa has remained limited in outcomes. Similarly, Japanese companies face considerable logistics challenges in their projects in India.

What steps can be taken to further deepen India Japan Relationship?

First, The governments of both countries should work together to remove bottlenecks hampering bilateral trade. Facilitating trade will help achieve its full potential. Trade can be the most potent pillar of India Japan relationship. As of now India-Japan trade is ~5% of Japan-China trade.

Second, despite their differences on Ukraine issue, India and Japan must work together and effectively promote peace in the region. This will require continued exchanges, clear communication, skilful diplomacy and unwavering political will from both partner states with a dedicated focus on building trust.

Third, Both the countries can work on strengthening industrial competitiveness which would also help building supply chain resilience. Moreover, Japan can support India’s quest to become a global semi-conductor chip manufacturing hub.

Fourth, Japan should look at more ways to accept specified skilled workers from India and help boost the digitalisation process in Japan by using the Indian IT Professionals

Fifth, there is a need to expand the partnership in the domain of Science and Technology like establishing a safe and reliable 5G network, building better space technology, renewable energy and green energy solutions (including green hydrogen), blockchain, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) technologies.

Sixth, the cooperation in the field of infrastructure can be extended to cooperate more in India’s Northeast region. Japan can support development of India’s connectivity projects with the South East Asian nations. They should also work on building greater interconnectivity among ports in India, Japan and other friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific region. This will add a new multilateral dimension in India Japan relationship.


India and Japan are great democracies and aim at the ideals of a value-based order. The need to form the rules-based order was needed to tackle Chinese assertiveness and expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region. Further, India and Japan aim to form a new security architecture which mainly covers maritime security and cooperation. Therefore the deepening of India Japan relationship is not only important for the two countries, but also for the Indo-Pacific region and will encourage peace, prosperity and stability for the world. It is time to consolidate this shared heritage and to cooperate for a better and more prosperous tomorrow .

Syllabus: GS II, India and its neighbourhood relations

Source: Indian Express, Ministry of External Affairs, ORF, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan,

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