Author: Mr. Shankar Dev
Sino-Japanese conflicts having a longer history than Indian national congress, reached its zenith during the Second Sino-Japanese War(1937-45) – in sync with WW-II. But in the later years Japan was crumbled in WW-II while China became Peoples Republic of China with its War of Liberation.
In course of time both the nations marched-past to their economic glory, where Japan surpassed in terms of economy and Innovation. The communist Chinese were no lesser aggressive in taunting the countries that sharing their borders with china. To put in the words of Vallabhai Patel “the communism in china was the extreme expression of nationalism rather than its nullification”. During 70’s a major bone of contention raised between the nations in the form of Senkaku/Diayayu/Tiaoyutai Islands. In addition, increased Chinese aggression in the south/east-china sea – which threatens the sovereignty of the small nations and ofcourse Japanese fishermen, has pushed Japan to take provocative measures against Chinese assertiveness.
In such a scenario Japan saw a Power-change last year, Japan’s security policy has taken a significant turn since the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Shinzo Abe, won the lower house election in December 2012. In the form of remarkable change government has departed from its policy of ‘appeasing’ China to preparing itself to “Use force”- which is evident from Abe’s statement in response to the information the government received about the presence of eight Chinese vessels near the Senkaku Islands. Japan’s security strategy towards China is moving away from a narrow focus on a potential military conflict around the Senkaku Islands toward a broader international context. Here the prudent Abe sets the stage ready to reap the bitter-relation of the Indian ocean countries with china. The three main pillars of Abe’s counter-china Policy are:
- Rebuilding the trust and better co-operation with US.
- Re-introduction of European powers in the security arena of Asia.
- Forming a robust strategic relation with Indian ocean countries (mainly India and Australia).
Co-operation with US and Western(European) powers :
As the first step, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and US Forces have increased their military cooperation. In June 2013 the allies held joint exercises in California, which supposedly irked China. During a meeting between Obama and Abe, Obama expressly stated that it is China that ‘increases tension around the Senkaku Islands’. It should be noted that Obama used only the Japanese name (Senkaku), not the Chinese one (Diaoyu). Apart from lubricating US relations, Abe also plans to reintroduce European powers in Asia’s security arena. Soon after assuming prime minister-ship in December 2012 Abe invited the UK and France to actively participate in Asian security and put forward the idea that Japan should join the Five Power Defence Arrangements, which at present includes Britain, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
Japan had changed its security agenda in such a way, prioritising its loyalty to the West, even at the expense of its other interests. A notable instance is Japan’s reaction to the crisis in Syria. Contrary to its earlier position, in which Japan had refrained from direct involvement in the conflict (a position prioritising the necessity to sustain fair relations with all major suppliers of oil), Tokyo decided to start direct shipments of ‘humanitarian aid’ to the Syrian opposition. In fact, this decision re-embarks the traditional style of strategic cooperation between Japan and the West — the Western countries take care of the military side while Tokyo handles the humanitarian aspect.
Consolidation of South-Asian and Australian Co-Operation :
Traditionally, Washington would be the first foreign destination for newly elected Japanese leaders, changing the tradition, newly seated Abe administration chose to prioritise visits to southern Pacific partners. In January, Abe visited Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, while propelling Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to Myanmar and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to Australia, Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore. This underscores Abe’s interests in robust “Indo-Pacific partnership”. Following it, Abe presented a path-breaking defence budget – decade’s high in terms of GDP, providing military aid to Cambodia and East Timor, and considering defence technology cooperation with strategic partners such as Australia an India.
In economic terms, while Japan–China trade has fallen from 18.4 per cent of Tokyo’s total exports in 2000 to 11.2 per cent in 2011, exports to ASEAN+6 economies have risen from 9.7 per cent to 10.9 per cent over the same period. As nationalistic protests & higher Chinese wages are threatening Japan’s interests in China – Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia are attracting a growing share of Japan’s outbound investment. The Philippines, perhaps Japan’s most like-minded Southeast Asian partner, about to receive its biggest ever security-related aid package, worth around US$12 million set to be donated to the Philippine Coast Guard, mainly to tackle Chinese aggression in its coast. To those nations, Japan projects itself as a vanguard to combat the Chinese Challenge.
Finally it comes to India :
Japan has been aggressively pursuing stronger ties with India on two main fronts: bilateral engagement and trilateral cooperation alongside the United States. On the bilateral side, Japan has successfully wooed India by suggesting it wants to resume cooperation on nuclear energy trade, huge investments in India’s tech sector and the successful ratification of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2011. To kick start with, Japan had announced US$700 million loans to support India’s Mumbai Metro Rail project.
Security cooperation is heating up too with combined anti-piracy patrols around the Horn of Africa (to tackle Somalian pirates and neutralise Chinese domination) cooperation between coast guards, shared practices on disaster management, and maritime security and cyber dialogues along with counter terrorism efforts. Japan and India also continue to have defence dialogues and have agreed in principle to a second round of joint naval exercises between the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces and the Indian navy.
In the context of Chinese threat (apart from routine border intrusions), India shares a like-mind with Japan over maritime security issues. While not a direct party to the South China Sea dispute, India has never failed to caution China on ignoring international maritime laws. In the words of Indian Defense Minister AK Antony “India has commercial interests and though it is not a party to the dispute, it believes that disputes should be settled as per UN laws”.
When things move like this, Manmohan’s recent visit has well timed and addressed important issues. The press statements issued by Indian PM give us a greater glimpse of domains that would have dominated his talks. “There is a growing congruence in our interests and I see this relationship as an essential component of our vision for enduring stability and prosperity in Asia”said Indian PM. Here the line “growing congruence in our interests” connotes the imminent threat the countries receive from china (at least in my personal view).
How China takes Delhi-Tokyo Co-operation?
It seems like China have bite off more than it can chew – tarnishing its relation with its immediate neighbours and the west as well. With its growth rate touching new nadirs (courtesy: massive state spending), galloping unemployment, glimmering human development indicators – it is having a hard time domestically and also diplomatically. The people’s daily, took a sentimental tone invoking “hindi-chini bhai-bhai” rhetoric, in an article named“Sino-Indian diplomatic miracle embarrasses Japanese politicians” it mentioned Japanese leaders as “petty burglars” who works to bring disgrace the Indo-China relation. It noted “China and India have great vision and great wisdom. As two developing countries with ancient civilizations as well as two emerging markets, joining hands and working together have strategic significance for both countries and for the world. India’s great wisdom lies in dealing with ties with China in a calm way, undisturbed by internal and international provocateurs.”
But soon it changed its tone to more aggressive and stated “India gets close to Japan at its own peril, and ties with it can only bring trouble”. Such alternative tones and anomaly, clearly brings out the China’s worry over growing Indo-Japanese co-operation and Japan’s counter measures, which Beijing views as attempt to “encircle China”.
Abe’s Democratic security diamond:
If implemented, it will be a strategic alliance of like-minded Indo-Pacific countries that share similar anxieties about China’s growing naval might. the idea of the ‘security diamond’ involves Japan, Australia, India and the US State of Hawaii to guarantee the security of sea-lanes in the Asia Pacific (if you join Japan, India, Australia & Hawaii in the map it would assume shape of the diamond), thus consolidating all the measures we saw above – would result in successful co-operation between the “diamond” ensuring sovereignty and maritime security of Indo-Pacific countries. India can use this opportunity to swiftly negotiate with china for safeguarding its interests, otherwise as seen in recent times China would enjoy an upper hand in negotiating table.