Author: V.K. Dadhich
Two countries, whose history and culture is interwoven since the ascent of civilizations, are now the cynosure of world politics. Increasing ‘friendship’ between the most prosperous democracy in Asia and the largest democracy in the world holds much pertinence. India-Japan ties have indeed come a long way since Indian independence.
The Basics: India-Japan Relations
The relationship between India and Japan has proliferated many times over from where it started. But even before independence, Japan-India Association (created in 1903) which is now the oldest existing friendship body in Japan, boasted of the friendship between a colony and an imperial power. Post-independence, there were a few hiccups in IND-JPN relations owing to India’s NAM. In 1980s, a fresh impetus was given by the Gandhi government when Suzuki set its foot on the Indian automobile industry. After the nuclear tests in 1998 (Pokaran Tests), it seemed as if IND-JPN ties had frozen.
In 2001, when Japanese delegates visited India post Parliamentary attacks, it became evident that all was not over. 2007 was declared as “India-Japan friendship year”. Soon, India and Japan signed CEPA in 2011. In 2013, Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited India. Though India and Japan are yet to sign the coveted Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (due to India’s reluctance to sign CTBT), things seem to be on fast track after Indian PM Modi visited his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. *such is the friendship between Shinzo and Modi that Modi is the only PM he follows on twitter (not even Obama!)*
On the economic front, post CEPA and FDI easing, bilateral trade has crossed $18.61bn mark. Japan has been helping India’s development with Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), CBIC (Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor) and DMIC (Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor). India exports natural resources, human capital while Japan provides cutting edge technology and funding for projects. It is interesting to note that 23% of Japanese population is above 65 years while over 50% of India’s population is below 25 years.
Strategically, India is one of the few countries with whom it has summit level annual talks. Back in 2007, Shinzo Abe proposed a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (IND-JPN-AUS-USA). The only hurdle in this quadrilateral dialogue was IND-AUS relations, which has received renewed impetus with Indian PM successfully signing civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia and more. During Modi’s Japan visit, he announced “Special Strategic Global Partnership” with Japan.
In 2014 Modi’s visit to Japan, co-operation in the fields of heritage conservation, city modernization, smart cities, cultural interactions, and investment were assured. An announcement of Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership was made, and Japan pledged to invest $35bn over 5 years and would focus on infrastructure, skill development, and energy via public and private mode.
Amid this, the Tokyo Declaration was made.
“Meeting in Tokyo on 1 September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to realize the full potential of India – Japan Strategic and Global Partnership for continuing progress and prosperity for their people and for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world. Elevating the relationship to a Special Strategic and Global Partnership, they called their meeting the dawn of a new era in India – Japan relations”
The above paragraph sums up the essence of Tokyo Declaration. The declaration was a summary of the agreements made between India and Japan during Modi’s visit, and underscored the importance of India-Japan relations across all areas.
On the strategic field, Japan’s participation in India-US Malabar Naval exercises was lauded, and cooperation was sought in joint exercises between Indian and Japanese Coast Guard. Also, India pursued Japan to cooperate over the acquisition of US-2 Amphibian Aircraft and its technology. As mentioned, talks were accelerated over IND-JPN civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Both countries vouched for the tabling and signing of “Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism” in the United Nations, and they strengthened their voice over the expansion off the permanent membership of UNSC.
India and Japan sought for increased cooperation in East Asian Summit and underscored the importance of IND-JPN annual summit level talks. PM Modi invited Shinzo Abe to India for 2015 annual summit talks. Incidentally, Japan was one of the first countries after India’s immediate neighborhoods where Modi visited as the PM of India. Japan pushed for official trilateral level dialogue between India, Japan and USA. Also, a target was set to double Japanese FDI in India over 5 years, and the 2 Prime Ministers looked forward to the reports of the Joint Feasibility Study on High Speed Railway System on Ahmedabad-Mumbai route (Shinkansen technology). They renewed their commitment over RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and sought to make RCEP a “modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement”.
Japan affirmed its commitment to work together for India to become a full member in NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, with an aim of strengthening international non-proliferation efforts. Additionally, India’s membership in these groups will end India’s worries to procure nuclear fuel for its nuclear energy reactors.
All in all, though strategic experts were expecting India to conclude the civil nuclear cooperation agreement (which did not materialize), the recent visit by Indian PM was indeed a watershed moment for India-Japan relations. This is one bilateral relationship to closely watch.