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India & Japan:THE STRATEGIC CONVERGENCE, by Prakash Nanda,2 January 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 2 January 2010

India & Japan



By Prakash Nanda


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama launched on Tuesday last an action plan to take their security dialogue, including counter-terrorism, to the "next stage" and gave a push to a key economic pact. But a breakthrough in the critical civil nuclear area eluded them, with the visiting Japanese premier expecting India to sign the CTBT and Singh indicating that New Delhi’s decision on it would follow its ratification by the US and China.


In a nutshell then, how did the first trip of the new Japanese premier to India go? The habitual naysayer will regard the visit as below average, highlighting   Hatoyama’s cool response to New Delhi’s hope of securing civil nuclear technology from Japan. But such a view does not stand close scrutiny. Overall, the trip was a success story.


For a country, which alone has faced nuclear attacks, it is understandable why Japan is so sensitive on matters such as NPT and CTBT. But that does not distract the fact that over the past few years New Delhi and Tokyo have agreed on more issues, disagreeing only on a few. 


In fact, the most important aspect of Hatoyama’s three-day visit (December 27-29) is that it took place. Unlike the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan most of the time and had developed a clear policy of strengthening ties with India in the 21st century, Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which stunned the world with its remarkable victory in August, has focussed too much on China. In its election manifesto, India did not find a single mention.  


The DPJ and its secretary-general Ichiro Ozawa have been too sensitive to the Chinese concerns and aspirations in Asia and the rest of the world. The way Ozawa flew 645 people, including 143 DPJ members of parliament, to Beijing in five planes early this month and the manner he forced the Japanese emperor Akihito to grant an exceptional audience to Xi Jinping, China’s vice president reveal the changed foreign policy priorities of Japan under the new regime.


Naturally the Indian policy makers were worried whether the Hatoyama regime will share the vision of the LDP, which had strongly advocated for a greater role for India in the Asia-Pacific region and the proposed East-Asian Community (EAC) – something China has never appreciated. Similarly, it was being watched whether Hatoyama would continue the recent practice of the annual summit meetings between India and Japan. Since Manmohan Singh had gone to Tokyo last year, it was the turn of the Japanese counterpart to be in Delhi before the year ended.


It is heartening that on both the counts Hatoyama has dispelled Indian worries. He has kept up his appointment in New Delhi. And his foreign minister Katsuya Okada has envisaged opening EAC membership to Japan, China, South Korea, ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand, and India -- the same members as the East Asia Summit that had taken place in 2005. 


What all this indicates is that factors promoting India and Japan as global partners are becoming increasingly more relevant with each passing day, thereby ensuring that the momentum is not lost with the change of the regimes, whether in Delhi or Tokyo. Some hard facts will make this point clear.


A recent Japanese survey revealed India as the most favoured destination for long-term Japanese investment. India is regarded by 70 per cent of Japanese manufacturers as the most attractive country to do business with followed by China (67 per cent), Russia (37 per cent) and Vietnam (28 per cent). In 2008 Indo-Japan bilateral trade stood at over US$ 13 billion and was in favour of Japan with US$ 2.6 billion. This figure is expected to cross the $20-billion mark by 2010-end.  


Japan has been India's largest bilateral donor for over a decade. For the past four fiscal years, India has also been the largest recipient of Japanese ODA, overtaking China. The ODA has been and is being utilized mainly for infrastructure projects viz. power plants, transportation, environmental projects and projects related to basic human needs. In fact, the Singh-Hatoyama summit specifically focused on the infrastructural developments, particularly the proposed Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor (DFC) between Delhi and Mumbai.


In February last, the Japanese foreign ministry had conducted an opinion survey in India on the image of Japan. Its results were quite interesting. 76 per cent of the respondents perceived the current state of Japan-India relations either as being very friendly or friendly, showing that a positive image of Japan has been established. Asked about which countries are important partners for India, 48 per cent, 30 per cent and 14 per cent of respondents chose the US, Russia, and Japan, respectively. 92 per cent were positive when asked if Japan is a reliable friend of India.


The respondents perceived Japan to be a technologically-advanced, economically powerful and a peace-loving country, demonstrating that there were strong public images of Japan being the most advanced in science and technology and that it was a peaceful developed nation. 79 per cent perceived Japan’s economic assistance to India as beneficial, and 94 per cent welcomed the presence of Japanese companies in India.


But then economic relations constitute only one component, if India and Japan have to remain “global partners”. Along with economic cooperation, the other pillar of future India-Japan relations has to be “strategic convergence”. And here are some compelling facts.



India is the largest democracy in Asia and Japan the most prosperous. Both are functioning and vibrant democracies, with a social matrix which emphasizes harmony and consensus, rather than confrontation.  Both economies are market- oriented and largely complementary.  They share a common desire for peace and stability and believe that the UN should be strengthened and its decision-making apparatus made more representative. Both support a cooperative and comprehensive approach to combating international terrorism and sea-piracy 


Therefore, it was in the fitness of things that Singh and Hatoyama signed an ambitious joint declaration entitled 'New Stage of India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership', which has an action plan on security cooperation as its centrepiece. The plan based on a declaration signed in October last year, included a newly-established "2-plus-2" dialogue framework at the sub-cabinet/senior official level involving the external affairs and defence ministries.


The all-encompassing plan includes sustaining various strategic and defence mechanisms, including an annual strategic dialogue at the foreign-minister level, regular consultations between national security advisers, and regular meetings between defence ministers.


All told, India and Japan are natural allies in the Asia-Pacific region, sharing common potential threat perceptions, particularly from China (which, concurrent with her economic advancement, has embarked on a significant upgradation and modernisation of her conventional forces and nuclear arsenals) and its strategic nexus with North Korea (which is problematic for Japan) and Pakistan (problematic for India).  By themselves neither North Korea nor Pakistan had the technological capability or financial resources to afford nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. These missiles in the case of North Korea cover the Japanese heartland and Okinawa and in the case of Pakistan cover the Indian heartland.  


It is legitimate to question as to why China provided these deadly arsenals to failing states likes North Korea and Pakistan. The answer is obvious. China’s intention has been to develop strategic pressure points by proxy in South Asia against India and in North East Asia against Japan. Reason enough why India and Japan must have strategic congruence. –INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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