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Shinzo Abe’s Visit: SYMBOLISING STRONGER TIES, By Prof Arvind Kumar, 29 Jan, 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 29 January 2014

Shinzo Abe’s Visit


By Prof Arvind Kumar

(Dept of Geopolitics & Intl Relations, Manipal Univ)


The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebration symbolizes a number of things, including strengthening bilateral ties in every sphere with India. At the same time it has also raised a debate and discussion among the members of the strategic and academic community about the larger fundamental goals of both India and Japan. In fact, there is a dominant debate on the question relating to the rationale for Japan for becoming keen in forging closer and friendly ties with India.


It must be emphasized here that for the past one decade both Tokyo and New Delhi have been making a modest attempt in strengthening cooperation. The recognition of India by a number of countries, including Japan and its potential future especially in the context of its economic growth and stability has brought it on the radar screen of key policy makers in Tokyo in particular. There seems to be a very consistent and serious effort made by both India and Japan in understanding each other better. It is being envisaged that the bilateral relations is bound to   see a transformation in each others’ approaches and guarantee peace, stability and prosperity in Asia.


The relatively new bonhomie in India-Japan relations will also help in building a new and distinct architecture for closer regional cooperation in Asia. However, there seems to be many challenges to strategic convergences on a number of pertinent important areas, including environment, energy, disarmament, non-proliferation and the issues impacting the Indo-Pacific region.


Further, there are clear signs to prove that both the nations have a willingness to find their space for collaboration and establish a framework where the existing bilateral divergences can be bridged. The dynamic growth of the bilateral understanding between India and Japan is being reflected in the number of high-level exchanges that have been taking place and continuing at regular intervals.


The very fact that Shinzo Abe accepted new Delhi’s invitation to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebration shows a seriousness on the part of Japan to evolve a working and constructive relationships on the areas spanning nuclear, high technology and strategic. It was Abe’s second visit to India, which saw remarkable changes since his last visit for his Prime Ministerial summit at the bilateral level in 2007.


Undoubtedly, the annual summits between the Prime Ministers of both the countries, taking place since 2006 have truly contributed in dispelling their misunderstandings. This is amply obvious from the progress made since the signing of the Joint Statement in 2006 on “Towards India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership”. An upward trajectory in the relationship is there for all to see. The roadmap for new dimensions to the strategic and global partnership between India and Japan as a part of Joint Statement was signed in 2007 during his first visit. An understanding was also reached on the “Enhancement of Cooperation on Environmental Protection and Energy Security”. However, the views and modalities of the functioning of such understanding have still not reconciled with the growing perceptions and misperceptions.


On civil nuclear cooperation front, it is unfortunate that Japan still has not understood the fact that despite India being a non-signatory to the nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT), it has followed all the provisions of NPT guidelines more than many signatories to the NPT. Japan needs to understand this and pursue negotiations on the probable India-Japan civil nuclear pact. It needs to gain momentum and culminate into strong cooperation in the foreseeable future. There should be a consistency between rhetoric and action.


On advanced technologies area, there seems to be not even a beginning but there is a debate going on. Japan has not shown any sign of helping share the fundamental research. Sadly, the high-technology cooperation at the bilateral level remains a myth. But, India aspires to enhance and intensify its cooperation.


Prime Minister Abe stressed on the fact that India and Japan had agreed to have a dialogue between the newly-established National Security Council of Japan and its Indian counterpart and spoke of the possibility of stepping up cooperation in maritime security. Japan’s participation in the Malabar exercise along with the United States will be appreciated by India in addressing to the needs of maritime security. India and Japan have been holding joint naval exercises since 2012.

Both Abe and Manmohan Singh expressed their commitment to boost strategic and political ties. The emerging Indo-Japan friendship has also sent a signal to China that both the nations can build a counterbalance to Beijing. The commitment on both sides to have closer strategic ties comes as Japan and China dispute ownership of islands in the East China Sea. There are also growing concerns that China wants to control vital shipping lanes. India and Japan also shared similar concerns on China’s declaration of ADIZ.


India has been the largest recipient of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA). The Japanese Prime Minister announced a $2 billion loan for expansion of the Delhi Metro, and promised more investment in other infrastructure projects, a critical need for India. It was seen again as an attempt to bring India closer to Tokyo and help build consensus on regional security architecture.


Both India and Japan need to promote their interest together so that they can assume responsibilities in leading the affairs of the much-debated Indo-Pacific region. The identification of common interest in dealing with the emerging geopolitical challenges would be given a priority. The volume of trade between India and Japan needs to be augmented, as it is certainly below the satisfactory mark. In the current context, India-Japan bilateral trade is less than $ 20 billion. The export-import ratio also requires to be intensified from both sides.


If Japan is really interested in evolving a meaningful relation with India then it needs to be proactive in its strategy. Japan shall start sharing its fundamental research with India, which ultimately would boost India’s research and development in the defence sector. Japan shall also evolve a strategy towards India, which would be independent and not get influenced by the United States.

Abe’s visit to New Delhi follows a series of other high-level visits. The Japanese Emperor and Empress visited India last December and the Japanese Defence Minister earlier this January. Such visits have indeed signaled to the rest of the world the growing willingness from both sides on creating a positive atmosphere for a modest strategic partnership.---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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