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Modi’s Japan Visit: CHECKMATING CHINA, By Ashok B Sharma, 3 September 2014 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 3 September 2014

Modi’s Japan Visit


By Ashok B Sharma


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-day long visit to Japan is enough signal to China that if it can afford to have an “all-weather” friendship with Pakistan in an attempt to checkmate and antagonise India, the latter can have more significant relationship with its immediate island neighbour. Modi did so by elevating the relationship between the two countries to the level of Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Adding “special” is not just a “play of words” he said but it signifies Japan’s increasing role in India’s economic development, increased political dialogue and a renewed push to defence cooperation.


More so, his utterances of “expansionist” mind-set of the 18th century still visible in the world, some countries “encroaching “ upon others, while some “entering the seas” and some “capturing the territory of a country” have perplexed the Chinese leadership, if not annoyed them. Incidentally, Modi’s remarks came when Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit India in the third week of this month.


Reacting to Modi’s utterances in Japan the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said “I want to stress that China and India are major countries. We both advocate and practice the five principles of peaceful coexistence.” But the official Chinese media accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of dividing China and India and termed the attempt as “crazy fantasy”.


India and China has a longstanding border dispute. China has occupied thousands of sq km of Indian territory in the western and eastern sector and continues to lay its claim over other parts of Indian territory. China is also in possession parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir gifted by its “all-weather” friend. This had prompted Modi to say in a recent election rally in Arunachal Pradesh (which is claimed by China as its territory), “China should shed its expansionist policy and forge bilateral ties with India for peace, progress and prosperity of both the nations.”


Modi’s words have sounded as music to Abe’s ears as China continues to claim Senkaku Islands in East China Sea. But it is noteworthy to see how Modi deals with the Chinese President Xi Jinping when he arrives here for talks. Will Modi insist upon the Johnson Line and the MacMahon Line fixed by the British as the boundary between India and China and that represented by the official map of the country? Will he try to resolve the dispute over Indian presence in South China Sea?


Modi had assured to work together with all South Asian (SAARC) countries. The participation by SAARC leaders in his swearing in ceremony was a symbolic gesture. He also wanted to reopen dialogue with Pakistan, but as the latter increased ceasefire violations at the border and talked to the Kashmiri separatists, the scheduled talks at foreign secretaries level was called off. The Modi government is of the view that the dialogue process should be on the basis of Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration with peace at the border. New Delhi, however, is of the view that the situation would improve for a dialogue.


The tilt in India’s foreign policy under Modi government is quite visible. Instead of waiting, the time is ripe for sub-regional cooperation in South Asia and then extending it to South-East Asia and East Asia. Buddha diplomacy is the trump card. Modi’s first foreign tour in South Asia was to Bhutan and then to Nepal. Japan is his first visit outside South Asia and this is the first time an Indian Prime Minister was staying in an Asian country for five days.


Budhha diplomacy also holds good for roping in many south-east Asian countries. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent visits to Singapore, Vietnam and to Myanmar for 21st ASEAN Regional Forum Meeting and 4th East Asia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting has already set the tone for Modi government’s future interaction with east Asian countries.  


The Indo-Pacific region has emerged as a point for US’ game of rebalancing in Asia. This region has become important for India to play its key role. Shortly after his return from Japan, Modi is expected to host Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot. Australia is an important player in the region and presently is the chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.


Modi has assured to strengthen defence relations with Japan. He needs to do so with South Korea also. Both New Delhi and Tokyo have agreed to take forward the India-Japan-US trilateral process to the level of foreign ministers and continue with joint naval exercises. Though the India-Japan civil nuclear deal could not get through in the recent summit talks, it is in an advanced stage of negotiations.


Similarly are the talks for cooperation in production and technology of US-2 amphibian aircraft. Japan has already removed six of India’s space and defence-related entities from its foreign end user list and is supportive of New Delhi’s membership of four international export control regimes.


On economic cooperation, Modi’s visit yielded Japan rolling out 3.5 trillion yen public and private investment and financing from Japan within a span of five years. Abe also pledged ODA loan of 50 billion yen to India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd for public-private partnership infrastructure projects in India. Cooperation between Varanasi and Kyoto was inked for the development of India’s holy city and Modi’s pet project.


Japan is a major investor in the project for revival of ancient Nalanda University. So also are other south-east Asian and east Asian countries. Development of Buddhist Tourist Circuit in India has also drawn the attention of Japan. Feasibility study on Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train with Japanese assistance is at an advanced stage.


There are over 1000 Japanese companies having their bases in India, making Japan the 4th largest investor in India. This includes iconic brands like Sony, Toyota, Hitachi and Mitsubishi. In the last 12 years, Japanese companies have invested $12.66 billion in India, accounting for 7% of total FDI inflow into the country. But bilateral trade is stagnating around $18 billion, which needs to improve.


India and Japan particularly agreed to work jointly for development of Africa. This effort would help to check the growing Chinese influence in this continent.


In sum, Modi’s visit extends hope for India to play a major strategic role in South-East Asia and East Asia and check the Chinese sinister ambition to dominate over entire the Indo-Pacific region, including South Asia, South-East Asia and East Asia.---INFA   

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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