Context: Strengthening the Indo-Pacific region, a concept first articulated by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was at the top of Prime Minister of India’s meeting with his Japan’s counterpart in Tokyo, where Indian Prime Minister attended Mr. Abe’s state funeral.
In this regards, let us analyse the brief bilateral relationship between the two countries.
India – Japan relations:
- The friendship between India and Japan has a long history rooted in spiritual affinity and strong cultural and civilization ties dating back to the visit of Indian monk Bodhisena in 752 AD.
- In contemporary times, among prominent Indians associated with Japan were Gautama Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, JRD Tata, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Judge Radha Binod Pal.
- In the first decade after diplomatic ties were established, several high-level exchanges took place, including the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to India in 1957.
- Japan was among the few countries that bailed India out of the balance of payment crisis in 1991.
- The Act East Forum, established in 2017, aims to provide a platform for India-Japan collaboration under the rubric of India’s “Act East Policy” and Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision”.
Economic and Commercial relations:
- Japan’s interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons including India’s large and growing market and its resources, especially the human resources.
- The India Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) came into force in August 2011.
- Japan has been extending bilateral loan and grant assistance to India since 1958, and is the largest bilateral donor for India.
- The bilateral trade between India and Japan for FY 2019-20 (April – December) totalled US$ 11.87 billion.
- India’s primary exports to Japan have been petroleum products, chemicals, elements, compounds, non-metallic mineral ware, fish & fish preparations, metalliferous ores & scrap, clothing & accessories, iron & steel products, textile yarn, fabrics, and machinery etc.
- India’s primary imports from Japan are machinery, electrical machinery, iron and steel products, plastic materials, non-ferrous metals, parts of motor vehicles, organic chemicals, manufacturers of metals, etc.
- During Prime Minister visit to Japan in October 2008, two leaders issued “the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India”.
- There are also various frameworks of security and defence dialogue between Japan and India including the “2+2” meeting, annual Defence Ministerial Dialogue and Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard dialogue.
- India and Japan defence forces organise a series of bilateral exercises namely, JIMEX, SHINYUU Maitra, and Dharma Guardian. Both countries also participate in the Malabar exercise with the USA.
- Quad alliance: Quad is an informal strategic dialogue between India, the USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
Science & Technology:
- Bilateral S&T cooperation was formalised through an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 1985.
- India-Japan Digital Partnership (IJDP) was launched in October 2018 furthering existing areas of cooperation as well as new initiatives within the scope of cooperation in S&T/ICT, focusing more on “Digital ICT Technologies”.
- Recent initiatives include the establishment of three India-Japan Joint Laboratories in the area of ICT (AI, IoT and Big Data); Initiation of the DST-JSPS Fellowship Programme for young researchers.
- India’s AYUSHMAN Bharat Programme and Japan’s ASHWIN, both sides had been consulting with each other to identify projects to build the narrative of AHWIN for AYUSHMAN Bharat.
Indian diaspora in Japan:
- In recent years, there has been a change in the composition of the Indian community with the arrival of a large number of professionals, including IT professionals and engineers working for Indian and Japanese firms as well as professionals in management, finance, education, and S&T research.
Challenges to the bilateral relations:
- The trade ties which have remained underdeveloped when compared to India’s trade ties with China.
- Both countries have border and hegemonic issues with China. So, their policy stance hinges generally on China, rather than growing comprehensively.
- Both had diverging interest with respect to economic issues like on E-commerce rules (Osaka track), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
- A challenge for government is to correct the lopsided trade and calibrate China’s market access to progress on bilateral political, territorial and water disputes, or else Beijing will fortify its leverage against India.
- Balancing between QUAD and BRICS: India is a member of groups like the BRICS, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. In addition, though New Delhi has not joined the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is a member of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank).So India has to do a balancing act between Quad and BRICS.
- Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) project: there is a great deal of scepticism on the feasibility of the AAGC itself as well as the nature of the projects embedded in it.
- India and Japan are two powerful democratic forces in Asia which are searching for more options to work and prosper jointly.
- Indo-Japan should be realistic enough to understand that in any future regional strategic scenario, because of its economic and military strength.
- Pollution is a serious issue in major Indian cities. Japanese green technologies can help India tackle this threat.
- Smooth implementation of the prestigious high speed rail project linking Ahmedabad and Mumbai will ensure credibility of India’s investment climate.
- India’s purchase of Japan’s indigenously made US-2 amphibian aircraft if successfully executed, could also contribute to India’s ‘Make in India’.
- Both countries are also engaged in discussions on the possibilities of India acquiring Japanese technology in the production of submarines and on cooperative research in areas like unmanned Ground Vehicle and Robotics.
- Indo-Japan should be realistic enough to understand that in any future regional strategic scenario, because of its economic and military strength, China will figure quite prominently so efforts should be done to keep the Indo-Pacific multipolar.
Source: The Hindu