India-Japan Ties Strengthen
Image Credit: REUTERS/B Mathur

India-Japan Ties Strengthen


It is useful to remember that way back in 2006 U.S. President George Bush and Shinzo Abe, then in his first term as Japanese prime minister, each in their own way achieved far-reaching changes in their respective ties with India. While George Bush helped end the nuclear apartheid against India, Abe unambiguously declared (in 2007) that “a strong India is in the best interest of Japan and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India.”

Since then, after the initial euphoria, India-U.S. ties have plummeted perhaps to their lowest level in the past two decades, not least because of the recent Khobragade affair. The relationship between India and Japan, on the other hand, has found new momentum in the past couple of years. It is no surprise to find that Shinzo Abe is at the helm in Tokyo again.

Abe’s visit to New Delhi as Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day Parade on January 26 will in fact cap a series of high-level visits by Japanese leaders over the past few months. This included the historic visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to India in December 2013. They were returning to the country 53 years after their 1960 trip as the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan. Their symbolic visit apart, the fact is that during the last five years, bilateral trade has increased 80 per cent; currently it is at 18 billion dollars. Although this is nowhere near the India-China bilateral trade figure, which is now inching towards 100 billion dollars, Japan and India have set a goal of $25 billion this year. It must also be remembered that in recent decades, Japan has quietly extended financial and technical support to several  infrastructure projects in India, helping to build metro railway systems and industrial corridors, dedicated freight corridors, highways, bridges and power plants.

Now the two countries are finding new avenues of cooperation. Last week Japan’s Defense Minister Itsonuri Onodera spent four days in India exploring and finalizing various ways to take the fledgling defense cooperation between New Delhi and Tokyo to the next level. Onodera and his Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said at the end of their meeting in New Delhi that India and Japan will “further consolidate and strengthen their strategic and global partnership in the defense arena through measures ranging from regular joint combat exercises and military exchanges to cooperation in anti-piracy, maritime security and counter-terrorism.”

As a first follow up India and Japan will hold their third “2 plus 2″ Dialogue and fourth Defense Policy Dialogue in New Delhi later this year, along with the third bilateral exercise between the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Indian Navy to be held in Japanese waters. Two plus two is a dialogue involving both foreign and defense ministry officials. On January 14, a small exercise involving Coast Guard ships from India and Japan was in fact held in the Arabian Sea.

Joint exercises apart, India and Japan are expanding their defense ties in other ways. For instance, the two sides will also conduct “expert exchanges” in counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief between the Indian Army and Japan Ground Self Defense Force. The possibility of conducting staff talks between Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Indian Air Force as well as professional exchanges of test-pilots, flight safety experts and others is also in the offing.

Unstated in the future road map is the aim to achieve convergence in security matters to counter an increasingly belligerent China bent on asserting itself in long-standing issues with not just India and Japan but with other smaller nations in Asia as well. New Delhi, inherently leery of becoming part of any alliance or bloc, is hoping to create enough synergy with Tokyo and other ASEAN nations to deter China. The rising profile of the Indo-Japanese relationship is certainly an outcome of the collective unease in Asia over what many think is China’s rambunctious behavior.

With tensions exacerbating in the South China Sea and East China Sea, it is natural that all those affected by a rising China would strive to build a “strategic deterrence” against the rapidly expanding PLA Navy. Further efforts to stitch together pan-Asia security architecture to keep China in check may be in the offing given that the U.S. has showed a reluctance to take China on directly, despite its much-discussed pivot or rebalance to Asia. The recent standoff over China’s decision to unilaterally enforce an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, including the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, appeared to show the limits of U.S. intervention.

In fact, Asian nations may be better off finding their own solutions to the regional disputes. Individually they may not be able to stand up to China’s bullying but together there is a chance to keep China in check. India and Japan, along with South Korea, may have to take the lead in this respect. Nothing rattles China more than other nations “ganging up” on it. It is worth recalling what happened during Exercise Malabar, 2007. Normally a bilateral naval exercise between India and U.S., that year, for the first and last time, it also involved the Singaporean, Australian and Japanese navies. Beijing, sensing an anti-China naval platform in the making, promptly issued a demarche to all five participants. Since then, Exercise Malabar has reverted to being a bilateral venture.

Those days of humoring China may now be over, at least judging by the way Abe has been reshaping Japan’s foreign and defense policies in recent months. A new document, prepared by a group of experts that Abe had appointed, has suggested Japan “strengthen its own capabilities and expand its own roles” by bolstering its antimissile defenses and its ability to defend the freedom of navigation in its surrounding seas, a reference to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute with China. As Japan beefs up its defenses against China, both New Delhi and Tokyo seem to have decided to reenergize their relationship to ensure a strategic balance in Asia. India inviting Abe as Chief Guest for the Republic Day Parade – an honor normally reserved for its closest allies – is a clear signal that Asia’s two biggest democracies may be ready to work together in containing if not confronting China in the years to come.

Nitin Gokahle is Security & Strategic Affairs Editor with Indian broadcaster NDTV.

Manpreet Goraya
January 29, 2014 at 01:40

Japan and South Korea are great examples of how nations can redefine with a Free market system. Thanks to USA for helping bringing this after WW2 and Korean war.
India’s biggest asset is its population of Billion plus. However, we in India have to change many fundamentals to let our citizens take advantage of a system which provides free market system.

In spite of becoming open since 1990′s, India would be better off if it really becomes open. Free trade and open market systems help common people and not just few in power.

Rest History teaches us the best course to take.

Ching Chong
January 25, 2014 at 10:24

Puny India is insecure loser dog, inferior to great strong China which is middle kingdom of earth and ruler of all man kinds. You fools is all jealous of China.

January 25, 2014 at 15:36

@Ching Chong Mr. DING DONG !!!,Yes you are are the ruler of Middle Kingdom.China is ‘SOURON’.:)

Provocateur Extraordinaire
January 25, 2014 at 20:04

I hope stupidity isn’t contagious, considering we are neighbors.
Get well soon.

Misery Profiteer
January 23, 2014 at 23:54

Xi said “We are now living in a rapidly changing world…Peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit have become the trend of our times. To keep up with the times, we cannot have ourselves physically living in the 21st century, but with a mindset belonging to the past, stalled in the old days of colonialism, and constrained by zero-sum Cold War mentality.” Why can’t we cooperate and develop peacefully for the mutual benefit instead of throwing money at the wasteful geopolitical games?

Japan has been prosper and living in the first world since WWII, why has Japan been ignoring the plight of the third world’s poverty in India, SE Asia and other places, but it only starts to making promises to invest in the third world for the purpose to enforce “Pivot to Asia” by hot containing and hostile encircling China for their imperialist intent. Meanwhile China is the only nation making investments and improving living standard in the third world on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Profiteering on misery is the evil end of humanity spectrum, promising investment for the purpose of wasteful geopolitical game is profiteering on misery. Japan has yet shown remorse about the harm it has done in the WWII imperialist geopolitical game, and it is restarting another round of its fascist forebear’s harmful geopolitical game for the purpose of profiteering on misery. India is hereby be warned the bloody hand extended by Abe.

January 24, 2014 at 15:06

“Japan has been prosper and living in the first world since WWII, why has Japan been ignoring the plight of the third world’s poverty in India, SE Asia and other places…”

Japan is and always has been one of the worlds top aid donors. Where is China on the charts? We saw where when typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines.

People in glass houses.

Misery Profiteer
January 24, 2014 at 22:58

If Japan has made genuine investment in the Philippines, the Filipinos should have the capabilities to avoid disasters like Haiyan or Yolanda with proper infrastructure and economy instead of behaving like a shameless beggar bad mouthing donors all the time for more handouts.

Japan’s disaster relieve with warships is not a behaviour of top aid donors, it is a wasteful geopolitical game and it is rehearsing what its fascist forebears had done to the Philippines in 1942.

January 25, 2014 at 06:51

Japan has always living in the first world in the modern era, as Japan was one of the permanent chairs in the League of Nations. One of the reason why Taiwan and Korea are in the better position than SE Asia is probably that Japan had enough time investing on those regions for several decades, compared to a couple of years in SE Asia. Indonesian minister once said, if we were right next to Japan geographically, we would have done so much better than Korea.

Natural disasters are inevitable, as the West Japan Earthquake had destroyed the Tohoku coastal area, or the hurricane had destroyed Louisiana.

Misery Profiteer
January 25, 2014 at 11:23

Nobody wants to be Japanese, an unrepented war criminal, neighbour; Japanese brings nothing but atrocity and misery to its neighbours. It steals from, loots, murders, sexual enslaves, burns, etc. its neighbours in order to support its rotten militarism life style. Japanese are born pirates.

January 26, 2014 at 05:15

Each time I read finger-pointing, name-calling, and racist comments like yours, I’m reminded that China is just an infant state that will never catch up to Japan. The “Middle-Kingdom” fantasy had lone gone when Mongol took over your land. Think well why you are so miserable in your life and full of hatred. It’s not Japan’s fault but your incapable communist regime.

January 23, 2014 at 20:45

@pappu –

“Indians are insecure? Lol. A culture which taught China about Budhism, maths and Martial arts has no need to feel insecure. Talk about projecting your own problems on others.”

This is exactly what I am talking about. Insecure.

January 24, 2014 at 03:04

“India culture which taught China about Budhism, maths and Martial arts has no need to feel insecure.”
here we go, another example of an Indian shamelessly boasting about India, in order to cover up his insecurities.
Indian culture had nothing do with the spread of martial arts or Buddhism in China, (maybe Individuals who originated from the area we call India today). Buddhism took of in China because the a lot Chinese were wise to the profound values of Buddhist teaching. Indian people themselves however were still stuck with their backward mindset and wanted to stick with cast system and so Buddhism never took off there.

January 26, 2014 at 04:21

Chinese historians don’t agree with you. They said that India dominated China culturally for centuries without sending a single soldier across the border. Read about ancient universities in Nalanda and Taxila where Chinese scholars used to gather to learn about advanced branches of knowledge. China was one of the most technologically advanced civilizations but it owes a lot to India. BTW I know CCP trolls won’t acknowledge these well known facts. They are busy rewriting Chinese history. A beautiful culture hijacked by a military dictatorship that’s what is today’s China where propaganda reins supreme and people live in fear of persecution by its corrupt rulers.

January 23, 2014 at 01:01

No matter how much they don’t get along right now, The Japanese will find that it is always much easier and more profitable to to work with Chinese who are more predictable and pragmatic. Indians really don’t have much to show for themselves and are so shamelessly full of themselves, while China is firmly moving towards joining the developed world, Indians haven’t gotten anywhere recently. They have a huge inferiority complex as a result and will destroy whatever “friendship” you’ve developed with them over very small matter. The US is finding this out right now. Japan better learn from this before investing any time or effort in this country

January 23, 2014 at 03:47

In India, you may see that the development of various key projects are visibly slower than in China. Even common Indians get frustrated over these slowness. Unfortunately many of you don’t understand the usefulness of continuous debates and discussions among the key groups within a population before the government making a final decision on whether or not a project should continue or not. Often there are bureaucratic entanglements, but mostly not. It is slow and painful process, but the final decision or outcome will always be close to the best for the nation’s interest. Such debates include privatizing insurance sector, FDI in retail industry, starting large scale industrial mining in a forested region, or a chemical plant near a the residences of a large population, etc. Effects of these debates are not inspiring to the west who are impatient to chip in their profits (the most of the western people don’t have the culture of keeping their savings for their next generation, the same goes also with marauding the wealth of mother earth – Chinese probably already know by now that Westerners have made their environments safer and transferred the pollutants to China). Eventually India, I believe, will have a stronger footing in the long run with her economy, ecology and other vital factors.

Outsider 2
January 23, 2014 at 11:16

The whole world knows about India’s well-known inferiority complex and I am sure Japan will, just like everybody, massages India’s fragile ego from time to time. The problem arises when Japan politicians because of slip of tongue say something that is less than flattery or just benign negligence will send India into a hissy fit. It is hard to deal with people that are fundamentally insecure of themselves.

January 23, 2014 at 16:37

Indians are insecure? Lol. A culture which taught China about Budhism, maths and Martial arts has no need to feel insecure. Talk about projecting your own problems on others.

January 23, 2014 at 11:35

Japan has not decided to make large investments in India. It is just that India invited the Japanese PM and he accepted the invitation. Japanese are prudent investors, not donors for charity. With lower cost of production than most developed countries, capital intensive (zero interest borrowing, computer integrated manufacturing, ready and closer investment zones in China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Russia, etc.) Japanese manufacturing will not go to labor intensive India.

Motor vehicle manufacturing offers tremendous opportunities for China. Within a few years Chinese motor vehicle manufacturing will take over from Japan and USA as the world’s largest. It will accelerate if Japan reduces outsourcing to China.

January 23, 2014 at 17:03

Abe has already promised to 92 billion dollars investment for Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor projects with the visit last summer. This time, it will be the final agreement with bullet train, nuclear plants, joint military excercises, and rare metals. If Japan succeeds, India will be the hub for the middle-eastern market. There are far more possibility between Japan and India than you think.

chop chop chip
January 23, 2014 at 13:49

thankyou for your chineseee perspective

January 22, 2014 at 18:43

This should be an interesting partnership. India needs technology that Japan has and Japan needs access to India’s new middle class consumers. China is perhaps just an afterthought. Maybe this is a good partnership for both democracies.

January 22, 2014 at 17:47

Japan is pulling investments from China and South Korea, and these money needs to go somewhere else. The Japanese government and companies can help India’s much needed infrastructures to be established, with better train systems, irrigation, tunnels (for roads and swages), and bridges that enable domestic commerce to flourish further ahead. Japanese companies like Honda, Yamaha, and Isuzu have been pioneering into India for about a decade, and the one thing certain is that Indian people are trustworthy. We’ll benefit from each other if Japanese companies could tailor its technologies and products in the Indian way.

The tension in the Indian Sea is also on the rise as China had rented Gwadar port from Pakistan. Obama is deliberately ignoring India, because he needs more attentions from Pakistan in finishing up the Afghanistan situation. And that’s where Abe is filling in. Maybe the trilateral discussion on economy and security among India, Japan and US will happen in the post-Obama administration.

January 23, 2014 at 03:05

You forgot to mention Suzuki which has garnered the largest automobile market share in India.

January 23, 2014 at 14:22

Yeah, Suzuki instead of Isuzu. Thanks for correcting. I remember Isuzu has signed with Hindustan just last year and I messed up there. The similar names even to the Japanese eyes:)

January 22, 2014 at 14:54

This reporter says Indo Us Ties have plummeted to the lowest level in two decades not the least because of the Kobragade affair. Seriously!.
This poor excuse for a “Dioplomat:” flouted the laws in india, all her life and got away with it because of her being classified a “Dalit” (deprived) by our corrupt Central Govt, eventhough she owns half of all the posh real estate in Mumbai worth billions, mostly grabbed by breaking the law. When she was posted in NY, she believed she was above the Rule of Law in the US too. An alert prosecutor nailed her for abuse of her Nanny. So our Govt threw out our age old, “Arthashastra” and brought in the Talibans Handbook of Diplomatic Etiquette in a hurry in retaliation to harass US diplomatic staff, remove concrete barriers that would have stopped truck bombs etc. This woman was asked to leave the US. A day after she flew back she told the press how badly she wants to be back. To save this corrupt official’s skin our myopic Govt hasbrought down the integrity of and put the future of 1.3 billion Indians on the block

January 22, 2014 at 12:18

The article fails to give any concrete benefits a Japan-India tie up will accrue to any one of them. They are poles apart in their economy, quality of life, income, social issues, military issues, weapons procurement and interests.
India’s biggest weapons supplier is Russia which ties India to a pro-BRICS stand. It cannot safely veer away from that. Japanese weapons, particularly ships, are far too expensive for India.

The desire to contain (let alone confront) China is not sufficient logic for a tie up. Interstingly China is both their biggest trading partner! As such this marriage is not going anywhere. At most Abe may be eyeing India as a bait to contain China.

January 22, 2014 at 17:49

The GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) is India’s largest trading partner, followed by the EU.

China is India’s most costly trade partner if you measure imports vs exports (Trade in favour of China)

The United States is India’s most profitable trade partner, if seen as imports vs exports (Trade in favour of India)

Provocateur Extraordinaire
January 22, 2014 at 23:50

What a myopic view! Everything need not be viewed from the angle of defense. If Japanese investments and technology flow into India for mutual benefit, both nations progress. They can continue to procure their defense needs from others, not necessarily each other. And the icing on the cake is that if part of these investments come at a cost of China, the relationship should be a win-win for both democracies.

January 23, 2014 at 07:18

The growing uneasiness displayed by Chinese commentators, at this partnership looks to be childish. Maybe if China stops threatening it’s neighbors and start acting like a grown up, it can find itself gaining more respect from its Asian neighbors. There well be no need of security alliances if Asia is peaceful.

January 23, 2014 at 11:28

GCC and EU are made of many countries. With Saudi expelling over quarter of a million workers mostly Indians, trade with these countries will reduce. China is still the largest and with 9 recent trade agreements, will be more and more important for India.

Agree USA is the most profitable but for how long?

There are good reasons why Japan-India trade, technology transfer and defence ties have not taken off for so long. And these reasons are not going to disappear.

Inviting Abe to India’s republic is an insult to Japan. India’s Independence day (in August) is the same as Japan’s surrender! Just 2 years apart. Obviously the Japanese PM would not celebrate India’s independence day!

January 24, 2014 at 15:14

If you remove the GCC, then the UAE is India’s largest trading partner.

January 22, 2014 at 12:09

India is a superpower. This partnership will benefit Japan and will help Japan to develop its economy.

January 22, 2014 at 09:19

India needs Japanese expertise in building turn key projects from scratch and its command over hi tech sectors like aerospace, electronics, automotive and robotics. Japan meanwhile needs an alternative to China’s huge market. This way, Japanese companies can reduce their dependence and Japan can stand up to Chinese threats without fear of retaliation. This is a win win partnership. Next, India should tie up with Japan to build the fifth generation fighter jet.

January 22, 2014 at 06:46

India should not get itself tangle in the China/Japan problem. The aftermate would not be in India’s favor. Getting involve in this conflict will also set India to someway get involve with a third country – South Korea.
It will not be in India advantage to do so and attract more problems.

Kangmin Zheng
January 22, 2014 at 06:32

Red China land grabbing makes her neighboring countries nervous. Japan also work Philippines and Vietnam to defend Red China aggression. Peace loving Chinese should condemn Red China wrong doing at ECS & SCS.

January 22, 2014 at 05:11

What do India and Japan have to offer each other? Militarily, economically, and politically both Japan and India have their share of shortcomings – shortcomings, I might add, that they share, thus negating the possibility of a complimentary relationship beyond the window dressing of exchanged meetings between dignitaries.

Militarily speaking, India is a procurement nightmare and highly uneven in its capabilities. While some of its gear is top notch (and mostly Russian), some of it is woefully out of date (still mostly Russian) and certainly not uniform in its distribution.

Japan, while possessing a top notch military, is perhaps a little too reliant upon the US for support – and no one invited the US to this particular Indo-Japanese party.

It’s certainly not economic – Japan’s economy has been moribund for decades and India’s growth has put it just ahead of the state of California on the world stage. And India’s growth has slowed in recent years.

And politically both of them could not be more powerless. In the UN, the IMF, the World Bank… Japan and India have so little clout that their ability to influence world events is almost nil.

This smacks more of a marriage of desperate convenience than a major world-shaking alliance in the making. To paraphrase the movie “Jaws”, you say “Japan and India” and everyone asks “Huh? What?” You say “China” and we’ve got a panic on our hands on the 4th of July.

January 22, 2014 at 15:23

That is cynicism at its extreme. Japan can earn from investing in india’s railway sector. Japan can earn from investing in oil and gas blocks around andaman and nicobar islands which sit near world class gas fields in the andaman sea. Japan can hedge is Chinese Manufacturing risks by creating their own manufacturing zones. If what you were telling is true, chinese manufacturing is a bigger nightmare. If japanese can manage that, then india is much better. Also Japan can harness the power of india agricultural industry by setting up food processing and storage and can make india a reliable base for food imports. Japan can create a workforce in India for use in japan to improve their economy. Indians have a lot to offer to japanese in terms of art. Indians music dance can be promoted in japan who like gentle music and dance unlike the americans and europians. India can stop import of electronics from china and instead turn to japan. The list is endless. All i can say is India and the entire south east asia are natural business centres and trade goes back many centuries even before the US and british started learning trade.

January 23, 2014 at 18:55

Indeed you are very much right dear. Yes, all the equipment are old and based on Russian tech. Even we procure about 60 to 70% defense equipment abroad. Indeed you are right. But dear i want to bring your attention over your programmmes. The world always make charges that most of the Chinese defense equipment are based on US, Russian & others model. And it was just possible for you people due to stealing their data. Tell me any of your equipment (forget about the pen drive story lets only say about defense equipments) which is based on your own developed technology/ equipment. Yes dear, you are having very new weapons and very powerful army( As recognized by world but not proven till) comparing to less developed & small one of ours( Proven and competent at many times). If you remember the Spartans, number hardly matters.
Now i just want to bring your attention over last paragraph. Indeed this is a more of a marriage of desperate convenience not a world shaking alliance. But neither for India nor for Japan, its for China. To just understand this, Pay attention to your Foreign ministry statements given recently about India & Japan alliance. If China is so much powerful and having world class weapons with worlds largest and biggest army, it should not be desperate about a convenience desire of two to come together. In the last, I respect your knowledge and in-depth analysis about India. Please keep doing that, it entertain me here on Diplomat.

January 22, 2014 at 02:35

Another Anti-China fluff piece by the NDTV “news” organization.

January 21, 2014 at 23:56

Japan’s new found interest in a fellow democracy in the neighbourhood, India, is a good thing for stability of the region. But the bad and the questionable part of this is, Japan’s policies towards India are not independent, and moves in tandem with the US … India must factor this serious flaw in the relationship with Japan …

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