Indian Decade

India, Japan to Inch Closer

Upcoming visits to Japan by two senior Indian ministers underscore efforts by both nations to bolster ties.

Japan-India bilateral relations are set for a serious upgrade in the coming days, with two important back-to-back visits from the Indian side setting the stage for more intense engagement between the two Asian powers.

First, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna begins his official three-day trip to Tokyo on October 28. Krishna will hold wide-ranging talks with his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba, and will also call on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The high point of the visit will be the 5th annual Japan-India Strategic Dialogue, which will be co-chaired by the two Foreign Ministers and will provide an opportunity for them to review all aspects of their bilateral partnership.

Days after Krishna leaves Japan, another senior Indian minister will be paying a visit, with Defence Minister A.K. Antony set to be in Japan on November 2 for the defence dialogue, a new institutionalized mechanism set up between the two Asian powers. Though Krishna and Gemba will be touching upon defence and security cooperation between India and Japan, this particular domain will be given a clearer focus when Antony holds meets with his Japanese counterpart.

No bilateral agreements or documents are going to be signed during the Krishna-Gemba talks, with the event set to be largely an exercise that allows the two sides to update each other on bilateral progress, regional politics and other international issues. The two foreign ministers are expected to engage in so-called SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, and reaffirm their allegiance to promoting their strategic partnership.

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An Indian diplomat familiar with the upcoming foreign minister-level talks told The Diplomat that the two sides would look to ‘maximize their convergences,’ but added that the Indo-Japan relationship doesn’t come at the cost of either power’s relations with other nations.

Such comments are almost certainly made with China in mind, and both Delhi and Tokyo will be keen not to make Beijing feel it is being encircled. Still, India and Japan are set to inch closer to one another, and it’s hard not to imagine that China will see this development in zero sum terms.