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Japan and India seeks to expand the scope of mutual collaboration

Friday, November 02, 2018
By Ranajoy Sen

Bilateral relations are bolstered up when consonance eclipses dissonance between two countries. Such a scenario is discernible in ongoing diplomacy between Japan and India. Their relations reflect increasing co-operation in arenas of trade, technology, strategy and security. Furthermore, China’s aggressive stance in the Indo-Pacific region further prompts India and Japan to ensure that there are scant occasions, if at all any, of discord between them. Differences are administered and the requisite corrective are papered over with alacrity.

A just-concluded summit between Japan and India, presided over by Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe at Tokyo, has reinforced the eagerness for growing partnership in Indo-Japanese diplomacy.   

Confabulations between the two prime ministers covered bilateral, regional, and global issues. The reiteration by both PMs of ensuring peace in the Indo-Pacific region, whose South China Sea swathe is repeatedly being subjected to Chinese high-handedness and arbitrariness, was of particular import.  

China displays a recurring penchant for bringing about power disequilibrium over Asia, notwithstanding its utterances for fairness and commitment to peace and sovereignty. Moreover, it adopts a somewhat mercantilist economic strategy by trying to assert control over natural resource supplies and their transport routes across the South China Sea. The US is hinting at a creeping apathy toward South East Asia region, despite the recent aggressive patrolling of American warships on South China Sea, through the “freedom of navigation exercise. It led to some encounters with the Chinese Navy. Maintaining a peaceful maritime domain, entailing an unimpeded freedom of navigation, has become crucial for resource-needy Japan and India.

Trade and investment is a sheet anchor
Currently, economic diplomacy is an important ingredient of inter-state relations. Trade and investment is a sheet anchor in India-Japan relations. In 2014, Japan actuated an investment of nearly $35 billion, to provide a fillip to the Indian economy. The concerned investment was to work its way out in various public and private sector investments in India, across a span of five years, till 2019. According to Japanese ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, this investment is making its necessary progress.  

The major projects to be covered by Japanese financial assistance are the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train service, laying a high-speed railway line and constructing a highway. Developing infrastructure to give effect to “smart cities”, industrial parks, ports and highways would also be given effect through Japanese financing. Attendant with it is the opportunity and scope for the Japanese to profit and find areas for better financial returns from India.

A review regarding the progress on these fronts was undertaken during the summit in Tokyo. Leaders of both countries expressed apparent satisfaction. Japan is the third largest source of Foreign Direct Investment into India. India received $28.16 billion in FDI from Japan between April, 2000 and June, 2018. The two countries have also signed an agreement for a Japanese loan for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail project.

Herein is an admonition for India. The country should be cautious about loan accumulation. Whatever account it might be entered into, it is a liability. India is enduring the prevailing free fall in the value of its currency. Economic growth has decelerated than before. Undue pressure from financial liabilities and loan repayment could further queer the economic pitch.

India and Japan had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on peaceful uses of nuclear energy in December, 2015. The then Indian foreign secretary, S. Jaishankar, successfully convinced the initially skeptical Japanese that the MoU on nuclear energy between India and Japan would only enable the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, such as generation of electricity. In September, 2017, Japanese ambassador, Kenji Hiramatsu, articulated the establishment of a working group for civil nuclear co-operation between Japan and India.

However, there are some associated doubts. Shinzo Abe believes that Japan could successfully become an exporter of nuclear energy. That would bring profitable returns to the Japanese economy. But, the concurrent scenario for the nuclear energy sector for Japan is not inspiring. It reflects a diminution of Japan’s formerly formidable nuclear energy capabilities; it raises skepticism about the country’s unquestioned continuation as a leading exporter of nuclear energy.

The well-known Japanese firms engaged in successful nuclear energy business are Toshiba, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi. In different ways, the three aforementioned companies are grappling with significant losses, restructuring and a measure of market uncertainty. They are focusing more on repair and maintenance of existing nuclear plants than on construction of new ones. Ever since the Fukushima mishap, the nuclear energy market is subject to some strain. Stricter safety regulations have propelled up nuclear plant construction costs. Certain countries have become more cautious about making new nuclear reactors.

Hopefully, the Indian government’s decision to set up ten nuclear reactors with a collective capacity of 7,000 megawatts would be viewed and evaluated carefully, against this backdrop.

The Tokyo summit spoke out unreservedly against terrorism, censured those providing sanctuary to terrorist organisations, and resolved to collaborate to battle terrorist threats. Co-operation for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights has been averred. Meaningful reform of the UN, prevention of unfair trade practices, and removal of trade-distorting measures have been marked as urgent.

Defence collaboration
Defence collaboration has taken a step further. The Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force appear poised for expanded co-operation. Negotiations for Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement to enhance the strategic depth of interactions among the Indian and Japanese armed forces have begun.

This is in compatibility with the awaited expansion of security co-operation between India and Japan. Till now, Japan has established military interoperability only with US forces. India and Japan had signed a security co-operation accord in 2008. Following that, building up interoperability with the Indian Navy was the next step. Nevertheless, alliance was restricted only to joint exercises by the armed forces of the two countries in the Malabar.

On a visit to New Delhi, before being elected to power in December, 2012, Abe had stated that the Japanese Navy and the Indian Navy are interconnected seamlessly. As Japan and India reviews and strives to increase connectivity, a notable step towards interoperability of their armed forces has been accomplished.

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