The Emerging Strategic Equation in Asia

By Paras Ratna, Research Associate – Strategic & Foreign Relations Practice at Rashtram

This article was published in the Centre for Advanced Studies of India, UPenn Website (Republished on The Hindu Business Line)

The source of the image is Vision India Foundation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan as part of the 13th Annual Summit on October 28-29, 2018 has shed light on the evolving dynamics of the Indo-Japan bilateral relationship against the backdrop of a changing but volatile global order. Both India and Japan are confronting similar challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, cooperation between them, and that too on multiple fronts is both obvious and desirable. It should be noted that their collective interest in forging better and stronger ties has been demonstrated by both the quantity and quality of the reciprocal state visits that have been witnessed in the last four years; the 13th Summit was Modi’s third visit to Japan since 2014. Besides, it is said that the nations’ personal rapport and the fact that both of the premiers exhibit similar right-wing nationalist sentiments seem to have brought them on the same page. After Modi hosted Japan PM Shinzo Abe in his home state of Gujarat to great fanfare, Abe reciprocated in the form of a private dinner at his picturesque Yamanashi holiday home.

During the 13th Annual Indo-Japan Summit, some crucial agreements were signed—a joint high speed rail project for which the first installment of 5,500 crore rupees was released by Japanese Industrial Cooperation Agency (JICA) a month before; increased naval cooperation between the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) in the Indo-pacific; a currency swap of $75 billion that is expected to bring a sigh of relief amidst the looming threat of trade war and rapid depreciation of rupees vis-à-vis dollar; 2+2 agreements on the lines of the US; and commencement of negotiations to finalize Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements (ACSA) which would allow both navies to access each other’s military bases for logistical purposes (India will be able to access the Japanese base in Djibouti and the Japanese navy could dock at Andaman and Nicobar).

The relationship between Japan and India has expanded significantly in recent years, particularly in light of the changes that have taken place globally. Abe, while addressing the Indian parliament a decade ago said, “A strong India is in the best interest of Japan, and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India.” In addition to the strategic sphere, Japan is India’s third biggest economic investor. Between 2000-17, Japan invested $25.6 billion in domains including infrastructure, retail, textiles, and consumer durables. Tokyo is involved in big-ticket projects like Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor (DMIC), the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, and setting up around twelve industrial parks across different states in India. Together, they have constituted the Japan-India Act East Forum (JICA) where the objective is to spearhead development cooperation in North Eastern states bordering China, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. JICA has already signed an agreement worth $610 million with the Government of India for phase I of North East connectivity projects.