India-Japan ties: building a framework for greater strategic partnership
Ajay Vaishnav / Zee Research Group
A joint study report compiled by New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation and the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals has concluded that the two major Asian democracies should deepen security, strategic and industrial cooperation at a time when Chinese belligerence towards its neighbours is increasing.
Releasing the report on Tuesday in New Delhi, former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma urged the two resilient nations to leverage positives in bilateral ties.
“India and Japan have enormous capacity to face challenges and absorb crisis. Implementing the report will further enhance bilateral ties and both countries can come strong,” he said.
The former Lok Sabha Spekaer is a co-patron of the joint study along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The report was earlier released in Tokyo on May 21 ahead of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit.
Representing Japanese Embassy, Yasuhisa Kawamura, Charge d’Affaires in New Delhi reiterated Tokyo’s commitment to stronger ties with India.
“A strong Japan is in India’s interest and vice versa,” he said repeating Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s words.
The study is a culmination of series of bold initiatives adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Addressing the Indian Parliament on a visit in August 2007 in his first term, Abe had said that Japan views India “as a partner that shares the same values and interests and also as a friend that will work alongside us to enrich the seas of freedom and prosperity, which will be open and transparent to all”.
The joint study highlights that international strategic environment is changing with the Obama administration declaring the return of the United States to Asia after allowing China to rise in the Asia-Pacific region while the US had been busy with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VIF-JINF report recommends Japan and India to work jointly with other Asian countries and the United States to build an “Asian Concert”.
Experts in the Japanese and Indian think tanks have broadly agreed that Japan, India and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations share concerns over China’s military build-up and should cooperate with the United States to maintain security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan and India have historically felt intimacy with each other, shared the values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights, have common political, economic and security interests and can expand bilateral cooperation.
The report urges the Japanese government to ease restrictions on arms and defense technology exports and international joint arms development and production in regard to India and promote civil nuclear cooperation and cyber security collaboration with India. It also notes that Japan will have to amend its Constitution to launch full-fledged military cooperation with India.
While political and strategic cooperation is growing between the two nations, the growth in economic ties is far from satisfactory. Even though trade has grown in recent years to US$ 18.4 billion in fiscal 2011, it is nowhere near India-China trade which stands at US$70 billion. China is one of the largest trading partners for both Japan and India. For India, Japan is the 11th largest trading partners while India is not even among Japan’s top 20 trading partners.
The Japan-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement went into effect in August 2011 and laid the foundation for further economic engagement between the two nations. But, there have been few actual cases of bilateral cooperation especially in strategic industries. The Japanese business interests complain of institutional delays and political constraints. Experts while recognising bureaucratic tardiness and the need for greater reforms in India, pointed towards the success of South Korean companies within the same system. Japan needs to reorient its business strategies to do better in the Indian market, they said.