Indo-Japan relations are embedded in history. Exchanges between the two countries started in the sixth century BC when Buddhism travelled from India to Japan. Since establishing diplomatic ties, the two countries have enjoyed cordial relations. In 2008 India and Japan signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation. Since then, Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meetings, annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue and Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard dialogue are some of the defence and security measures adopted by the two nations. The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement came into force on 11 Jul 2021. So long as China remains both countries’ foremost and impending security concern, India and Japan, who have no issues in their bilateral relations, must further their partnership and deepen their security ties.
Hon’ble Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, visited India almost same time about one year ago. This visit was against the backdrop of the start of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. He is again here from 20-21 March in Delhi for bilateral talks with Hon’ble Prime Minister Sh. Narender Modi. This time discussion is believed to be focused on areas such as defence, security, economic ties, skill development, clean energy, etc.
This meeting between two Prime Ministers is very consequential, especially when India and Japan hold the presidencies of G20 and G7, respectively. So this meeting offers an opportunity to discuss how G20 and G7 can collaborate on converging priorities on critical issues such as defence & security, health, energy and economic security.
The Hon’ble PM of India is likely to visit Japan in May this year to attend the G7 meeting as a guest country on the invitation of the Hon’ble PM of Japan. The Ukraine-Russia conflict and its effects on geopolitics will also form part of the agenda. There are differences between India and Japan on the issues related to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Japan’s opinion more or less aligns with the west-dominated led by the US.
Both countries are likely to unveil a free and open Indo-Pacific region plan. It is believed that Japan’s plan is expected to include providing non-military equipment and infrastructure support for the countries facing Chinense imminent threats, especially in the South China Sea. Making such an announcement in Delhi attaches importance to India.
As per the Indian Express reports published on 20 Mar 2023, the major areas on the agenda during the meeting between the two Prime Ministers will be:
1. Defence and security. Both defence and security have become essential pillars of cooperation between the two countries and are crucial in maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. In Jan 2023, the first joint fighter aircraft exercise called ‘Veer Guradian’ was conducted in Japan, which was a great success. It was followed by the army exercise ‘Dharma Gurdian’. Maritime security has also seen progress between the two nations. In Sep 2022, a joint Japan-India Maritime Exercise (JIMESX) was conducted. In Nov 2022, India participated in the International Fleet Review in Japan and the Malabar exercise off-coast of Japan.
2. Trade and economic ties. The bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $20.75 billion in 2022. Both countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2011. This agreement encompasses trade in goods and includes services, people-to-people contact, intellectual property right, customs, and cultural ties.
3. Partnership in clean energy. This was launched during the annual summit last year. The aim is to promote energy cooperation by utilising energy resources and technologies to ensure energy security, carbon neutrality, and economic growth.
Importance of Indo-Japan ties. Highlighting the importance of Indo-Japan ties to ensure peace and progress in the Indo-Pacific region, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Japan wrote in Indian Express on 20 Mar 2023 that it gives him immense pleasure to the land (India) where the dynamics of the world converges. Both countries argued that any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the world is unacceptable and that a peaceful resolution based on the rule of law should take precedence. The present situation in the world makes more sense to gear up our efforts to achieve a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ region. India and Japan are the two leading democracies in Asia as well as in the world; thus, they are the guardian of peace and security in the region. As India and Japan assume the presidencies of G20 and G7, respectively, they have opportunities to make an impact on the geopolitical situation.
The significance of the India-Japan strategic ties is even more reflective in a world where ‘change and uncertainty’ only endure. The old symmetry has been disturbed even though a new equilibrium is yet to rise. We might even have arrived at a century of protracted ambiguities.
One of our most propitious bilateral ties of the 21st century is the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership. It is a special relationship in many ways and global in its consequences. Our relations stand primarily metamorphosed in recent years. Asia, home to 60% of the worldwide population, has done remarkably well on the economic front to appear as the new pivot for international economic growth. The continent is perceiving the concurrent economic rise of several powers go, together with some of the highest military expenditures in the world. Nevertheless, a stable regional security construction has yet to emerge. The absolute leap at which China has heightened its all-inclusive national power has also led to questions about the future’s shape in this region.
India and Japan must endure for peace, progress and development. World can’t afford to have neo-colonial sorts of economic or security domination. There are numerous prospects for India and Japan to work together based on their national interests.
Conclusion: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to India could be a turning point in bilateral relations between India and Japan. We have many common points to take our economies to further heights. Combining Japan’s capital and technology with India’s rich human resources and skills could become a robust and persuasive combination. As the growth in China declines, India offers Japan a suitable alternate global hub for starting a competitive manufacturing base for tapping international markets.
India and Japan have accomplished noteworthy progress in their cooperation in defence, space, cyber, digital, energy, artificial intelligence, education, agriculture, health, disaster risk reduction, waste management, infrastructure, and urban renewal.
The dynamics in the Indo-Pacific now extend far beyond economics, with a new security dimension as China’s rapid military growth brings disturbances to the existing equilibrium. India is approaching this situation by establishing a vision for the Indo-Pacific as an open and inclusive region. The evolving geopolitical scenario has made Japan more interested in defence and security cooperation. Japan has amended its arms control policies and demonstrated the willingness to work with India in all possible fields and support India at political forums.
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