India-Japan relations since Modi

While India emerges as a formidable force in the corridors of power in Asia and the globe, Prime Minister Modi is continuously amending the approach of his administration while advancing bilateral, regional and international relations. The relations between India and Japan, two of Asia’s largest democracies have always been strong, and with the arrival of the Modi government in power, greater cooperation between the two nations has been achieved, with the new government giving greater importance to Japan in its Look East agenda. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent dialogue with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014 has been a critical point that marks the endeavor of both the countries to achieve higher economic aspirations in their own countries as well as their strategic goals in the continent – clashing with the potent and powerful China. While for Modi this visit would write a “new chapter” in the history of India-Japan relations, Abe states that this bond would have the “most potential in the world”

narendra-modi2It is imperative to understand that with the growth of China’s power in the region, grows the power of relations between India and Japan.  Issues involving China such as the land reclamation initiatives, freedom of navigation patrols, creation of air defense identification zones, maritime territorial disputes and the silk road initiative among other issues have made India and Japan equally anxious about their own position in the continent. China’s military links with Pakistan and its growing presence in the Indian Ocean have alarmed the Modi administration, while on the other end, Japan is suspicious of China’s exponential economic growth and its domination in the South China Sea. Thus, India and Japan are strengthening their ties, with each one becoming the others largest trading partner, as both countries get more concerned by the mounting dominance China.

In Modi’s visit to Japan, he condemned the “expansionist” agenda of other nations, subtly referring to the maritime disputes between China and Japan, stating that the concept of expansionism is antithetical to that of development. This burgeoning India-Japan relation might now alter the course of foreign relations that China aims to forge with other nations in the continent. At the same time, it is evident that Modi is spearheading the movement of emphasizing on the notion of Japanese centrality in Asia, a concept that was fading away in the recent past.

The renewed bilateral ties between Japan and India offer a promising prospect for the refurbishment of India’s sluggish economic advancement. The relation between the two nations have been elevated to that of a “Special” Strategic Global Partnership, indicating Japans increased involvement in India’s social, political and economic development. Japan will now be investing 33 billion dollars in India over the next five years, for the construction of next generation infrastructure, creation of a network of “smart” cities, strengthening of the transport system with the introduction of bullet trains, with the first of these high-speed trains being expected to run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Modi has also promised the creation of a robust manufacturing base in India with the “Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership” that aims to double Japan’s FDI and the number of Japanese companies in India in the next five years. Here, it is imperative to note that the slightly anxious attitude that Tokyo has towards New Delhi’s slow pace of progress. And in order to erase the apprehensions of Japan, Modi has introduced the initiative for setting up a special management team directly under the Prime Minister’s Office, which will include two nominees from Japan who will not only oversee the business proposals but also be a integral part of the decision making body. This initiative taken by the Modi government is unprecedented and such a system of inclusion of foreign nominees will be witnessed for the first time in India. As Japan has always pushed for a faster way of implementing policies and projects in India, Modi has promised Abe single-window clearances and speedy decision- making processes which is non-discriminatory in nature and has proudly stated that “there is no red tape but red carpet in India”. Thus, Modi with his magnitude and charisma has invited Japanese investors to “Make in India” by promising India to be the bedrock of a pulsating democracy and a youthful demography with its escalating demands that make it one of the most competitive markets in the world.

Although there has been a commendable advance in the economic and developmental front, the civil nuclear deal between India and Japan remains an elusive grey area. No clear consensus has been achieved as Japan’s demand for India to not conduct any nuclear tests clashes with India’s claim to have self-imposed moratorium on its tests. However, Prime Minister Abe did applaud India’s growing participation in the process of non-proliferation, such as India’s guarantee to not use Japanese technology for procuring weapons of mass destruction. Thus, the challenge ahead for Modi is to remove these disparities and have a common outlook on the nuclear issue, as Japan remains a crusader of non-proliferation and disarmament.

Furthermore, India and Japan have decided to upgrade their defense cooperation and have agreed to accelerate dialogues on the crucial issue of the sale of the ShinMaywa US-2 amphibian aircrafts, which indeed is a turning point for India-Japan defense relations. In addition to this, Japan has expressed its eagerness to have a greater level of participation in the Malabar series.

With the magnetic leadership of Narendra Modi, we see the possibility of India strengthening its strategic capabilities and determination to gaining even greater regional and global dominance in international affairs. India enjoys a unique footing in the world stage as one of the pioneering nations of the developing world. At the end, it only depends on how effectively can Modi and his government leverage its relative strengths in order to embark on a journey for future domination in global politics without compromising on parallel economic and developmental ascendance.

– Joyeeta Dutta

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