Indo Japan Relations – Strategic Alignment in Asia

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The India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan during the month of December was a landmark event as it strengthened the relationship between India and Japan. One of the key issues during the visit was Japanese support to the US India Civil Nuclear deal. At the official level, there was no reaction on the issue, which is being seen as Japanese acceptance of the need for a compromise. On the other hand, Japanese media is reported to have widely condemned the Deal.

The Indo Japanese position on a permanent seat in the Security Council does not seem to have come up for discussion. The main focus of the dialogue was increase in trade and investment though the Prime Minister indicated that revitalizing the United Nations and UN Security council was one of the key facets for Indo Japanese synergy in his speech to the Diet. The key areas of Indo Japanese concern apart from the UN reforms and economy are advances in science and technology for which Japan can be a partner for growth with the large $ 130 million investment that the Japanese make in research and development each year.

The areas identified were in the knowledge economy, nano technology, biotechnology, life sciences, and information and communication technologies. Energy security is also a key concern as Japan sources most of its oil and gas from West Asia. The increase in focus in India Japanese relations is evident with 2007 being nominated as the Indo Japanese Friendship Year and a year for increase in tourism.

Emergence of a dialogue of democracies between India, Japan, Australia and the United States in the region could further forge an alliance between India and Japan. There appears to be the looming shadow of China, which is increasingly wary of such an alignment but given the problems of maritime security and terrorism may adopt a much softer view of the relationship, which is increasingly threatening its designs in the Indian Ocean region. Thus, the Japanese seek greater cooperation in trade with India while India is attempting to forge a larger relationship so that Japan could act as a counter foil to China once it rises to the pinnacle of its power. One of the follow up talks involves Japanese assistance to India in construction of a dam in Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers as its territory. While cooperation in the sphere of the knowledge sector is welcome, the major barrier is likely to be language, which is likely to restrict progress on this front, which was acknowledged as much by the Indian Prime Minister.

Rahul K. Bhonsle is a Strategic Risk and Knowledge Management Consultant and writer with specific focus on defence and security, especially in South Asia.