Business Standard - - DEMOCRACY AT WORK -

Ja­pan can­not un­der­stand why In­dia tested its nu­clear weapon. In­dia’s re­sponse has al­ways been that if a coun­try is un­der the nu­clear um­brella of the US, it doesn’t need its own nu­clear weapon. But In­dia is un­der no nu­clear um­brella and is sur­rounded by hos­tile nu­clear pow­ers. If In­dia tests again, will Ja­pan re­act in the same way ? Hard to say.

In­dia’s bu­reau­cracy re­ally an­noys Ja­pan. And the se­lec­tive use of the bu­reau­cracy, dat­ing back to Ja­pan’s mem­o­ries of the way its Suzuki Mo­tors was treated by In­dia when it was try­ing to es­tab­lish Maruti Suzuki, es­pe­cially so.

For In­dia, Ja­pan is not con­cerned enough about Pak­istan; for Ja­pan the re­verse is true about North Korea. Re­mem­ber, when North Korea fired a mis­sile re­cently, it fell in Ja­pan’s Ex­clu­sive Economic Zone (EEZ, the UN Law of the Seas-man­dated ter­ri­tory).

There are also dif­fer­ences over free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in In­dia’s ex­clu­sive economic zone.

RCEP rep­re­sents a ma­jor prob­lem. The most sig­nif­i­cant is the dif­fer­ence be­tween In­dia and Ja­pan in the pharma sec­tor. As is well known, In­dia does not grant patents for new forms or new uses of a known sub­stance (gener­ics). This has pre­vented un­nec­es­sary ex­ten­sions of pa­tent mo­nop­o­lies on some cancer drugs — a move praised by health ad­vo­cacy groups such as Médecins Sans Fron­tières as a ma­jor vic­tory for ac­cess to af­ford­able medicines. Th­ese safe­guards would be lost if In­dia and RCEP coun­tries agree to Ja­pan’s pro­posal.

One school of thought ar­gues that an em­brace with Ja­pan will drive the wedge be­tween In­dia and China even deeper; New Delhi doesn’t need that at this point. How­ever, those who sub­scribe to this are small in num­ber.

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