China a key fac­tor in Indo-Ja­pan talks

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page - Jayanth Ja­cob let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

China will be the nec­es­sary sub­text of the dis­cus­sions when Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his Ja­panese coun­ter­part Shinzo Abe hold the 12th an­nual In­dia-Ja­pan sum­mit talks — fourth by the two lead­ers — in Gu­jarat’s cap­i­tal, Gandhinagar, on Thurs­day, sources said.

Ja­pan was the only ma­jor power that openly took a po­si­tion favour­ing In­dia in the re­cent mil­i­tary stand­off with China at Dok­lam at the In­dia-Ti­bet-Bhutan tri-junc­tion, which has set a new nor­mal in how bor­der dis­putes could play out in their ties.

Both In­dia and Ja­pan have a great deal of com­mon­al­ity on a host of is­sues and there is also sub­stan­tial con­ver­gence in the way they see the rise of China, bal­ance of power in Asia-Pa­cific, and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­men­tal co­op­er­a­tion in third coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in Africa.

The two coun­tries are also part of G -4 group­ing (with Brazil and Ger­many) and would want to be­come per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN Se­cu­rity coun­cil.

As Abe said in a pub­lic mes­sage be­fore ar­riv­ing, the two coun­tries have com­mon in­ter­est in the In­dia-Pa­cific re­gion. In­di­aJa­pan work­ing to­gether would be mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial in a way that would also counter the grow­ing in­flu­ence of China in the re­gion, ex­perts say.

In­dia and Ja­pan are fo­cus­ing on build­ing in­fra­struc­ture in other coun­tries. The coun­tries in Africa, where the Chi­nese took def­i­nite lead, are a case in point.

In­dia giv­ing aid to big in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects in Africa is a re­cent phe­nom­e­non started by the pre­vi­ous Congress-led UPA II gov­ern­ment and is car­ried for­ward by the NDA gov­ern­ment.

Ja­pan is fo­cus­ing on a “qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture strat­egy,” aimed at coun­ter­ing China’s in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment spree. Ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous es­ti­mates, China would pump in US$ 1 tril­lion into Africa as part of its One Road One Belt ini­tia­tive. Ja­pan’s over­seas de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance to SubSa­ha­ran Africa was 226 bil­lion yen in 2015 and the fig­ure for Mid­dle-East and North Africa in the same year was 171 bil­lion yen. Ja­pan is as­sist­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Mom­basa port in Kenya, a gate­way to the East African mar­ket, where In­dian firms have in­flu­ence and pres­ence.

China on Thurs­day sent out a clear mes­sage to In­dia about its deep­en­ing ties with Ja­pan — New Delhi and Tokyo should forge a part­ner­ship con­ducive to peace in the re­gion in­stead of an alliance.

Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe is cur­rently on a two-day of­fi­cial visit to In­dia. In­dia and Ja­pan are ex­pected to dis­cuss their joint role in the In­dia-Pa­cific re­gion where China is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing as­sertive.

The mes­sage from the for­eign min­istry in Bei­jing was couched in diplo­matic terms but the mes­sage was sharp — close ties be­tween In­dia and Ja­pan should not be an ef­fort to counter China.

“We ad­vo­cate that re­gional coun­tries should stand for di­a­logue with­out con­fronta­tion and work for part­ner­ship in­stead of alliance,” for­eign min­istry spokesper­son Hua Chun­y­ing said.

“We also stay open and wel­come nor­mal de­vel­op­ment of re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries in the re­gion. We hope that re­la­tions will be con­ducive to re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity and can play a con­struc­tive role in this re­gard,” Hua said.

Bei­jing is closely track­ing Abe’s high-pro­file visit to In­dia.

An ed­i­to­rial in the na­tion­al­is­tic Global Time tabloid talked about ex­pand­ing ties be­tween New Delhi and Tokyo, and Ja­pan’s “nar­row-minded” out­look to “en­cir­cle China”. The ed­i­to­rial said that “in a chang­ing world, the In­dia-Ja­pan in­ti­macy is more like a con­trivance”.

“As long as Chi­nese so­ci­ety is men­tally strong enough, calls in the In­dian and Ja­panese me­dia for them to draw closer will be in vain. In­dia and Ja­pan are un­likely to form a mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal alliance with the US, de­spite not be­ing able to let go of the men­tal­ity from the 20th cen­tury,” said the ed­i­to­rial, which also re­ferred to the re­cently re­solved Dok­lam stand­off be­tween In­dia and China.

SIDDHARAJ SOLANKI/HT PHOTO

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with Ja­panese coun­ter­part Shinzo Abe in Gandhinagar, Gu­jarat, on Thurs­day,

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