STRENGTHEN INDO-JAPANESE BOND : A VIEWPOINT
Present India-Japan bilateral relationship needs to be carried much beyond as the two countries work for global partnership with converging strategic interests
Amidst all the muscle flexing by China against both India and Japan, the recent visit to India by Japan’s first ever reigning Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko had special significance, given the history of Indo-Japanese friendship, the 2,600 years old Japanese monarchy and the fact that their decision to visit India was due to pressing request from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with over 50 other countries awaiting visit of the royal couple.
Their last visit to India was in 1960 as the young crown prince and princess. The recent visit sent a clear message about the strategic partnership that Japan has with India. However, coverage for the royal couple ironically in our media was somewhat subdued despite Japanese media describing the visit as ‘non-political’ and not aimed at countering China. This was perhaps because of the latent fear of annoying the dragon; the euphuism that continues to haunt us. India played the Indio-South Korea friendship in subdued fashion similarly for many years in deference to ties with North Korea. Visit of the royal couple was all the more significant considering the reverence they are accorded by the Japanese public.
The Japanese Prime Minister himself is expected to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade 2014. Strategic bonds between India and Japan need to be strengthened on continuous basis; increasing bilateral ties and cooperation in trade, defence, nuclear and space segments. The focus on security needs to be enhanced considering China’s aggressive posture that is increasingly threatening peace in the Indo-Pacific region. The accent should therefore be on maritime cooperation and sharing of technologies in the domains of cyberspace and the electromagnetic. Being an economic superpower for decades, Japan can also assist India in the latter’s economic transformation. Japan has undertaken several development projects in India.
The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highway Oscar Fernandez had recently stated that the royal visit followed by the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister will give a boost to the much vaunted tunnel roadway through Shirdhi Ghat connecting the coastal city of Mangalore with Bengaluru. In 2012-13, India-Japan bilateral trade touched $18.6 billion. As of March 2013, cumulative commitment of official development assistance (ODA) was Yen 3,807 billion. Comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) is in force since August 2011 and covers such areas as trade in goods and services, investments, intellectual property rights, customs procedure.
Recently, it was decided to expand the bilateral currency swap arrangement to $50 billion, talks on introducing high speed railway system in India, progressing Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor, DelhiMumbai Industrial Corridor, Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor, introducing high speed railway system in India, plus cooperation even in maritime security and counter terrorism. Early resumption of negotiations for civil nuclear cooperation and hope for an early conclusion agreement is on the cards. With congruence on most global issues, India and Japan have a shared interest in dealing with the challenges posed by an increasingly assertive China. China engineered the declaration of the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) challenging Japan’s sovereignty over Senkaku Islands just prior to the royal visit to India.
Though China’s apparent aim is to test the USJapan alliance and snake forwarded along her arbitrarily extended exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, she has inadvertently woken up Japanese nationalism that is not going to take the Chinese challenge submissively, US support notwithstanding. With increasing say of the People’s Liberation Army in the Chinese Communist Party, including military Generals in the powerful politburo, Chinese aggressiveness will likely increase with rise of her comprehensive national power. Already China has said that more ADIZs may be announced by her. Present India-Japan bilateral relationship needs to be carried much beyond as the two countries work for global partnership with converging strategic interests.
Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh with the Emperor of Japan, His Majesty Akihito