Modi-Abe bond­ing: Neigh­bours’ envy

SP's MAI - - MILITARY FEATURE - [ By Ran­jeet Kumar ]

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has made a mark in his first for­eign bi­lat­eral visit out­side South Asia, sig­nal­ing the sig­nif­i­cance he at­tached to In­dia’s re­la­tions with Ja­pan. His man­ner­isms and his own char­ac­ter­is­tic style have been able to con­nect with not only or­di­nary peo­ple, from school­child­ren to busi­ness­men, but also with the Ja­panese po­lit­i­cal class and top lead­ers. Though the visit yielded re­sults mainly in eco­nomic sec­tor and has im­proved sen­ti­ments in diplo­matic and strate­gic arena, the world was wait­ing for some con­crete bigticket an­nounce­ments in nu­clear and de­fence sec­tor, the ab­sence of which must have dis­heart­ened a lot of strate­gic ob­servers in In­dia. Modi suc­ceeded to con­vince the Ja­panese Gov­ern­ment and the business com­mu­nity by promis­ing to re­move red tape and lay­ing the red car­pet for Ja­panese busi­ness­men but he failed to erase Ja­panese do­mes­tic and gov­ern­men­tal con­cerns on is­sues re­lat­ing to nu­clear and de­fence co­op­er­a­tion. In fact Modi had tried to as­suage Ja­panese sen­ti­ments by stat­ing a day be­fore his de­par­ture for Tokyo on Au­gust 29that he will not rewrite the Nu­clear Doc­trine of In­dia. Even the Ja­panese were not ready to sell the US-2 ShinMaywa am­phibi­ous plane dis­guised as civil­ian plane in view of its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions. Even in Tokyo, Modi talked of the con­cept of “Va­sud­haiva Ku­tum­bkam” (world is one fam­ily) and in view of this the re­li­a­bil­ity of In­dia’s nu­clear pos­ture. In­dian of­fi­cials re­quested the Ja­panese to agree to ink the In­dia-Ja­pan nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment, us­ing In­dia-US civil nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment as tem­plate, but it failed to cut ice. How­ever, Ja­pan af­firmed com­mit­ment to work to­gether with In­dia to be­come a full mem­ber in the four in­ter­na­tional ex­port con­trol regimes—Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group, Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy Con­trol Regime, the Wasse­naar Ar­range­ment and Aus­tralia Group—with the aim of strength­en­ing the in­ter­na­tional non-pro­lif­er­a­tion ef­forts.

But Modi’s pro­nounce­ments dur­ing his in­ter­ac­tion with the Ja­panese busi­ness­men drew the at­ten­tion of strate­gic com­mu­nity

world over, es­pe­cially in China. Modi said in his speech, with­out nam­ing China, those­who follow the path of Bud­dha and have faith in “Vikas-waad” (De­vel­op­ment-ism), they de­velop but, we see, those with ideas of 18th cen­tury en­gage in en­croach­ments and en­ter seas (of oth­ers).

Th­ese com­ments are sig­nif­i­cant in view of tense re­la­tions be­tween China and Ja­pan and se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences on the bor­der and ter­ri­to­rial is­sues be­tween In­dia and China. Both In­dia and Ja­pan ac­cuse China of ter­ri­to­rial en­croach­ments. How­ever the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment ig­nored Modi’s com­ments and in­stead launched a frontal at­tack on Abe al­leg­ing that Abe was try­ing to di­vide In­dia and China. But In­dia was care­ful on is­sues re­lat­ing to mar­itime dis­putes while draft­ing the joint Tokyo Dec­la­ra­tion which made men­tion of mar­itime dis­putes in generic terms and did not re­fer to any par­tic­u­lar area or coun­try. Def­i­nitely In­dia was mind­ful of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent’s forth­com­ing visit to In­dia in the third week of Septem­ber. China is In­dia’s next door pow­er­ful neigh­bour, which In­dia can­not af­ford to an­tag­o­nise es­pe­cially when the Chi­nese them­selves are ea­ger to warm upto re­la­tions with In­dia.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr C. Raja Mo­han, strate­gic af­fairs an­a­lyst, Modi’s visit to Ja­pan helped con­sol­i­date three im­por­tant pa­ram­e­ters: First, on re­viv­ing the spir­i­tual bonds, which con­nects with the masses; sec­ond, in the eco­nomic sec­tor, which will go a long way in strength­en­ing eco­nomic part­ner­ships, and third, in the nu­clear and de­fence sec­tor. Though the nu­clear agree­ment could not be signed but a lot of progress has been made and this will not keep hostage the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. His visit has helped in re-en­er­gis­ing the emo­tional bonds of the two coun­tries and will pro­vide a foun­da­tion for good de­fence co­op­er­a­tion. Dur­ing the sum­mit the two coun­tries signed an MoU on de­fence co­op­er­a­tion and ex­changes.

Re­cent amend­ment in Ja­pan’s pol­icy on trans­fer of de­fence equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy was wel­comed by In­dia, and both the Prime Min­is­ters ex­pressed the hope that this would usher in a new era of co­op­er­a­tion in de­fence equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy. They recog­nised the enor­mous fu­ture po­ten­tial for trans­fer and col­lab­o­ra­tive projects in de­fence equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy be­tween the two coun­tries. Modi also asked the Ja­panese to take ad­van­tage of the lib­er­alised FDI pol­icy in de­fence sec­tor, set­ting 49 per cent limit for the for­eign com­pa­nies in the joint ven­tures, and make In­dia as the base for in­ter­na­tional ex­ports based on Ja­panese tech­nol­ogy. Of­fi­cials of the two coun­tries have been di­rected to launch work­ing-level con­sul­ta­tions be­tween the two coun­tries with a view to pro­mot­ing de­fence equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy co­op­er­a­tion.

Hence, the Tokyo Dec­la­ra­tion de­scribed the Modi-Abe meet­ing as the dawn of a new era. Ex­plain­ing this the noted China ex­pert Srikanth Kon­da­palli said, “The re­gional con­text and the per­sonal ties be­tween Naren­dra Modi and Shinzo Abe to a large ex­tent con­trib­uted to the dawn of a new era in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. Modi’s visit will go down in his­tory for open­ing up a Spe­cial Part­ner­ship chap­ter in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.” Nat­u­rally the deep­en­ing of re­la­tions, which was sig­ni­fied by rais­ing the level of global and strate­gic part­ner­ship to spe­cial global and strate­gic part­ner­ship has deeper con­no­ta­tions, which will add odour to the evolv­ing part­ner­ships of the two Asian gi­ants and will be a cause of con­cern for China.

In view of China’s ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour in the East and South China Sea which raises hack­les in the strate­gic es­tab­lish­ments of both Ja­pan and In­dia, the com­ing to­gether of forces to jointly pro­tect the mar­itime in­ter­ests of both coun­tries in East and South China Sea is sig­nif­i­cant, but the Tokyo Dec­la­ra­tion was not as­sertive enough to warn the Chi­nese to de­sist from mil­i­tarism in the mar­itime area. Hence the dec­la­ra­tion by In­dia to in­vite Ja­pan also to par­tic­i­pate on a reg­u­lar ba­sis in the Indo-Amer­i­can bi­lat­eral ex­er­cises will serve as a red flag to the Chi­nese.

With­out nam­ing any coun­try and the mar­itime arena (ob­vi­ously China and the East and South China Sea) the Modi-Abe state­ment re­ferred to shared com­mit­ment to mar­itime se­cu­rity, free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in and over­flight above, civil avi­a­tion safety, unim­peded law­ful com­merce, and peace­ful set­tle­ment of dis­putes in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law. Since more than half of In­dia’s mar­itime com­merce is con­ducted via the South China Sea, In­dia has sin­cere in­ter­ests in safe­guard­ing its mar­itime trade and en­sure the right to free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, which can be bet­ter pro­moted by seek­ing co­op­er­a­tion from a re­gional power like Ja­pan.

No won­der that the state-run Global Times re­acted sternly to Modi’s ca­sual com­ments and the in­di­rect ref­er­ence to China in the joint state­ment say­ing, if Ja­pan at­tempted to form a united front cen­tred on In­dia, it will be a crazy fan­tasy gen­er­ated by Tokyo’s anx­i­ety of fac­ing a ris­ing China.

Ob­servers point out that the Tokyo-Beijing ten­sion on Senkaku (Di­ayou) is­lands has led to a lot of anti-China at­mos­phere in Ja­pan and anti-Ja­panese sen­ti­ments in China mak­ing it lit­tle un­com­fort­able for the Ja­panese busi­ness­men to go to or work in China. Hence they want to shift their base in the long run from China to In­dia. But it all de­pends on the kind of con­ge­nial business en­vi­ron­ment In­dia pro­vides to the Ja­panese. To al­lay Ja­panese fears Modi did try to con- vince by promis­ing to lay the red car­pet and re­mov­ing all red tapes. Be­sides a spe­cial track will be cre­ated in the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice to fa­cil­i­tate Ja­panese business in In­dia. In­deed the Ja­panese feared the In­dian red tape so much that the Ja­panese in­vest­ment was only $1.35 bil­lion last year in In­dia, which is much lower than the Chi­nese. In fact, the two-way trade be­tween In­dia and Ja­pan last year was only around$12 bil­lion, whereas In­dia-China trade was$60 bil­lion and the China-Ja­pan trade was over $312 bil­lion in 2013.

A strong foun­da­tion for a strate­gic part­ner­ship can only be laid on the strong eco­nomic ex­changes and part­ner­ship. If In­dia is able to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties and cli­mate to the Ja­panese in the near fu­ture the Ja­panese will feel en­cour­aged to as­sist In­dia in the de­fence sec­tor also. Since much of the In­dia-Ja­panese trade and com­merce will be con­ducted via the South China Sea, the two coun­tries would need to strengthen mar­itime part­ner­ship also to give mean­ing to the spe­cial strate­gic and global part­ner­ship that was es­pe­cially men­tioned in the Tokyo Dec­la­ra­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Prime Min­is­ter of Ja­pan Shinzo Abe sign­ing the agree­ments at

Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Ja­pan

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi shares a lighter mo­ment with Ja­panese cer­e­mo­nial drum­mers

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