India-Japan cooperation: Beginning of an era
Japan, the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, witnessed the dawn of a new era in India-Japan relations as Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe put the seal on the Tokyo Declaration of September 1, 2014; the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Prime Minister Modi spoke about Japan’s importance in India’s foreign policy and economic development and her place at the heart of India’s Look East Policy. Both Prime Ministers acknowledged: India and Japan are Asia’s two largest and oldest democracies with ancient cultural links and enduring goodwill between their people; both countries share convergent global interests, critical maritime inter-connection and growing international responsibilities, abiding commitment to peace and stability, international rule of law and open global trade regime; shared interests in security of maritime and cyber domains; shared objectives to preserve the integrity and inviolability of global commons; shared commitment to maritime security, freedom of navigation and over-flights, civil avia- tion safety, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law; both economies have vast complementarities that create boundless opportunities for mutually beneficial economic partnership; relationship between the two countries draw strength and vitality from the exceptional consensus on the importance and potential of this relationship across the political spectrum, the business community and people in all walks of life.
Geopolitical developments, particularly China’s aggressiveness, have made Japan sit up and review its self-imposed restrictions in the aftermath of World War II. It is obvious realisation has dawned that a benign posture only offers oneself as easy prey in this era of deceit, ambiguity and aggression. Hence, external factors have forced Japan to review its defence cooperation with other countries. Latest indication of this is Japan selling its state-of-the-art submarines to Australia. India and Japan have already been engaged in multi-sectoral ministerial and Cabinet-level dialogues in the spheres of defence, finance, economy, trade and energy. Dialogue between the National Security Advisors of the two countries was also initiated in 2014.
Signing of the ‘Memorandum of Cooperation and Exchanges in the Field of Defence’ during the current visit of Modi has been an important step that also institutionalised bilateral maritime exercises, Japan’s continued participation in India-US Malabar series of exercises, and existing dialogue, mechanism and joint exercises between Indian and Japanese Coast Guards. Modi welcomed Japan’s current policy on transfer of defence equipment and technology that has enormous potential for transfer and collaborative projects in defence equipment and technology between the two countries. Already, India and Japan have Joint Working Group on cooperation in US-2 amphibian aircraft and its technology. The two Prime Ministers directed respective officials to launch working-level consultations between the two countries with a view to promoting defence equipment and technology cooperation.
It is not much known that Japan had unofficially offered the amphibian plane to India during 1996 not as outright sale but as part of cooperation in disasters on high seas, rescue and against seaborne terrorism. In fact, the proposal was that such aircraft could be based in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and could be operated jointly by India and Japan. No costs other than sharing operating costs were involved. That India did not respond is no surprise as lack of strategic sense was never found wanting ever since independence other than occasional bright spots like the liberation of Bangladesh.
Japan is well advanced in the high-technology area, including defence technology latter optimised through the private industry, something that India needs to emulate. The FSX or F2 fighter bomber aircraft had been developed by Japan way back in 1996 based on F-16 airframe and was an improvement of the latter. Interestingly, the aircraft parts were developed in two different Japanese companies and assembled in the third one – all private companies. At one time complete communication equipment on board Chinese naval ships and vessels was Japanese. Significantly, Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is the most powerful amongst all ministries in Japan. Japan is also advanced in cyber warfare and production of complicated electronic chips, and Japan is also a participant in the US missile defence programme. The potential of Japan’s military industrial complex is quite high. India is the acknowledged leader in software and India and Japanese space programmes have also been interacting and cooperating with each other for past several years.
The fact that aerospace and the electromagnetic domains are becoming increasingly important in asymmetric and conventional conflict highlights the need to increase focus of cooperation in this field as well. India-Japan cooperation has a high potential as both countries are also working towards concluding the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy at an early date. Japan has freed six Indian space and defence-related entities from Japan’s Foreign End User List. Prime Minister Modi’s emphasis to reduce defence imports and progressing indigenisation including through absorbing foreign defence technology coupled with transfer of technology. Japan has already agreed to supply ShinMaywa US-2 Japanese amphibious aircraft designed for sea-air rescue operations to India. The US-2 is a 43-tonne amphibian equipped with four turboprop engines and is capable of lifting off from high seas up to 5 points on the scale. However, it will be modernised to suit Indian requirements in conjunction with Indian specialists and will be named US2i. India plans to buy 15 x US2i aircraft, first two of which will be assembled in Japan and balance in India with components supplied from Japan. India is also eyeing import of submarines that could be fitted with BrahMos missiles and Japan will likely respond to as and when a global tender is floated by India.
If the above contributes to “achhe din” for defence and security, that is not all. The India–Japan Investment Promotion Partnership is aimed at doubling Japan’s FDI in India and the number of Japanese companies in India within five years further expanding bilateral trade relationship to the next stage; Japan to realise 3.5 trillion yen of public and private investment and financing including the Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan to India in five years to finance public-private projects like next-generation infrastructure, connectivity, transport systems, smart cities, rejuvenating Ganges and other rivers, manufacturing, clean energy, skill development, water security, food processing and agro industry, agricultural cold chain, and rural development. Japan pledged ODA loan of 50 billion yen to India for such public-private partnership infrastructure project in India; setting up of Electronics Industrial Parks and Japan Industrial Townships under prevailing policies like Special Economic Zone and National Investment and Manufacturing Zone; improve business environment in India, including through tax, administrative and financial regulations.
Special emphasis on Japan’s cooperation for enhanced connectivity and development in Northeast India and linking the region to other economic corridors in India and to Southeast Asia; renewal of heritage cities including Varanasi and partnership city arrangement between Varanasi and Kyoto; completion of Joint Feasibility Study on High Speed Railway system on Ahmedabad-Mumbai route; review progress of ongoing flagship projects of India-Japan economic partnership like Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC). To strengthen energy cooperation through the India–Japan Energy Dialogue including in oil and gas, LNG and clean coal technology, agreement on commercial contract for manufacturing and supply of rare earth chlorides from India to Japan. Emphasis was also laid on cooperation in education, culture, sports, science and technology including cutting-edge fields like stem cell research, material science, cognitive science, applied mathematics, computing and information science, ocean technology and ocean observations, clean and renewable energy, water technology, climate change science, outer space and ICT.
Equal emphasis was laid for a closer and stronger strategic partnership (including mutual consultations for participation in regional and global forums) considered indispensable for a prosperous future for both countries in interest of advancing peace, stability and prosperity in Asia-Pacific, the Indian Ocean region and the world by engaging with foreign countries to address regional challenges, deepen regional cooperation and integration, strengthen regional economic and security forums and promote peaceful resolution of disputes.
Both condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, irrespective of their perpetrators, origin and motivations, emplacing that the evolving character of terrorism called for stronger international partnership in combating terrorism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence. Cooperation was also pledged for India to become a full member in the four international export control regimes: Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, with the aim of strengthening international non-proliferation efforts. On balance, the Tokyo Declaration is very much harbinger of
achhe din, which has the potential to catapult both India and Japan to their rightful place in the comity of nations ushering in peace and prosperity for the Indian and Japanese people. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already accepted Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to visit India next year. So, 2015 should see further progress in the-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership including perhaps conclusion of the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy between the two countries during 2015 visit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe at the Restricted Meeting at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo