Bud­get en­hanced

The en­hanced bud­get, which is meant to counter the rise of the in­im­i­cal neigh­bour and its grow­ing mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity in the re­gion, is the largest ever in the last seven decades.


In an un­prece­dented move that is be­ing viewed as a con­se­quence of the ris­ing ten­sions lately be­tween Ja­pan and China, fur­ther ag­gra­vated by ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes in the East China Sea and the per­cep­tion by the for­mer of threat from the lat­ter, in mid Jan­uary this year, the Ja­panese cabi­net headed by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe has given the green light to a $42-bil­lion de­fence bud­get. This bud­get, which is ob­vi­ously meant to counter the rise of the in­im­i­cal neigh­bour and its grow­ing mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity in the re­gion, is the largest ever in the last seven decades. It also comes at a time when the Ja­panese econ­omy does not ap­pear to be in a very healthy state with prob­lems fur­ther com­pounded by the bur­den of enor­mous so­cial costs of an age­ing pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, the bud­get would have to be for­mally ap­proved by the Ja­panese Par­lia­ment. This is un­likely to be an im­ped­i­ment as the coali­tion gov­ern­ment headed by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, en­joys ma­jor­ity in both houses of the Par­lia­ment.

The tur­bu­lent re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two Asian gi­ants in the last 1,400 years of his­tory that has gen­er­ally fluc­tu­ated be­tween ex­treme cor­dial­ity and hos­til­ity, is also been marked by two ma­jor wars and 11 mi­nor con­flicts of vary­ing in­ten­sity. The first ma­jor war be­tween the two was fought in the pe­riod 1894 to 1895 and the sec­ond in the pe­riod 1937 to 1945 when both the na­tions were em­broiled in the World War II with al­le­giance to op­pos­ing camps. At the end of the War, Ja­pan lay dev­as­tated. How­ever, with the emer­gence in 1949 of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (PRC), there be­gan a phase of cor­dial­ity in their re­la­tion­ship as also wide-rang­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion. How­ever, as Ja­pan was to­tally al­lied with the United States, the PRC also saw her as a po­ten­tial threat even though she was de­void of mil­i­tary power. How­ever, China al­ways con­sid­ered the rise of Ja­pan as a mil­i­tary power in the fu­ture a real pos­si­bil­ity. On the other hand, Ja­pan is also ap­pre­hen­sive about Bei­jing’s in­ten­tions es­pe­cially on ac­count of her ag­gres­sive sovereignty claims in the re­gion.

China is un­likely to per­mit this event to pass with­out no­tice and pos­si­bly ac­tion. The world may there­fore soon wit­ness in­creas­ing con­fronta­tion be­tween the two na­tions. This would also serve the se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of the United States as China will re­main em­broiled with re­gional is­sues, the ob­jec­tive of her con­tain­ment as be­ing pur­sued by the only su­per­power in the world. The hike in de­fence spend­ing by Ja­pan will bring in its wake a bo­nanza for US de­fence and aerospace ma­jors as Ja­pan will move for­ward to en­hance her mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties through the ac­qui­si­tion of the lat­est of mil­i­tary hard­ware. The US will only be too will­ing to oblige. Ja­pan de­pends largely on the US and partly on her in­dige­nous ca­pa­bil­ity in this field for her re­quire­ment of mil­i­tary hard­ware.

On top of the shop­ping list of the Ja­panese de­fence forces will be six of the fifth-gen­er­a­tion F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Light­ning II stealth com­bat air­craft at a cost of around $150 mil­lion per air­craft. Ja­pan also plans to ac­quire five US-made Bell Boe­ing V-22 Osprey tilt-ro­tor air­craft priced at $68 mil­lion per unit. With a fu­tur­is­tic out­look, the Ja­panese Self-De­fense Force is look­ing to in­duct a fleet of Global Hawk un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle that has a price tag in ex­cess of $100 mil­lion per plat­form. The Ja­panese aerospace in­dus­try is to sup­ply 20 of the in­dige­nously pro­duced Kawasaki P-1 mar­itime pa­trol air­craft which is al­ready in ser­vice with the Ja­panese Mar­itime Self-De­fense Force. The Ja­panese Min­istry of De­fense is also pur­chas­ing one E-2D air­borne early warn­ing air­craft to strengthen the na­tion’s ca­pa­bil­ity to safe­guard her air space both over the main­land and the is­land ter­ri­to­ries in the East China Sea. There is also a move to build in­dige­nously one Aegis de­stroyer, fund the de­ploy­ment sur­veil­lance units around the south­ern is­lands of Ok­i­nawa and Amami as also ac­quire 30 units of am­phibi­ous ve­hi­cles.

De­spite the sig­nif­i­cant thrust to­wards mil­i­tari­sa­tion, the Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter main­tains that the en­hance­ment in the de­fence bud­get “did not mark a de­par­ture from Ja­pan’s post-War paci­fism or the strictly de­fen­sive pos­ture of its armed forces”.

Any con­fronta­tion be­tween Ja­pan and China would have im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia as well. While the strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the largest and the most af­flu­ent democ­racy in South East Asia is def­i­nitely be­com­ing stronger, it would be in In­dia’s in­ter­est to main­tain cor­dial­ity in the re­la­tions with China as well and avoid mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion. It would serve In­dia’s in­ter­est to fo­cus more on strength­en­ing eco­nomic re­la­tions with both Ja­pan and China and dis­cretely avoid get­ting trapped into a po­lit­i­cal or mil­i­tary power play in the re­gion by join­ing the Amer­i­can scheme to forge an al­liance to con­tain China.

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