Joint stateMent Maps out road For india-Japan ties
One tall barrier could be the relative unfamiliarity with Japanese language in the past interactions among Indians and Japanese.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe visited India on 13 and 14 September 2017 for the annual India-Japan Prime Ministerial Summit. This visit was unique because his itinerary was entirely in Gujarat, opening the doors to similar such state-level visits by heads of government, reflecting India’s diverse States-Union tradition.
There was palpable excitement in Ahmedabad/ Gandhinagar for the visit of Japan’s first couple, Shinzo and Akie Abe, as compared to the jaded disinterest that is common in Lutyens Delhi for the now-unending stream of dignitaries that come through the nation’s capital. Indeed, the next summit in India in 2019 could be in the southern states.
The highlights of the Abes’ interactions with the public were their marigold bedecked open-jeep greet- ings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to throngs of excited Gujaratis lining the streets and the muchanticipated foundation stone laying ceremony for the Shinkansen MumbaiAhmedabad bullet train construction project, expected to be completed around 2022. The Abes too appeared to be energised by the warm reception they received, and PM Abe in his exuberance, declared “I really like India and I will do whatever I can do for India”. This is not insignificant, given that some in the leadership of another large economy in Asia, by comparison, appear to be taking frequent pot-shots at India.
The Joint Statement at the conclusion of the Prime Ministerial Summit calls for alignment of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy with India’s Act East Policy, including through enhancing maritime security cooperation, improving connectivity in the wider IndoPacific region, strengthening cooperation with ASEAN, and promoting discussions between strategists and experts of the two countries. It advances the need for partnerships for prosperity through India-Japan Investment Promotion, speedy implementation of key infrastructure projects, and advancing cooperation in the fields of energy, smart cities, information and communication technology, space, science and technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and health.
Both India and Japan have a formidable number and range of human resources and expertise in sectors mentioned in the Joint Statement, however, one tall barrier could be the relative unfamiliarity with Japanese language in the past interactions among Indians and Japanese. Japanese language teaching in India was stressed in the Joint Statement, as was collaboration in the fields of tourism, civil aviation, higher education, women’s education, skills development and sports. For many Indians, who have grown up with multiple-languages and multicultural environment in a multi-religious-and-ethnic society, adding one more language to our portfolio may not be such a difficult task, especially if Japanese language skill is associated with in-coming skilled jobs with Make in India investment from Japan.
On the enhanced connectivity of Pacific-Indian Ocean, the two Prime Ministers plan to work together to enhance connectivity in India and with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including Africa. This includes the development of industrial corridors and industrial networks for the growth of Asia and Africa, which will benefit various stakeholders in the IndoPacific region, including Africa. They shared the desire to further promote cooperation and collaboration in Africa, just as companies like Maruti-Suzuki have been exporting to numerous African nations.
The Joint Statement also prescribes enhanced defence and security cooperation and dialogues, defence equipment and technology cooperation in such areas as surveillance and unmanned system technologies, and defence industry cooperation.
As is customary with joint statements, there is a litany of initiatives and programmes mentioned. However, little by way of analysis and evaluation. What has happened to various joint endeavours? Have they resulted in business going concerns or faded into oblivion? What can we learn from those experiences?
In a first, PM Abe and PM Modi stressed the importance of holding accountable all parties that have supported North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, a not-so-veiled reference to the widely suspected Pakistan and China, which have reportedly been overtly, covertly and unofficially supportive.
It is quite fascinating that Modi and Abe have returned to the theme of “Confluence of the Two Seas”, meaning the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which was the title of a 1655 book authored by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, who was the son and heirapparent of Emperor Shah Jahan. Dara Shikoh assiduously sought understanding with different communities and religions. This book title was emphasised by Prime Minister Abe in his famous speech to Indian Parliament on 22 August 2007, during his first term in office. That Dara Shikoh was assassinated by his brother Aurangzeb, a despot, in order to seize power, is often not remembered. Thus, recollecting India’s history, PM Abe’s 2007 speech aimed at governance through peace and by extension peace through strength, would be an essential shared vision; not merely peace through good intentions and hope, and that is indeed the path that India and Japan have embarked on. Dr Sunil Chacko, a graduate of Harvard, has been a faculty member in the US, Canada, India and Japan. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India earlier this week has augmented India-Japan defence ties significantly and has irked China on expected lines. While experts in India see the boost in defence ties between India and Japan in a positive light, many expect a “larger return in streams other than the bullet train”. Experts also hoped that China would take lessons in regional co-operation from strengthening IndiaJapan ties. Explaining China’s displeasure, A.B. Mahapatra, chairman, Centre for Asian Strategic Studies-India (CASSIndia), said, “China’s paramount concern is not Japan’s investment in India, but India and Japan’s global partnership. There is a larger picture of India and Japan investing in Africa that China is worried about. China has invested in Africa, but has been bullish too. Africans prefer India over China. So, if now Africa has a choice other than China, they will be able to oust China. Botswana has been vocal about their discontent with the Chinese too.” Other than the subject of preference, Africa needs investments in other sectors that are not China’s forte. “Sectors like education, agriculture etc., are where partnership between India and Japan will work wonders in Africa. China is not even present in these sectors, because their investments are on different scales in metal, construction and machinery sectors. So, Japan can invest in India’s bullet trains or Northeast, but for China, the India-Japan partnership on a global scale presents indirect competition,” said Mahapatra.
Pranay Kotasthane, research fellow, Takshashila Institute, said, “Abe’s visit is a testimony to the fact China’s economic and military rise is bound to coalesce some of its neighbours against China. And this will happen regardless of the cultural impediments, ideological fixations and political hesitations in these countries. Japan as the only East Asian country with both the interest and the power to construct a regional balance of power to counter Chinese domination in the region, currently faces security challenges from both China and North Korea.” Kotasthane added, “Thus, any move that lends a hand to an increase in Japanese power is good for India. This Indo-Japanese cooperation will also drive home the point in China that its own efforts through arrogant, provocative, threatening, and even racist words and deeds have been partly responsible in driving China’s neighbours against it. The joint statement talks about enhanced maritime security cooperation, technology cooperation in surveillance and unmanned system technologies, defence industry cooperation, and expansion in scale and complexity of joint military exercises. All these are positive developments for India and Japan. Though the sale of US-2 amphibian aircraft could not be finalised during this visit, it should not be seen as a failure. The Japanese defence manufacturers, bureaucracy, and public opinion are still coming to terms with a changed world.”
Mahapatra said: “For Japan, investing in defence ties with India is not much of an ideological concern, but is more financial in nature. Indians prefer capping the price, while most nations providing technology do not warmly welcome this format. Japan has not been much flexible on this point and Indians have been traditionally unwilling to pay more for the same product in future. India and Japan also have a lot to achieve in space and nuclear co-operation, but these points on the lists will require to be checked one by one.”