Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution outlaws war as an option to settle international disputes, and rightly so. Since the 1940s, Japan has embarked on a path of tech and infrastructural revolution along with countries all around the world. India has a long history of good relations with Japan that are rooted in strong cultural and civilisational ties that began in 752 AD when the Indian monk Bodhisena visited Japan. Indian culture, especially Buddhism, has had a great impact on Japanese culture. Contemporary times have seen prominent Indian political figures like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda, Nobel laurate Rabindranath Tagore, etc, associated with Japan.
On 28th April 1952 when India and Japan signed a peace treaty, it was one of the first peace treaties signed by Japan after World War II. The treaty waived off whatever reparations were implied on Japan. It gave the Japanese a ray of hope and set grounds between the two nations for future endeavours of economic cooperation and diplomatic relations.
Furthermore, acknowledging mutual political and strategic interests and emerging security challenges, the Indo-Japan partnership has gradually evolved through years into a strong alliance with deepening ties. Today as we commemorate sixty-six years of diplomatic relations between these two great nations of Asia Pacific, it is noteworthy that this relationship derives its unique strength from the immutable bonds of history, culture, religion and civilisation that transcend the space-time fabric.
Economic cooperation is a dominant feature of the India-Japan bilateral relationship. India remains the largest recipient of Japanese ODA (Official Development Assistance), a flagship for infrastructure development projects with regards to transport, water supply, irrigation, environment, technology, health and people-to-people exchanges. The partnership extends to projects in the strategically sensitive regions of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the north-eastern region of India, where the Indian government is stringent about allowing foreign investment.
The Japanese NEC Corporation has been contracted to install an under-sea cable from Chennai to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands while Tokyo is also involved in road connectivity projects linking India’s north-eastern states to neighbouring ASEAN countries. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor (Bullet Train) is one of the newly signed infrastructural agreements on high-speed rail connectivity. India and Japan also inked a digital partnership that includes the establishment of a start-up hub in Bangalore, mutual investments support, collaboration on digital infrastructure and system designs, partnership in IT human resources, research and development, as well as next-generation networks in the year 2018.
Intermingling the strengths of Japanese hardware capabilities and India’s software and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) expertise presents tremendous growth opportunities and could also mitigate urgent domestic challenges in an era that promises increasing digitalisation and potential technological disruptions. The expansive Indian population can also plug the labour-crunch in Japan since Japan currently faces a serious demographic challenge, with a rapidly aging and shrinking population.
Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue)
The quadrilateral agreement (also known as “Quad”) between America, Australia, Japan and India has seen a revival post the Covid19 pandemic. It has recently been in the news for a variety of reasons, ranging from countering China’s questionable actions since the outbreak of the virus to its surface and subsurface activities in the Indian Ocean beyond the Malacca Straits. This is a big red flag for countries like India and Japan.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lately brought about the concept of Asia’s ‘Democratic Security Diamond’ for the second time to safeguard the maritime commons from the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific of the Quad nations, a critical move that has been driven by the urgency with which nations in the broader Asian region must act together.
Recent developments in India have seen a level of strategic convergence between Delhi and Tokyo that can be gauged from the fact that India invited the Japanese Navy in 2014 to participate in the annual Malabar exercises with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific waters, reviving an earlier practice of joint India-U.S.-Japan trilateral exercises. These are very significant exercises considering the fact that these can help the two nations in maintaining peace and stability in the region in the new world order that is emerging post the pandemic.
With changing geopolitical realities post Covid19, the need of an hour is to push for greater engagement with such like-minded nations. India and Japan both set an example on how regional cooperation on different strategic, political and socio-economic domains could help nations thrive in future.
—The writer is Senior Research Analyst at Prime Research India. [email protected]