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India Japan Ties

  • 07 Sep 2022
  • 9 min read

This editorial is based on “Japan is recasting its national security vision in face of an aggressive China. India must inject strategic content into ties during 2+2 dialogue” which was published in The Indian Express on 06/09/2022. It talks about the upcoming 2+2 dialogue between India and Japan and traces the path ahead.

For Prelims: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Dharma Guardian, Malabar, MILAN, Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), Vostok 2022, Sea of Japan, India's Act East Policy, South Kuril Island

For Mains: Current State of India's Relations with Japan, Challenges for India and Japan in the Indo-Pacific, India’s Stand on Vostok 2022.

The friendship between India and Japan has a long history rooted in spiritual affinity and strong cultural and civilizational ties. Indian culture, filtered through Buddhism, has had a great impact on Japanese culture, and this is the source of the Japanese people's sense of closeness to India.

Bilateral ties have been singularly free of any kind of dispute – ideological or territorial. India -Japan peace treaty was one of the first peace treaties Japan signed after World War II.

Even though India and Japan have exchanged defense ideas for almost two decades and declared a shared interest in keeping the Indo-Pacific open and free, as partners in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue along with the US and Australia, their bilateral cooperation is still lacking. US-China interference in the Indo-Pacific prevented both sides from implementing their desired strategic objectives.

What is the State of India's Relations with Japan?

  • Defense Ties: India-Japan Defence and Security partnership has evolved over the years from bilateral and multilateral exercises including Dharma Guardian and Malabar respectively. And welcoming the participation of Japan for the first time in exercise MILAN.
    • Tri-Service Exchanges between Japan and India have been institutionalized completing the triad. Coast Guards have had regular annual exchanges since 2006. Including, Japan and India Vision 2025 Special Strategic and Global Partnership - working together for peace and prosperity of the indo-pacific region and the world.
  • Economic Ties: A test of the reliability of Japan as a friend was witnessed in 1991 when Japan was among the few countries that bailed India out of the balance of payment crisis.
    • In recent years, the economic relationship between Japan and India has steadily expanded and deepened. The volume of trade between the two countries has increased. Japan was the 12th largest trading partner for India in 2020.
    • Also, direct investment from Japan to India has increased, and Japan was the 4th largest investor in India in FY2020.
  • Health-Care: In view of the similarities and synergies between the goals and objectives of India's AYUSHMAN Bharat Programme and Japan’s AHWIN, both sides had been consulting with each other to identify projects to build the narrative of AHWIN for AYUSHMAN Bharat.
  • Investment and ODA: India has been the largest recipient of the Japanese Official Development Assistance(ODA) Loan for the past decades. Delhi Metro is one of the most successful examples of Japanese cooperation through the utilization of ODA.
    • India’s Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project is funded by a soft loan provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency under Special terms for economic partnership (STEP).
    • Besides, Japan and India had committed to build a High-Speed Railways in India by introducing Japan’s Shinkansen System.
    • India Japan Nuclear Deal 2016 will help India build the six nuclear reactors in southern India, increasing nuclear energy capacity ten-fold by 2032.

What are the Roadblock to Strengthen India-Japan Ties?

  • Rising China’s Dominance: China does not shy away from making efforts to block the rise of India and Japan, including by stepping up military pressure on them and opposing their UN Security Council’s permanent membership.
  • Influence of China-America Rivalry: The intensification of Chinese-American rivalry contributes to disturbance of regional security in the Indo-Pacific.
    • The region is militarised and an arms race is taking place, military exercises and manoeuvres are systematically occurring in disputed waters that ultimately affects peace and prosperity for the region, especially for countries like India and Japan.
  • Domestic Issues in Japan: Japan is in the midst of a massive domestic debate over the revision of its national security and defence strategies, which has resulted in the assimilation of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

What is Vostok 2022?

  • About: The Vostok 2022 is a multilateral strategic and command exercise scheduled to take place at seven firing ranges in the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan, with over 50,000 troops and more than 5,000 weapons units taking part.
    • It will involve troops from several ex-Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
  • Japan’s Objection: Japan has objected to Russia’s plan to hold the maritime component of Vostok-2022 close to Northern Territories- Southern Kuril Islands, claimed by both Japan and Russia.
  • Stand of India: India abstained from sending its warships as part of the exercise, as it decided to stay away from the maritime component of Vostok-2022 in order to avoid hurting the sensitivity of Japan.
    • However, India kept a balanced stand as the Indian Army’s contingent of the Gorkha Regiment is participating in the military drills.

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Curbing the Hegemony in India-Pacific: India and Japan are required to transform their military strategy and build on the common interest in preventing the rise of a securing hegemony in the Indo-Pacific (US and China).
  • Putting Hands Together for Digital Empowerment: With a view to enhancing digital infrastructure through promotion of joint projects for digital transformation, India and Japan can shake hands for digital infrastructure cooperation in various fields like 5G, Open RAN, Telecom Network Security, submarine cable systems, and Quantum Communications.
  • Strengthening India’s Act East Policy: India has always placed the ‘Indo-Pacific’ at the heart of its engagement with the countries of Southeast and East Asia. For deriving effective solutions to contemporary challenges, India's Act East Policy must be strengthened.
    • Japan also endeavours to cooperate in supporting strategic connectivity linking South Asia to Southeast Asia through the synergy between ''Act East'' policy and ''Partnership for Quality Infrastructure.''
  • Knowledge Exchange for Disaster Risk Reduction: India can benefit from Japan's disaster management experience in developing disaster risk reduction policies and measures in disaster-prone areas.
  • Towards Multipolar Asia: By reshaping their Asian strategic landscape, India and Japan has the potential to catalyse their emergence as world powers, and march towards a open and secure Indo-Pacific.

Drishti Mains Question

“Though India and Japan have shared interest in keeping the Indo-Pacific open and free, their bilateral cooperation is still lacking.” Comment

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. Consider the following countries: (2018)

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. China
  4. India
  5. Japan
  6. USA

Which of the above are among the ‘free-trade partners’ of ASEAN?

(a) 1, 2, 4 and 5
(b) 3, 4, 5 and 6
(c) 1, 3, 4 and 5
(d) 2, 3, 4 and 6

Ans: (c)

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