Japan and India

Japan has been having serious trouble with China and Korea for historical reasons – those reasons have always been there but situation has been exacerbated over the past few months.

In fact, many Asian nations and the U.S. are bothered about potential military escalations in the near future between Japan and China, not an unlikely scenario given the emotions on both sides.

Japan is now led by an assertive Prime Minister, Mr Abe, who wants to shed the baggage of the past and move Japan ahead to a future which is not dominated by its historical mistakes in the Second World War.

Japan needs new Asian allies. While South East Asian countries have benefited a lot from Japanese investments, they continue to play a tight rope balance between China and Japan. China is obviously viewed as the next super power of the world with enormous resources and clout around the world. Further, there is the fear of China and its intentions in the geo-political sphere and China has made no secret of its ambitions.

The one country which Japan has largely ignored in the past is India.

While there was always some kind of Japanese aid over the past several decades, the government to government interaction was not one characterized by warmth and friendship, as there was always the irritation that India had not acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which was very important for Japan.

However now Japan seems to be getting over its past hesitation and trying to get closer to India and India seems to be reciprocating well (usually India does not). Mr Abe visited India recently and was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Celebrations in Delhi. Japan committed a number of investments during his visit.

If Japan does get closer to India, that relationship could potentially define Asia. While it is not to be misconstrued as a relationship designed against China, it is inevitable that China will come to that conclusion quickly, given that India will soon become the first country in the world to buy military equipment from Japan after Second World War.

Things could get interesting for India as Japan could not only provide technology and investments, it could also be a big market for India. And, the U.S. should only be pleased with such a partnership between one of its oldest allies and India which is an emerging ally of the U.S.

Let us watch how this partnership develops over the next couple of years, it could be very significant with global implications.


Vijay Srinivasan
1st Feb 2014


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