Growing ties



Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade has given a new momentum to the relations between India and Japan.

It was more than symbolic as the engagement between the two countries has been undergoing a qualitative change in recent years. The Japanese emperor and the defence minister visited India recently and Abe has indicated that Tokyo wants to impart a new direction and content to bilateral relations. India has also considered Japan as an important factor in its Look East policy. The comprehensive economic co-operation agreement between the two countries has boosted bilateral trade and Japanese investment in India. But considering the recent resurgence of the Japanese economy and India’s potential, there is much greater scope for future growth.

There was agreement during the visit to ramp up Japanese investment, especially in  the  industrial  and infrastructure sectors. Japanese assistance to develop the Mumbai–Delhi industrial corridor and  infrastructure projects in the north-eastern states and help to set up a Chennai-Bangalore high speed rail link along with  a new port in Chennai will go a long way to deepen the economic ties. Japanese companies which are overinvested in China are also looking for more opportunities after the recent tensions in relations between Tokyo and Beijing. These tensions may also be behind Japan’s increasing interest in giving a greater strategic content to its relations with Delhi.  Defence ties will also be strengthened and Japan has selectively removed its embargo on selling military hardware to India. India has decided to invite Japanese navy  for the Indo-US Malabar exercises later this year.  The two countries have also moved closer on nuclear issues, though there is no agreement on co-operation in the area.

China’s sensitivities about a stronger and more extensive strategic relationship between India and Japan have clouded Indian policy for long. Beijing considers it as part of what it takes as a US plan to contain and constrain China. But diplomatic relations are not zero sum games and India can pursue its national interests and convince China  that its engagement with Japan or other countries is not directed against that country. After decades of stagnation Japan’s economy is reviving and its profile is changing. India should make the best use of the opportunities offered to it by the change.

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