Japan – An ally India must cultivate

India’s Look East policy does not look far enough

Japan falls through the cracks. It is not really a part of the West, and lies too far East to be meaningfully engaged as part of the now cliched ‘Look East’ policy.

Japanese multinationals have been in India long before the reforms of the 1990s. India is the largest recipient of Japan’s overseas development assistance. Both see a long term strategic threat from China. Both have suffered at the hands of the China-North Korea-Pakistan nuclear proliferation ring. Both are liberal democracies. Apart from Japan’s moral stance over India’s nuclear weapons and perhaps its agricultural subsidies, they have very little to quarrel about. Yet, diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries are nowhere near what they should be given how closely their interests appear to converge.

In a recent article in the Financial Express, Mukul Asher calls for greater engagement between India and Japan. Japan under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi looks more ready than it ever was to challenge conventional Japanese wisdom. With China attacking the bottom-end of its economy and South Korea already eating into its top-end, Japan needs more than just big markets. It needs to align with economies with complementary strengths that can help it compete globally — India is well placed to become that partner.

Geopolitically, the need for closer engagement is even more obvious. Apart from the United States (thanks to its Pacific Fleet) there is no other country that has the capability to project power in the Indian Ocean region and challenge China, save India. Japan’s security relationship with the United States is old and strong, but it makes very good sense diversify. India on the other hand needs a strong partner in the north Asian region that can effectively help counter-balance China’s ‘encircling’ of India.

An India-Japan alliance can form the backbone of a strong security and economic arrangement in Asia, provided India and Japan don’t continue to fall through each other’s cracks.

Related Links: Summary of the India-Japan Summit Meeting; Is an alliance of democracies possible?

3 thoughts on “Japan – An ally India must cultivate”

  1. Your post reminds me of some of my own thoughts on this matter. Given their common political systems, and their joint need to counter the influence of a rising China, it makes a lot of sense for Japan and India to draw closer in the coming years. I think the big question right now is whether India, whose GDP is currently less than 1/7 that of Japan’s, will develop quickly enough to act as an equal partner of a remilitarized Japan.

  2. Yes Eric that is the problem the Japanese see with India. There was an article somewhere, cant seem to google it now. There was a Japanese CEO talking about India having not given attention to high tech manufacturing. The Japanese have no low cost alternative to China and they have to end up setting up plants in China. Japan is also one of the biggest investors in Vietnam hoping to cultivate the other rising economic power in East Asia.

    Meanwhile, China is also developing it’s north east, specially the region around Dalian to become (in Dalian’s mayor’s actual words)the Bangalore for Japan and Korea. They have a big pool of Japanese speaking people there and the region is just two hours flying time from Japan.

    The first think India needs to do is fix its visa policy. It is far less hassle for a Japanese tourist or businessperson to travel to China when compared to India.

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