Prioritising Japan

Transforming relations with Japan should be on India’s agenda this year

Shinzo Abe, who many people believe will succeed Junichiro Koizumi as prime minister of Japan, put it very correctly. Not only do India and Japan have common interests, they are also generally well-disposed towards each other. Yet, the pace at which the bilateral relationship has grown leaves much to be desired. Fortunately he has clearly declared an interest in putting relations with India on a more important track.

“We need not only to look at Japan-China relations but also to have a bird’s-eye view of the whole of Asia or the world when we engage in diplomacy with Asian nations,” he told the public broadcaster NHK on Sunday.

“For example, there is another Asian power — India, which has common values with Japan such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and rule of law.

“Our relations with India have been relatively weak though it is a country very friendly to Japan,” he said, arguing it was “important to strengthen ties with this country a lot more and forge strategic relations.” [AFP/Yahoo]

The Indian government would do well to seize the opportunity to engage Japan in a strategic bilateral relationship that encompasses trade, energy, security and geopolitics. If it does so, 2006 may yet be the year that transformed India’s relations with yet another natural partner.

7 thoughts on “Prioritising Japan”

  1. Japan would be an excellent partner as part of a Federated Missile Defense since Japan has great radar systems, a very good navy with Aegis class destroyers, and Patriot 3 missile systems. If we could get all the friendly countries in the area to work together in a comprehensive, overlapping, but loosely coupled missile defense system it would provide a nice counter to the continued threats of nuclear armed Pakistan, N. Korea, China, and maybe Iran. It would also make it extremely difficult for Iran for example to attack India with nuclear weapons knowing that it would have to defeat multiple missile defense systems as well as early warning radar systems.

  2. I think the problem is mainly Japanese – they look down upon most non-westerns. Indians have been trying to get closer to Japan since mid-90s. Although, we usually have good Japanese ambassadors in New Delhi who want closer ties, Tokyo babus don’t seem interested. Hopefully Mr. Abe can change that and take relations to a higher plan. Obviously, India’s closer relationship with US helps in this regard.

  3. In addition to what Chandra’s point, I think part of the problem here is that India and Japan are quite different culturally. At the risk of generalizing, Japanese culture is marked by a passion for order, while Indian culture is marked by a comfort with chaos. You can see this contrast in everything from politics to food to street life to cinema to social customs. This can make it hard for one side to fully relate to the other, and keep ties between political and business leaders from properly maturing.

    That said, the countries are obbviously natural allies in a lot of ways, and in the aftermath of the anti-Japanese protests that took place last year, it’s safe to say that Japan would like to be on good terms with any country that can act as a regional counterweight to China, and can also help reduce Japan’s considerable economic dependence on the country.

  4. Wouldn’t it have been brilliant if the CM (or state government) of Karnataka or AP or UP took full page ads for a whole week in Japanese newspapers saying that their states are open for business while the anti-Japanese riots were going on in China? MEA, always wanting to bend over backwards to China, may not like. But so what? That would have been a coup.

    On the other hand, look who am I talking about? Never mind.

  5. Relations between Japan and India are fast changing from being one of the largest donor of international aid to more of economic cooperation on equal terms. Thousands of Delhities are benefitting from METRO, thanx to Japanese cooperation.
    Shadow of cold war before 1991 surely has made the relations between Tokyo and New Delhi gloomy but since then situation is turning for a good. Innumerable efforts of New Delhi in engaging South and East Asia on every front have given the relations a new dimension and space to grow further. ASEAN and recent EAS are welcome steps which move the relations northwards.
    Growing Indo-US cooperation have positive effect on Indo-Japanese relations as well, but shaping the relations on the backdrop of sour relations between Japan and China has left the space for economic, energy and strategic cooperation between India and japan more optimistic.
    It is for the two countries for deciding about the future contours of relations which are definately are on right trajectory but requires more serious engagements.

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