Evolution of ties INDIA – JAPAN

Historical Background

  • Cultural links b/w India and Japan date back to sixth century with the spread of Buddhism from India to other arts including Japan.
  • Japan 1905 victory over RUSSIA was viewed by PM NEHRU as the beginning of Asian resurgence and support to anti-colonial activities including help to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose eroded the myth of militarism. Thus there was no historical grievances to impede the evolution of India-Japan ties.
  • India – Japan concluded treaty in 1952 which led to official establishment of diplomatic relations b/w the two countries. 
  • India was instrumental in bringing Japan into the mainstream by inviting it to first Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951  and encouraging Japans participation in afro-Asian conference in Bandung.
  • As Japan made its economic and industrial recovery post WW2 India’s supply of important minerals especially iron ore went a long way in helping Japan for its transition.
  • Due to structural realities of cold-war India-japan ties could not be sustained, as India declared itself a member of NAM and Japan on the other hand was openly in alliance with the USA.
  • During 1962 Sion-Indian war Japan decided to stay neutral even though USA came out in public support of India’s position on border dispute and even supplied arms.
  • Japan’s preferred neutrality during India’s conflict with Pakistan contributed to alienation b/w New Delhi and Tokyo. Japan was deeply engaged economically in south-east Asia and East Asia and India remained marginal to Japan’s economic priorities.
  • Japan considered India as a chaotic, dysfunctional and a desperately poor country and not a potential partner and regarded India as a local power always hyphenated with Pakistan.
  • India’s nuclear test of 1998 marked the lowest point inn the bilateral relation with Japan suspending all the economic aids being given to India and putting a hold on all political exchanges between then two countries for a period of 3 years. Suspension of yen loans , imposition of strict control over technology transfer were followed. Japan also took the lead in condemning the nuclear test by India and Pakistan at forums like G8.

Structural factors

  • Changing balance of power i.e global politics is shifting from Atlantic to Pacific in recent years with rise of India and china. The world seems to be entering a ‘post-American’ era and the international system is trying to come in grips with rise of China and all that it implies for global peace and stability . While the USA still remans the predominant power in Asia – pacific ,the rise of China is reshaping the strategic environment in the region.
  • George w Bush administration in US backed a more assertive Japan. USA seems to be pursuing the policy of engaging China while simultaneously increasing the power of states located along Chinese periphery ,thus reinvigorating existing alliance with Japan and reaching out to new partners such as India. With continued rise of India and China a security conflict b/w the two nations stands inevitable and thus India is gearing up its foreign policy with its new approach towards the USA and JAPAN
  • India’s growing closeness with USA is also making Jaan take India more seriously and both are well aware of Chinese strategy of containing rise of the regional competitors
  • India’s Look and Act east policy remains largely predicated upon Japanese support. India’s participation to East- India summit was facilitated by Japan.

Domestic factors

  • Economic complementarians and trade security i.e. Japan is witnessing steady decline as major economic power on the other hand India’s success in software development, internet business and knowledge intensive industries is leading Japan to view India as an attractive market both in consumer spending and cheap labour along with emerging as a knowledge super power
  • Japan’s ability in investing South East Asian market is also being limited and signs that it has not benefitted diplomatically well from these investments is also emerging

Changing demographic profile

Japan’s ageing population and India’s growing skilled workforce also makes the two states ideal partners with great potential

Changing domestic political attitudes

  • Liberal Democratic Party government have been keen on amending the Japanese constitution especially ARTICLE 9 so that Japan can possess armed forces like any other sovereign country and play its rightful role as a global power
  • Japan has begun to accept more responsibility for its own national defence and is seeking more active role as an international security actor 
  • Close relations with Japan has not been a contentious issue among the Indian politics and both the parties i.e. BJP and INC have diseased a favourable attitude toward the Japan however a voice of dissent can be heard with Left-parties raising concerns against rising proximities b/w two countries as that having an anti-China posture.

Individual level

  • P V NARASIMHA RAO and LOOK EAST POLICY had envisaged developing linkages with ASEAN and its Northern neighbours
  • PM MANMOHA SINGH had acknowledged the policy as a shift with India opening up with the neglected Asia-Pacific nations
  • JAPANESE PM MORI’s visit to New Delhi in 2000 wherein Mori argued that “two states has a global responsibility in defending and spreading the values of democracy and freedom that India and Japan share
  • SHINZO ABE gave India-Japan relations a new dimension wherein ABE talked about a ‘broader Asia’ in his book Towards a beautiful country Abe makes a case about Japan advancing its national interest by strengthening its ties with India. It will not be surprise if in another decade Japan-India relations overtake Japan-US and Japan-China ties
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