Relationship between Japan and India

Given that the Japanese premier plans to visit India as soon as the situation permits following the COVID-19 pandemic, his dealings with the U.S. are a preview of what New Delhi can expect from Tokyo.

First, one can expect a continuation of the balancing security policy against China that began Abe in 2014. During a phone call with the Indian Prime Minister, Japanese premier expressed positive mood over the common actions with India in the East and South China Seas,. Crucially, India’s clashes with China in Galwan have turned public opinion in favour of a more friendly policy with Japan.

In just a decade, New Delhi and Tokyo have expanded high-level ministerial and bureaucratic contacts, conducted joint military exercises and concluded military pacts such as the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) logistics agreement. Further, no meeting would be complete without an affirmation of New Delhi and Tokyo’s support for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and continued willingness to work with the Quad, which is fast emerging as a central pillar of the security strategies of both nations. A common meeting, accompanied by the planned 2+2 Ministerial meetings, will likely aim to take stock of the state of play in the security relationship while also pushing the envelope on the still nascent cooperation on defence technology and exports.

Second, the two powers will look to expand cooperation in sectors such as cybersecurity and emerging technologies. During the last year, New Delhi and Tokyo put together a digital research and innovation partnership that ran the gamut of technologies from AI and 5G to the Internet of Things and space research. As with the U.S.-Japan summit, India and Japan may look to deepen cooperation between research institutes and expand funding in light of China’s aforementioned technology investment programme. It is yet unclear whether Japan will attempt to stir the pot and bring up the disagreements over India’s insistence on data localisation and continued reluctance to accede to global cybersecurity agreements such as the Budapest Convention.

Third, economic ties and infrastructure development are likely to be top drawer items on the agendas of New Delhi and Tokyo. While Japan has poured in around $34 billion in investments into the Indian economy over the course of the last two decades, Japan is only India’s 12th largest trading partner, and trade volumes between the two stand at just a fifth of the value of India-China bilateral trade. A common summit will likely reaffirm Japan’s support for key manufacturing initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and the Japan Industrial Townships. Further, India will be keen to secure continued infrastructure investments in the strategically vital connectivity projects currently under way in the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Finally, the double Summit would undoubtedly devote much attention to evolving a joint strategy towards key third countries and multilateral bodies. In years past, New Delhi and Tokyo have collaborated to build infrastructure in Iran and Africa, provide vital aid to Myanmar and Sri Lanka and hammer out a common Association of Southeast Asian Nations outreach policy in an attempt to counter China’s growing influence in these corners of the globe. However, unlike previous summits, the time has come for India and Japan to take a hard look at reports suggesting that joint infrastructure projects in Africa and Iran have stalled with substantial cost overruns. Tokyo will also likely continue its charm offensive on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in an attempt to get New Delhi to reverse its decision not to join the massive trade compact.


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