International

India – Japan Synergy : A Threat To China’s Influence

The last decade witnessed several geopolitical upheavals, most notably the rise of China’s influence. From the launch of the BRI initiative to the military buildup in the South China Sea, the world witnessed an aggressive China. The fallout of China’s rise posed a national security threat for India and Japan, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. For India, China’s “string of pearls” doctrine posed a serious challenge, as it aimed to surround and crush India’s influence. This included border disputes, a naval presence in the Indian Ocean, and strangling its neighbours in debt traps. While for Japan, it’s China’s claim over Senkaku Island, its alliance with North Korea, and apprehensions about a Taiwan invasion. Such rogue policies pushed India and Japan closer and laid the foundation for a multilayered collaboration to push back China. In this article, we’ll shed some light on this budding partnership detrimental to China’s nefarious designs.

KEY FIELDS OF COOPERATION

DEFENCE ENGAGEMENT

India and Japan have a growing defence partnership that is based on shared security interests and strategic objectives. The two countries have been engaging in various defence-related activities, including joint military exercises, defence dialogues, and defence technology cooperation. Here are some key aspects of the defence partnership between India and Japan:

Defense Dialogues: India and Japan hold regular defence dialogues at various levels, including the Defence Ministerial Meeting, the Defence Policy Dialogue, and the National Security Adviser-level talks. These dialogues provide a platform for both countries to discuss and coordinate their defence policies and strategies.

INDIA-JAPAN JIMEX 2022 EXERCISE.

Joint Military Exercises: India and Japan conduct regular joint military exercises to promote interoperability and enhance their defence capabilities. These exercises include the annual Japan-India Maritime Exercise (JIMEX) and the Japan-India-US trilateral exercise known as Malabar, which also involves the United States.

Maritime Security: Given their shared interest in maritime security, India and Japan have been cooperating in areas such as anti-piracy operations, maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief operations. The two countries have also signed several defence agreements, including the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and the reciprocal provision of supplies and services agreement. They have also been advocating for a rules-based international order and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region.

ECONOMIC COOPERATION

India and Japan have strong economic ties, with Japan being one of the largest investors in India. The bilateral trade between the two sides stood at USD 20.75 billion last year, which was the largest ever. To further boost their trade, both countries have implemented measures to promote trade, such as the India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). It aims to eliminate tariffs on most goods and promote investment and service trade. Apart from trade and commerce, Japan has also been a trusted partner for infrastructure development projects. Both counties have collaborated on several infrastructure projects, including the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) project, also known as the “Bullet Train” project. Japan has extended financial and technical support for this ambitious project, which aims to boost connectivity between major cities.

In addition, India and Japan have also collaborated in the financial sector, including currency swaps, investment promotion, and cooperation in capital markets. Recently, during his visit to India, Japanese PM Fusio Kishida pledged to invest $42 billion in India over the next 5 years. India and Japan also collaborate in areas such as healthcare, tourism, education, and fostering people-to-people ties. The economic cooperation between India and Japan has strengthened their bilateral relations and contributed to their economic growth and development.

HUMAN ASSISTANCE AND DISASTER RELIEF COOPERATION

India and Japan share a strong partnership when it comes to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) cooperation. Both countries have a history of providing support to each other and to other countries in times of natural disasters and emergencies. Here are some key points on the HADR cooperation between India and Japan:

Joint Exercises: India and Japan regularly conduct joint military exercises focused on HADR, such as the annual bilateral exercise called “Dharma Guardian.” These exercises involve sharing best practices and training on HADR operations.These exercises focus on enhancing coordination and interoperability during disaster scenarios. These joint exercises help in building mutual trust, understanding, and preparedness for disaster response.

INDIA-JAPAN EXERCISE DHARMA GUARDIAN

Technical Assistance: India and Japan also collaborate on using technology and innovation for disaster management. In 2018, India and Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation on disaster risk reduction. It aimed to strengthen their cooperation in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. During devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, India provided assistance to Japan, including sending a team of doctors and medical supplies. Japan, in turn, has provided assistance to India during various disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2013 Uttarakhand floods.

Regional Cooperation: India and Japan also cooperate in regional forums such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the East Asia Summit (EAS) to promote regional cooperation in disaster management. Both countries actively participate in regional initiatives to enhance coordination, share best practices, and provide assistance to other countries in the region during disasters.

COUNTERING CHINA’S INFLUENCE

THE QUAD COOPERATION

India and Japan are part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad, along with the United States and Australia. India and Japan are the bedrock members of the Quad, as both are Asian countries neighbouring China. Another reason is the fact that the concept of quad was first spelled out by former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on the floor of the Indian parliament in 2007. He was the first initiator of the Quad Framework. Mr. Abe, in his canonical speech “Confluence of the Two Seas,” delivered in 2007 to the Indian parliament, highlighted the importance of joining the Pacific and Indian oceans to advocate for a “broader Asia.” Mr. Abe intended for the Quadrilateral to establish an “Asian Arc of Democracy” to counter dictatorial China in the region. Today, the Quad is the only potential group capable of countering the growing Chinese influence in the region.

PM SHINZO ABE ADDRESSING INDIAN PARLIAMENT, AUGUST 22, 2007.

Japan's PM in India.
In the frame: PM Manmohan Singh, Vice President Md. Hamid Ansari, and Lok Sabha Speaker Shri Somnath Chatterjee.

Here are some of the key initiatives launched by the Quad:

COVID-19 Vaccine Initiative: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Quad launched the Quad Vaccine Partnership in March 2021. Under this initiative, the Quad countries have pledged to work together to enhance vaccine production, distribution, and access in the Indo-Pacific region. The Quad has committed to providing over 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in the region, with a focus on low-income and developing countries.

Supply Chain Resilience Initiative: The Quad launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative in September 2020. It aimed to reduce dependence on China and strengthen supply chain resilience in critical sectors such as pharmaceuticals, technology, and rare earth minerals.

MALABAR EXERCISE 2022, CONDUCTED IN THE SEA OF JAPAN

Malabar Exercise: The Malabar Exercise is a joint naval exercise between the Quad countries that aims to enhance maritime security and interoperability. It has been conducted annually since 1992 between the US, India, and Japan, but India invited Australia to join the exercise in 2020, making it a quad-led initiative. The objective behind this exercise is to promote interoperability and coordination among the armed forces of the Quad countries in the face of imminent Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

Quad Cyber Dialogue: The Quad Cyber Dialogue focuses on enhancing cooperation among the Quad countries in the field of cybersecurity. It covers areas such as information sharing, capacity building, and coordination to address cyber threats and promote a secure and resilient cyberspace in the region.

Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group: In February 2021, the Quad launched a working group focused on critical and emerging technology issues such as 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. The working group aims to strengthen cooperation among the Quad members on these technologies.

Also Read, Understanding Dynamics Of India-Russia Relations

INDIA-JAPAN JOINT REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVE

The biggest ace in China’s arsenal to extend its influence is its infrastructure projects under the BRI initiative. Under its flagship initiative, China intended to create a web of rail and road networks to recreate a modern silk route. It was considered China’s key to challenging the US’s sole superpower status. Through this initiative, China duped weak economies into enhancing its infrastructure through Chinese debt. Eventually, these projects, with zero economic viability and stringent debt rates, strangled these countries into China’s debt trap. Once trapped, China claimed their strategic assets as leverage; e.g., the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka was taken over by China on a 99-year lease. These predatory infrastructure projects pushed these weak economies to the verge of bankruptcy. This posed a severe national security threat to both Japan and India. To counter it, both countries have been promoting their own connectivity initiatives in the region.

HAMBANTOTA PORT IN SRI LANKA.

HAMBANTOTA PORT

Contrary to the murky BRI projects, the Indo-Japanese initiative aims to foster high-quality, transparent, and sustainable infrastructure projects that promote economic growth, connectivity, and development. Here are some examples of their joint efforts:

Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC): Japan and India jointly proposed the AAGC in 2017. It aimed to promote economic and social development in Africa by connecting it with Asia. The AAGC focuses on quality infrastructure development, such as ports, airports, and highways, and aims to enhance connectivity, trade, and investment between the two continents. Japan has already invested about $32 billion in infrastructure projects in Africa. While India is the fifth-biggest investor in Africa, over the past 20 years it has made $54 billion worth of investments.

Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP): Both Japan and India have been promoting the FOIP, which aims to enhance connectivity and cooperation among countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Recently, Japan announced it would spend $75 billion on infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific by 2030. The FOIP focuses on quality infrastructure development, maritime security, and the rule of law and aims to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Infrastructure Initiatives in Asia: Collaboration in Sri Lanka, such as the development of LNG-related infrastructure. In addition, India signed a $700 million deal for for development of Colombo West International Terminal. Cooperation in Myanmar, synergizing development efforts in the Rakhine State by collaborating in housing, education, and electrification projects.

Also Read, Why China Claims Arunachal Pradesh?

COLOMBO WEST TERMINAL

Sri lanka port.

Cooperation in Bangladesh, for enhancing connectivity by way of four-lane road construction and reconstruction of bridges on the Ramgarh to Baraiyarhat stretch, and providing rolling stock and constructing the Jamuna Railway Bridge over the Januma River. Development of Matarbari port : Bangladesh’s first deep-sea port, by Japan in addition with an additional $1.2 billion infrastructure construction loan. Upon completion in 2027, it will serve as a key port for India’s underdeveloped northeastern states connected to bangladesh. The port emerged as one of the key areas for free and open Indo-Pacific agenda. India launched the “Maitri Setu,” connecting Tripura and Bangladesh in 2021. In 2022, India launched the Maitree power plant, a MW supercritical coal-fired thermal power plant at Rampal, at an estimated cost of $2 billion.

In summary, Japan and India have been cooperating to counter the BRI by promoting their own connectivity initiatives. It also includes providing assistance for infrastructure development projects in the region. Their joint efforts aim to enhance connectivity, promote economic and social development, and counter China’s growing influence in the region.

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Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (3rd year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.

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