(This was originally posted in The Print by Nayanima Basu)
New Delhi: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will be coming to India on his maiden visit later this month with an aim to boost bilateral ties and strengthen the partnership under Quad and Indo-Pacific, in the backdrop of growing Chinese belligerence in the region, ThePrint has learnt.
Apart from holding the long-pending India-Japan annual summit during this visit, Suga is also expected to push Prime Minister Narendra Modi for holding an “early and in-person” Quad Summit on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit in the UK in June where India has been invited by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a special guest, top-level sources told ThePrint. The Quad countries — India, Japan, Australia and the US — held their first-ever summit in virtual format on 12 March this year. The G-7 leaders will all be gathering in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on 11-13 June where Australia is also a special invitee.
Along with India, the sources said, Suga will also be visiting the Philippines, to highlight the centrality of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in the Indo-Pacific, which was a crucial takeaway from the first-ever Quad Summit. The Japanese PM will be coming to India after his visit to Washington where he will be meeting US President Joe Biden next week and is once again expected to stress the challenges faced by Tokyo due to Beijing. At present, India, Japan, and the Philippines are all facing challenges at the hands of China, with threats to their territorial integrity.
While India has been locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh for almost a year now, Tokyo is facing mounting tensions with Beijing over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Japan is also getting increasingly wary of China’s new coast guard law as it believes the move is targeted at Tokyo’s vessels in the region. This was discussed at length between Modi and Suga when they last spoke over a phone call days before the Quad Summit.
Taking bilateral ties to next level
During the visit, both sides will also be holding the India-Japan annual summit that was canceled in 2019. The summit was to take place between PM Modi and former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Assam in December 2019, but it was called off due to massive protests going on in Guwahati at the time over the citizenship amendment law passed by Parliament. Suga, who succeeded Abe in September 2020, will be discussing issues concerning China’s increasing dominance in the region, especially in the maritime domain, diplomatic sources told ThePrint, adding that he will also seek to garner greater support from India from the security perspective.
While India and Japan upgraded their bilateral relationship to ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ during Modi’s visit to that country in 2014, both sides are expected to give the ties a more robust outlook as they are now bound together in key geopolitical constructs like the Quad and Indo-Pacific. India and Japan have already signed a military pact last September that allows them to exchange supplies and logistical support. Both countries are now jointly working together in third countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with connectivity and infrastructure projects as they plan to expand their influence in the Bay of Bengal region.