It was evident when Japan refused to join Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) without India that the relations between the two nations are moving towards special strategic and global partnership. India and Japan have now instituted 2+2 dialogue to increase the level of cooperation and interaction in the fields of international trade, defence, space and cyber. The focus of 2+2 dialogue is to strengthen defence and security cooperation between both the nations. India requires a strategic partner to pursue India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and similarly Japan also needs a partner for ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision’.
But the larger question is that relationship is developed on the basis of economic and strategic viability. Therefore, what is that India can offer to Japan to further consolidate the bilateral relations? Japan would be looking at the Indian markets, future infrastructure development projects and security cooperation to hedge against the expansionist policies of China. India at this stage can offer space assets, cooperation to deal with cyber and information war of China and joint military training. Religious and adventure tourism is another area that India can exploit to attract Japanese tourists. However, bilateral economic relations between India and Japan are loaded in favour of Japan in the absence of lack of R&D and development of niche technologies by India. At max India can export textile and food grains but certainly cannot compete with Japan in technology driven bilateral trade.
There are two lessons for India that must be examined. First, no bilateral or multilateral cooperative agreement will benefit India, if India continues to be net technology import partner. Unless India creates capabilities and develop niche technologies, all bilateral and multilateral agreements will only lead to weakening of domestic industries and create more unemployment. Secondly, strategic partnership will also get impetus if India has technological wherewithal to be a co-equal. Technological gaps can be bridged collectively but leaning completely on a strategic partner is vulnerability. Therefore, India needs to identify technologies and field of expertise to be coequal rather than subordinate partner that could become a strategic burden. Enduring relationship cannot be developed on the basis of cultural and historical relationship. Modern bilateral relations should be based on give and take economically and strategically.