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INDIA-JAPAN SPECIAL STRATEGIC AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP’: STEERING AHEAD POST-COVID COOPERATION

Gitanjali Sinha Roy Writes:India and Japan are termed as ‘quasi-allies’ as both are concerned about the Chinese maritime aggressiveness in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean Regions, and its rising military capabilities. Therefore, both countries have aimed to strengthen their strategic relations.

Gitanjali Sinha Roy Writes 

The world at present is battling the devastating COVID-19, a global pandemic, which has impacted the global financial markets, the world economies, halting supply chains and bringing the healthcare facilities to a collapse. The coronavirus took birth in China’s Wuhan, from there it spread like wildfire infecting the bulk of the world population and leading to many deaths. This pandemic has shaken the world and brought countries to the brim of recession and thus most countries are worried about the impact that this virus will have on their geopolitical, geostrategic and geo-economic future. Countries have been desperately looking for exit plans and strategies and during this period, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the situation and of tackling COVID-19 in their respective countries and also discussed the post-COVID relations, where they decided that “India-Japan special strategic and global partnership can help develop new technologies and solutions for the post-COVID world for our people, for the Indo-Pacific region and for the world.”[1] Therefore, in this context, the present article would try to highlight the various possibilities of convergences between India and Japan in the post-COVID situation.

India and Japan share a ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’[2] aiming for an all-around relationship with special emphasis on security ties. Accordingly in its 2019 Defence White Paper, Japan has replaced South Korea with India as the third most important partner in the realm of security cooperation”.[3] India and Japan are termed as ‘quasi-allies’ as both are concerned about the Chinese maritime aggressiveness in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean Regions, and its rising military capabilities. Therefore, both countries have aimed to strengthen their strategic relations. On 30th November 2019, the first Japan-India 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting was held In New Delhi where they focussed upon the need to further enhance the strategic depth of bilateral security and defence cooperation and  acknowledged the emerging security challenges that both the countries face. They aimed to work towards the shared vision of a free, open, inclusive and ruled-based Indo-Pacific region emphasising on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity along with freedom of navigation and overflight, which is necessary for peace, maritime security and prosperity in the region. India and Japan also initiated bilateral exercises like Dharma Guardian-2019 and SHINYUU Maitri-2019 and proceeded with coordination towards the first Japan-India joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan. They also made significant progress in the negotiations of Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and expressed an early conclusion of the negotiations which would pave a way for greater defence cooperation. Apart from this, Japan has signed agreements concerning the protection of classified military information and the transfer of defence equipment and technology with India.[4]

China is aggressively promoting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and trying to become a supreme hegemonic power in Asia. The BRI runs through the Indian territory of Gilgit-Baltistan which makes the project unacceptable to India. Both China and Pakistan, through this BRI project, are violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India[5]. India and Pakistan have a long-standing history of issues and China utilises Pakistan, covertly and overtly, to curb India’s rise. Hence, India needs to have a reliable and bankable friend, which Japan can prove to be, since China is a common concern and their core interests converge in these domains. Thus, they should work together to build closer and stronger security and economic ties regionally and provide an alternate transparent narrative to China’s BRI. Globally too, in order to balance the Chinese aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific, India and Japan have become members of the ‘strategic alliance – Quad, with the U.S. and Australia.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opined “Democracies will emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the authoritarian powers, and countries like India will “provide solutions for global pandemics.”[6] In the present COVID-19 scenario, China has been actively engaging in its aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, which could lead to a situation of conflict, from that of a competition, in the region. On 11 May 2020, a meeting on the COVID-19 among the foreign ministers of the Quad members was organised, where they looked at the need for coordination and cooperation amongst each and discussed various measures to combat the deadly virus in the Indo-Pacific.[7] These efforts clearly indicate that China is being balanced even in the times of the COVID-19 and the Quad nations would not accept China’s aggressive posturing even during these trying times.

The impact of COVID-19 would entail that the future Indo-Japan strategic relations could also include the cooperation in healthcare facilities and pharmacy. Thus, in the post-COVID times, India’s health initiative, Ayushman Bharat, and Japan’s Asia Health and Well-being Initiative (AHWIN) could collaborate and use the traditional streams of medicine and yoga to help both the countries work towards holistic development of body, mind and soul. Further, Japan is developing Avigan, which is an anti-viral medicine that can be used for treatment and making a vaccine for the pandemic.  Indian medical and research institutes could collaborate with FujiFilm Corporation, which makes this medicine, and jointly work towards bringing a vaccination to combat the coronavirus.[8] Japanese pharmaceutical companies like Nipro Corporation and Otsuka Pharmaceutical already have their plants in India and have been heavily investing in the healthcare facilities like dialysers and other health equipment in India. India should be able to help other such Japanese companies set up business through its ‘Ease of Doing Business Initiative’. It would enable employment generation through the ‘Skill India Initiative’ and add to the push towards a self-reliant India.[9]

Since most of the Japanese firms are shifting base from mainland China, India must evolve a new strategy to attract such companies that are re-locating. Many Indians are currently being employed by Japanese companies for projects in Japan. The pandemic has raised the bar of nationalism and many such expats may have to move back to India.  Many such Indian citizens could be re-employed by the Japanese companies if they re-locate from China to India.[10]

Japan and India could also collaborate in strengthening India’s Defence Industry. They could collaborate in the fields of R & D, artificial intelligence and robotics, UAVs for surveillance and targeting, aircraft and ship production, etc., which would ultimately benefit India’s flagship Initiative of ‘Make in India’. Joint ventures would also boost both Indian and Japanese Defence production capabilities.

India – Japan relations are bound to steer ahead as there are several windows of opportunities yet to be tapped. It is important to note that there are still many more convergences in the national interests of both countries, which can be tapped to full potential. The Japanese investments in infrastructure projects in India are playing a significant role in the growth of the Indian economy. The relocation of Japanese Industries from China, the joint ventures in Health and Pharma Sectors and the potential for investments in Indian defence industry and actualising the Quad  provides the opportunity for the deepening of relations between India and Japan.

 

End Note

[1] Coronavirus: India-Japan partnership can help develop new solutions for post-Covid world, says PM Modi published by India Today dated April 10, 2020. URL:https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/coronavirus-india-japan-partnership-can-help-develop-new-solutions-for-post-covid-world-says-pm-modi-1665516-2020-04-10 (Accessed on 14 May 2020)

[2]  Please refer to Ministry of Foreign Affairs(MOFA). 2018 “Japan- India Vision Statement” dated 29 October 2019. URL:https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000413507.pdf (Accessed on 14 May 2020)

[3]  Please refer to Ministry of Defence.2019. “Defence of Japan(Annual White Paper)” URL:https://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/ (Accessed on 14 May 2020)

[4]  Please refer to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). 2019. “Joint Statement First Japan-India 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting” dated 30 November 2019. URL: https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000544338.pdf (Accessed on 12 May 2020)

[5] Gitanjali Sinha Roy.  2017. “China-India-Japan Strategic Players In Pakistan, Afghanistan And Balochistan” in NAM TODAY- An International Journal for the New Age Mind, Current Affairs Research Journal. Regd. No. RNI/No-45896/87, Volume. LVXX, No.08 August 2017. ISSN 2347-3193.

[6]  Nayanima Basu. 2020. “Democracies will emerge stronger from Covid-19, India will ‘provide solutions’: Mike Pompeo” published by the Print dated 19 April 2020. URL: https://theprint.in/diplomacy/democracies-will-emerge-stronger-from-covid-19-india-will-provide-solutions-mike-pompeo/404689/ (Accessed on 12 May 2020)

[7]  Ministry of Foreign Affairs.(MOFA).2020.”Meeting on the Novel Coronavirus Disease among Foreign Ministers of Interested Countries, Hosted by the United States” dated 11 May 2020. URL: https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/press4e_002806.html (Accessed on 12 May 2020)

[8] Gitanjali Sinha Roy. 2020. “India-Japan Relations Post-COVID-19: Moving Towards New Avenues” published by Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement (NIICE), Kathmandu, Nepal dated 14 April 2020. URL: https://niice.org.np/archives/4082

[9] Please refer to “Make In India” by the Government of India. URL: https://www.makeinindia.com/home (Accessed on 14 May 2020)

[10] Ibid.

 

Gitanjali Sinha Roy is a Ph.D. scholar in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi and currently a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation that he belongs to or of the USI of India.

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