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Home / World / Viewpoint: India and Japan are emerging as strong regional allies in emerging China

Viewpoint: India and Japan are emerging as strong regional allies in emerging China

By Sreeram Chaulia

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's third visit to Japan on October 28 and 29 for his fifth annual summit with his counterpart Shinzo Abe is a boost to India's only "special strategic and global partnership". From the personal chemistry between the two leaders to the depth and breadth of bilateral cooperation, it is obvious that Japan and India are de facto allies, as there is no other power in Asia.

Modi and Abe oversee the negotiations on a new military logistics pact known as the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which would provide Indian and Japanese fleets with access to the service and refueling facilities of other states. This deal is similar to the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that India signed with the US in 201


Such landmarks in defense diplomacy signal that India under modes has overcome past blockages when it came to making alliance-like agreements. Abe has invested heavily in cultivating his "bromance" with modes because he sees the latter as a singularly bold actor ready to push the defense and economic coordination with Japan further than previous Indian prime ministers.

United Against China
During a previous term as Prime Minister in 2007, Abe had sought India's participation in a "four-sided" mechanism involving Japan, Australia and the US to stem China's growing power in Asia. Upon returning to office in 2012, Abe embraced the concept of a "Democratic Security Diamond", in which the four countries are involved to protect "maritime commons from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific" from authoritarian China.

But the then Indian government, led by Manmohan Singh, wavered out of fear of China's anger, and the US was overwhelmed with other priorities. The quad idea had to wait until the relaunch in 2017, though there are doubts about how far it can operate, while US President Donald Trump's strategic flip-flops remain.

Unlike East Asian countries, where Japan's history as a colonizer limits full convergence, Indians see Japan as a major economic modernizer and technology producer who can help raise India's status as a middle-income. China's commercial and military expansion by President Xi Jinping disturbs India as an encroachment, but Abes Japan, which is taking its place as a "normal" Asian power with a proactive military and foreign aid profile, is welcomed in India.

This is because Japan does not claim Customs Indian territory and has no plans to review India's rise in global multilateral institutions or in South and Southeast Asia. Thanks to its smaller size and non-hegemonic prospects compared to China, a strong Japan is good news in India.

While Modi and Abe hug each other like comrades with a common enemy, they look to concrete infrastructure projects to be implemented together in countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Japan's commitment to maritime infrastructure development in East Africa and the Middle East offers additional locations where partnerships with India are a win-win situation.

The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), sponsored by Japan and India, has not elicited the same enthusiasm as China's massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but must move forward for a balanced Indo-Pacific that avoids Abe's dreaded scenario of a giant. " Chinese Lake ".

Abe's passionate nationalist goal of reviving Japan's lost military might and his quest for a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Matchi's vision. The common misunderstanding of the Chinese monster was the unspoken but obvious cement that bound them together.

The Trump Factor
With the US also being petrified by China's sharp rise, it is believed that it would connect with Japan and India. But lately this straightforward formation has been confused with Trump's erratic and strategically incompetent foreign policy.

Shortly before Modi's hosting, Abe traveled to China on a historic state visit and pleaded for a "new dimension" in a "new era" of cooperation between Japan and China. The thaw between traditional rivals Japan and China is taking place in the shadow of Trump, whose trade war and his declared desire to remove American troops from East Asia and reduce American military activity in the region have shocked Tokyo.

Trump's chaotic attitude forces the Big Three in Asia – China, Japan and India – to readjust their complex triangular connections.

When China and Japan set aside the historic animus and seek rapprochement, India attempts to merge fences with China to prevent territorial disputes from escalating.

The recent launch of a Sino-Indian partnership to train diplomats from Afghanistan suggests that the Trump factor creates new opportunities for Asian players to find it more sensible to get along internally than to build an American party on American guarantees against another.

That is, the essential pattern of Japan and India that marks teaming as a counterweight to China remains. It is driven by the geography and nature of the Chinese regime and its ambitions for global domination. Trump could unknowingly mitigate the China-centric logic in the Japan-India Quasi Alliance. But Modi and Abe point as a couple with the long-term horizon in sight, where China inevitably has great importance.

(The author is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs)

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