August 15, 2022
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Indo-Japan relations may change Asian geopolitics
The recent visit of Indian Prime Minister to Japan has created a new synergy in the relationship between the two countries but it has raised many eye brows in China which perceives it differently. The game changer could be the growing intimacy between India and Japan may alter the direction of the balance of power and offer a new vista to Asian geopolitics. Since India is looking for an independent relationship with Japan devoid of US or role of any other power, the visit of Indian Prime Minister has heralded a new chapter. Till date, Japan was not very sure of India’s rise in Asian strategic landscape. The Japanese are very different type of race and often go by their own assessment and instinct. But they have found a friend and leadership quality in Prime Minister Modi. Certainly, the proximity has ruffled the Chinese who are looking for a unilateral role in Asia. Thus, the Chinese leadership being distrustful of present Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thinks Tokyo has played a tactical game to limit Chinese influence in Asia. China does not want to let India go to the other side. Yet, China is still studying the whole development and might adequately respond when Chinese President visits India this month. Beijing is expanding its influence and trying to assert its preeminence in Asia in a manner it has angered many Asian neighbors. But most experts feel India-Japan burgeoning relationship may be a natural response to China’s assertive rise. Now this can lead to some kind of a strategic competition, if not rivalry, at the moment, to position themselves in a higher pedestal seeking for greater political and economic influence. This sounds quite similar to what happened among European colonial powers in the 20th century, now it might well happen in Asia.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited Japan amid rising tension in South China Sea and growing strategic rivalry in Western Pacific region, has given a much needed boost to the bilateral relations between India and Japan. Indeed, India and Japan were never so close friends in the past due to lack of alignment of interests that has a legacy of Cold War era. But now they look to each other in a different way. Both are natural partners and maintain a similar outlook towards regional issues having common aspiration of a rising Asia that can foster in peace, development and future growth. While Japan is facing economic slowdown in recent years, India is a rising economic power house in Asia which has lot of potential to attract bigger investment to the country. India badly needs Japanese investment and technology. After Modi came to power most world leaders feel India is now on a rising trajectory. The US has already planned a massive investment plan for India which it might unleash during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to America towards end of this month. Already, China has announced its broad economic engagement with India which will be unfurled during Chinese President’s India visit. Besides, Beijing has secured four industrial parks in India which was pending for years. If Japan does not show proactive policies then it may be too late for Tokyo to catch up. Indeed, Japan does not want to make the same mistakes it made by ignoring the potentiality of ASEAN in the 90s.

On the other hand, India and Japan are trying to build an independent relationship that is free from any third party influence. Due to changing geopolitics, Japan does not have same level of confidence in US now and the growing assertiveness of China is a worrying factor as it might cost Japan losing territory if it does not act in a proactive manner. India which has long border dispute with China is getting concerned about the intention of Chinese military which is showing jingoism in recent years. While both India and Japan share common values, they also share a common worry-that is assertive China. Yet, both India and Japan need each other to succeed economically. Thus, Japan has declared over 35 billion USD investment and aid in coming years for India. This is a spectacular decision and it certainly shows Japan has reposed confidence in India’s growth story. This has helped tremendously Modi to uplift his own image as a business Prime Minister. Now, Japan which is long trying to shift its deep business relationship from China to a new country, no ASEAN country was in a position to give such a huge market access with large volume. That forced Japan to stay put in China despite strong resentment and anti-Japanese feelings among the growing nationalistic Chinese people. Now, since India is offering a better opportunity, without any baggage of history, Abe who is facing domestic challenge may use this occasion to boost his own image as well. This suits both sides. In fact, the changing geopolitics in Asia is forcing both India and Japan to come closer and address regional issues. While Japan badly needs a stable Indian Ocean for its trade and energy security, India also is keen to enter into Western Pacific to secure its national interests. Over all, the expanding relations between two Asian neighbors suit each other and could leave a contributing effect on Asian century of growth and peace at a time when strategic rivalry is growing at a faster speed.