India, Japan entering a new era of cooperation

Following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India in September 2017, the nation’s bilateral relations with India has entered an era of stronger and more determined partnership

February 6, 2018

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s first state visit to Japan in 2014 had elevated India-Japan relationship to the Special Strategic and Global Partnership level

Japanese foreign direct investment to India leaped from US$2.6 billion in fiscal 2015 to US$4.7 billion in fiscal 2016, backed by over 1,300 Japanese companies

In the years to come, India and Japan aim to focus cooperation on defence and security, strategic connectivity, Make in India, environment and Japanese language

The countries have many other up-and-coming avenues of cooperation, such as in startups, sanitation and health, science and technology and sports cooperation

The relationship between India and Japan – two long-time strategic partners – has entered into a phase of stronger and more expanded cooperation, Japan’s Ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, told a conference in New Delhi on February 6th. High-level bilateral visits and expanded trade has opened up new avenues of collaborations between the countries. Mr Hiramatsu said that following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unprecedented trip to India in September 2017, the nation’s bilateral ties with India has entered into an era of wholesome partnership. The Ambassador was addressing a talk titled “India & Japan: Towards A Higher Stage” organised by the Ananta Aspen Centre, a leadership building platform, and Japan’s Nippon Foundation. This new era of friendship between the Asian giants had started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first state visit to Japan in 2014. This trip had elevated India-Japan relationship to the Special Strategic and Global Partnership level.

India and Japan recorded bilateral trade of US$13.6 billion during 2016-17. The relationship has stood the test of volatilities of the international market. Over the past three-and-a-half years, India-Japan relations had focussed on five distinct factors in order to strengthen bilateral partnership:

Convergence of strategies: India and Japan have been working together to achieve a “free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific” region by synergising PM Modi’s “Act East” policy and PM Abe’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy. Mr Hiramatsu said that Japan sees India as the most trustworthy partner, and highly appreciates India’s principled and consistent approach to international challenges.

High-speed railway: The first step of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway project took place during PM Abe’s 2017 visit. The actual construction will begin shortly. Shinkansen (bullet train), has transformed Japan into an industrial hub. Now the project to realize the same dream has started in India. Japan has agreed to fully support this project, along with other rail projects across India.

Civil nuclear partnership: After more than six years of negotiation, India and Japan signed an agreement for cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy in 2016 and had it enter into force in July 2017. The monumental decision reflects a new level of mutual confidence and strategic partnership between Japan and India in the cause of promoting clean energy and realizing a peaceful and secure world.

Growing economic cooperation: A striking instance of fundamental upgrading in India-Japan economic relations is the rapid increase in Japanese FDI into India under the Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership. The partnership was announced in 2014 to double the number of Japanese companies in India and disburse US$32.9 billion in Japanese FDI to India over a five-year period.

People-to-people exchanges: Last year, the nations had celebrated the Year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges, and people-to-people exchanges between the two nations gathered momentum through various events during the commemorative year. Additionally, the introduction of Open Sky has boosted travels to either country, thus solidifying the foundation of bilateral partnership.

PM Abe has described Japan’s ties with India as “the most promising bilateral relationship in the world” with boundless potential

PM Abe has described Japan’s ties with India as “the most promising bilateral relationship in the world” with boundless potential. The partners are now aiming to focus on the Indo-Pacific region which provides bounty of trade and investment opportunities, but also comes along with geo-political challenges. At the conference, Mr Hiramatsu said that Japan and India are working constantly to maximise the gain from this region by addressing the challenges. He also detailed on the factors on which India-Japan relationship will focus on in the years to come:

Defence and Security: Japan aims to boost defence and security cooperation with India. The countries have already made tangible progress in recent years, including joint military exercises such as the Malabar Exercise, as well cooperation in defence equipment and technology – Robotics and Unmanned Ground Vehicles. This strategic defence partnership is anticipated to expand rapidly in the coming years. This heightened cooperation comes as India and Japan, along with Australia and the USA, have set up a four-way platform, termed Quad, to drive cooperation in defence, infrastructure, trade and investment.

Strategic connectivity: Japan and India are looking to set up connectivity infrastructure, while extending concrete cooperation in Asia and Africa. This partnership comes as part of a strategy to set up a free and open Indo-Pacific region that will allow for easy trade and investment opportunities while ensuring respect for environment, sovereignty and territorial integrity. This will have a focus on India’s Northeast.

Make in India: Japan will participate in India’s “Make in India” programme and India’s overall economic modernisation. Japan has long contributed to the development of India’s infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. This cooperation has expanded into retail, service and other sectors. India has been named the most promising mid- to long-term investment destination for Japanese companies.

Environment: Japan will boost its participation in India’s initiatives to resolve environmental problems through PM Modi’s “Clean India” mission. Environmental problems are nearly an inevitable challenge as countries industrialize their economies. Japan, a heavily industrialized nation, will share its own knowledge in battling the hazards of a variety of pollution that pose threats to health and productivity.

Japanese Language Education: Japan will also seek to popularise Japanese language education in India. This is anticipated to provide a new impetus to people-to-people exchange. Fluency in the Japanese language is expected to be of great benefit to the Indian people not only in terms of better mutual understanding but for augmenting businesses and job opportunities for Indians and Japanese alike.

The Governments of India and Japan have many other up-and-coming avenues of cooperation, such as startups, sanitation and health, science and technology, intellectual exchanges and sports cooperation. The countries have also banded together on various regional and global challenges. India and Japan have critically important Japan-India-US trilateral dialogue and quadrilateral with Australia to achieve free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific. The two countries are also working towards achieving the great potential of Japan-India-ASEAN cooperation. The Japanese and Indian economies complement each other, as Japan shares advanced technologies and finances projects with India, which in turn provides a large market and a huge young working force.

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