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India-Japan ties set on high growth trajectory

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-09-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: From giving a significant boost to India’s flagship national programmes to a convergence of views on terrorism and the nuclear and missile programmes of North Korea besides outlining plans for the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor and a pledge to deepen defence ties, India-Japan ties have been set on high growth trajectory by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the 12th India Japan Annual Summit held last week.

The summit meet came against the backdrop of uncertainty in US plans for Asia and the unsettling rise of China and analysts say an alignment of strategy between the two countries is only natural. The US under President Donald Trump is seen as more inward looking—keen to have its allies share the burden of keeping peace across the world. That Abe’s visit to India came days after the end of an India-China military standoff, as well as a North Korean nuclear test, only served to bring together Modi and Abe to air common concerns and underline the commonality of views between Japan and India.

The summit came a decade after Japanese prime minister Abe addressed Indian Parliament in 2007 underscoring shared universal values in a speech titled the “Confluence of the Two Seas.”

“Ten years down the line, India is envisioned as a critical strategic anchor,” said Titli Basu, associate fellow at New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) think tank.

“Japan’s attitude towards India has been shaped by a few important variables such as arrival of China as a major actor in international politics; decreasing US influence in the region; growing US interest vis-à-vis India; the need to secure trade and energy networks in critical maritime space; and tapping the emerging market potential. Meanwhile, India is cultivating Japan for investments in sustainable infrastructure; accessing civil nuclear technology in order to cater to the energy appetite of Indian economy; and securing supply of high-end defence technology,” Basu said in an article posted on the IDSA website.

A joint statement issued after the summit in Gandhinagar on Thursday spoke of “the growing convergence in the political, economic and strategic interests, based on the firm foundation of common values and traditions, as well as on an emerging consensus on contemporary issues of peace, security and development.” Based on this, the two countries “decided to work together to elevate their partnership to the next level to advance common strategic objectives at a time when the global community is faced with new challenges,” the statement said.

According to analysts, a key word that appears early in the joint statement is “align” in the context of Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” and India’s “Act East Policy” by which New Delhi is looking to link its economy with that of the fast growing South-east Asian economies.

“Align is a diplomatic word but it’s a strong word and it signals alliance between the two countries,” without overstating it, said Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of East Asian and Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. “With the current US administration not as proactive as the previous two in Asia, India and Japan seem to be coming together to resolve problems in the region and protect their interests.”

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