The India- Japan relationship is pivotal to sustain the international order in Asia. The India- Japan relationship is a natural alliance in terms of values, strategic weights, and economic integration. Against this backdrop, Ananta Aspen Centre supported by The Nippon Foundation held a digital session on “Can India-Japan Partnership be the crucial pillar for a free and open Indio-Pacific?” with Professor Nobukatsu KaneharaProfessor, Doshisha University; Former Japanese Senior Diplomat and Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (2012-2019). This session was chaired by Pramit Pal ChaudhuriForeign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre.

The first half of the 20th century was cruel, there were two stories of international order on the top. The colonial rulers were there, Africans were all colonized, there was no sovereignty no dignity, and there was harsh labor. But after the second half of the 20th century, many countries attained independence and became industrialized. After the fall British exited India, a wave of self-determination started in Asia. Today both India and Japan are together with the western nations to sustain the liberal order. Therefore, both India and Japan along with America in the Indo-Pacific have the responsibility of the 21st century and maintaining the global strategic balance is a responsibility of the strategic powers.

Both China and India have 1.3 billion people.  But the Chinese average age is now 39 years old, Japanese is 49 years old, Indian average age is 29 years old. The future is with India and India will take off after China and it will be a true superpower. Presently China is rising and it will be a regional hegemon but China cannot be a global hegemon as far as the western countries remain united. So, India and Japan should go hand in hand. The purpose is not to confront China, the purpose is to stabilize the relationship and engage with China. This engagement should be on mutual appreciation, equal footing. Japan believes that the relationship with India in the future is vital.

One very important engagement in Indo-Pacific is Quad. Today Quad could help to attain strategic stability and strategic balance in Asia. That is why Japan is collaborating with India. Both India and Japan are cooperating in connectivity, infrastructure projects attempting to counter the belt road initiative of China to some degree. Also, both countries are working to bring countries like Myanmar into the mainstream and give them alternatives to China. Among all Quad members, India and Japan are working together very closely. This will create stability in the Pacific region. Quad is beneficial for safeguarding free and open Indo-Pacific as it provides a multi-dimensional comprehensive regional strategy to contain China. Thus, regular dialogue between the Pacific Alliance and Indian Ocean Association can foster cooperation and free flow of goods and services in Asia.

Another crucial development amid COVID- 19 crisis and changes in the global economic and technological landscape is to enhance the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region. Nations dependent on China for trade have suffered from supply chain disruptions, signaling the need for diversification. Recognizing the pressing need for regional economic cooperation India, Australia and Japan launched the supply chain resilience initiative recently extending the participation to other Asian and Pacific Rim nations. Both India and Japan acknowledge the complementarities in multiple sectors like automobile, pharma, chemical, textile, and food processing. As India rapidly grows into a huge market hub attracting global investors, policy reforms are vital in India to bring in greater synergies and reap the benefits of the de-risking activities undertaken by Japanese companies to move out their supply chains from China.

However, with China’s expansionist tendencies seen in the Western Pacific, there is a growing concern in India and Japan towards Chinese coercion as it continues to threaten India along its land border and Japan in the East China Sea. Both Japan and India need to balance several strategic objectives to dissuade China from its assertive behavior.

The geostrategic shifts in the world will be played out in the maritime continuum of the India and Pacific oceans with India and Japan playing a key role. Thus, reinvesting in regional diplomacy with shared objectives of peace, progress, and prosperity and a common commitment to free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific is a step forward in deepening India- Japan strategic partnership.

This digital session was a part of a series on “India-Japan Partnership Perspectives”

Please watch the full session on the Ananta Aspen Centre Website:

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