India-Japan Strategic Partnership: Growing Convergence
Dr Debasis Bhattacharya

The growing and robust consolidation of India-Japan strategic partnership is regarded as transformational in shaping the trajectory of geostrategic equilibrium in Indo-Pacific with global ramifications. Over the years the bilateral relations between New Delhi and Tokyo have been enhancing exponentially thereby paving the way forward towards concerted geopolitical endeavors through cooperation in establishing peace, stability, security, and territorial integrity[1] of countries in the proximity of Indo-Pacific. The recently concluded India-Japan 14th Annual Summit that took place in person in New Delhi between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Kishida Fumio is a huge step forward in further propelling the momentum of strategic partnership between the two countries based on the spirit of mutual trust, friendship, and shared progress.

The timing of the summit that marks the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Japan in conjunction with the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of India's independence speaks for the enduring convergence stimulating visionary policy constructs while addressing emerging regional and global geopolitical challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, revamped role of QUAD as force for global good in determining the geopolitics of sensitive Indo-Pacific, recent Afghanistan imbroglio and ongoing Ukraine War. The two countries reaffirmed the Special Strategic and Global Partnership based on strong affinities in democratic values, principles, shared prosperity, people-to-people contact[2] thereby demonstrating strong commitment to play larger constructive role in global geopolitical landscape in terms of configuring vision for the emerging world order strategizing future direction of policy initiatives, articulating the spirit of reformed multilateralism and transparency in global governance in a sustainable manner. In that context Japan’s reiteration of strong support for India’s strategic role in global dimensions, as upcoming president of G-20 grouping in 2023, is reminiscent of cordial, resilient, and impactful cooperation.

Concurrently, the recent Summit further enabled the two Prime Ministers to further deliberate and strategize actionable roadmap for future policy initiatives towards enhancing strategic cooperation on a gamut of issues that encompass defence and security; trade, investment and connectivity; stable and transparent supply chain; sustainable development in post-COVID world order; energy partnership; climate action; healthcare cooperation, and other issues of mutual interest along with emerging geopolitical challenges in Indo-Pacific in the ambit of ongoing Ukraine War and Afghanistan security scenario.[3]

In consideration of continued deepening of India-Japan relations over the years it can be well argued that the two countries have been able to effectively establish stable and enduring convergence thereby elevating partnership to strategic heights so much so that the alliance has virtually metamorphosed itself into a reckoning force in the eyes of international community and recognized as having credible capabilities to determine regional and global geopolitical architecture. The invitation to India for joining the upcoming G-7 Summit reflects the growing stature and influence that India possess in balancing multipolar global dynamics wherein Japan is going to be an important partner.

The momentous growth of India-Japan relations is resonated by not only the extensiveness of the dimensions of evolving cooperation but also the fact that the two countries have prioritized to take this forward with a vision. The profoundness of reaffirming alliance is further demonstrated by Japanese PM Fumio’s selecting India as preferred destination for his first major bilateral overseas visit after assuming office.[4] As two leading democratic powers in the Indo-Pacific domain the two countries have shown political willingness and urgency to play larger roles in QUAD cooperation while acknowledging enhanced space for collaboration between India-led Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), in conjunction with ensuring full compliance of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea[5] (UNCLOS) towards establishing maritime security and rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas. The purpose is to balance out geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific region in a sustainable manner.

Further, the two sides have been exploring newer avenues in deepening defence and security partnership to effectively address emerging challenges. Operationalisation of the Agreement Concerning Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services between the Indian Armed Forces and Japan Self-Defence Forces in conjunction with continued participation in bilateral and multilateral defence exercises such as "Dharma Guardian” and "Malabar” are reflections of strong determination for future strategic engagements to combat long-term security contingencies in the region and maintaining geostrategic equilibrium.[6]

To impart further momentum in enhancing strategic ties the two countries are increasingly looking forward to boosting bilateral economic and cultural ties. The commitment of Japan to invest 5 TJY (42 billion USD) is a milestone achievement on its own.[7] Consolidation of economic, investment and trade, and industrial collaboration that represent traditional hallmark of bilateral relations based on growing realization of the two countries to complement mutual capabilities through effective policy interventions and formulation of viable roadmap especially in areas of micro, small and medium enterprises, manufacturing, and supply chains are momentous developments that expectedly enable Indian and Japanese businesses to strengthen supply chain resilience.[8]

Importantly, “Make in India” initiative provides limitless possibilities for Japanese businesses to grow in India and in becoming brand ambassadors[9] which would deepen economic and investment ties in a sustainable and inclusive manner. With Japan being one of the largest investors in India the two countries collaborating as 'One team- One project' on Mumbai-Ahmadabad high-speed rail corridor[10] is reminiscent of the extensiveness of economic and investment partnership that shape the trajectory of diversification with futuristic perspectives. In that context efforts in emboldening the India Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by laying down a viable roadmap for the India Japan Competitiveness partnership are prominent developments that demonstrate strong determination in enabling economic and investment cooperation reach its full potential in years ahead and to fructify shared economic progress for the peoples of two countries and the region.[11]

In the frontier of energy cooperation the two countries have embarked on India-Japan Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) acknowledging further exploration of variety of options and strengthening existing cooperation to ensure secure and stable supply of energy for maintaining sustainable economic growth and energy security while addressing challenges arising from climate change.[12] While India is the reservoir of vast natural and mineral resources along with tech-savvy manpower Japan has proficiency in advanced technology and human expertise. Already cognizant of such endowments New Delhi and Tokyo have expressed strong determination to reap the potential based on win-win strategy to harness existing resource base and expertise optimally for achieving energy security and greater people-to-people contact on a long-term perspective. Towards that CEP shows great promise in development of clean energy technology in conjunction with enhancing employment opportunities, innovation, and investment in the two countries and in the region in a holistic manner.[13]

Moreover, in consonance with strong commitment towards climate action efforts on establishing Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM), as concrete institutional policy intervention with futuristic vision, the two sides have shown promise for continued innovation to achieving global net-zero emissions.[14] Concurrently, the concerted accentuation of India-Japan Act East Forum (AEF) and India’s Act East Policy facilitated visionary policy initiatives for sustainable development in the region and beyond. The focus on development and connectivity of North-Eastern Region of India (NER) as the gateway of future developmental collaboration of India with Southeast Asia and Far East bears testimony to New Delhi’s resolve towards greater activism in providing leadership and establishing geopolitical synergy in Indo-Pacific that constitutes India’s extended neighbourhood as well.

On healthcare aspect heightened cooperation between the two countries to combat COVID-19 pandemic in conformity with QUAD Vaccine Partnership coupled with India’s Vaccine Maitri initiative[15] are prominent policy interventions based on solid institutional foundations that provide for credible future direction in ensuring stable supply chain for medicines, vaccines, and medical equipment towards serving people of the region in an inclusive manner.

Overall, the India-Japan robust partnership is increasingly being accounted as transformational in shaping the trajectory of future geostrategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific region having global ripples. The strong commitment of two sides to working in tandem within QUAD configuration in Indo-Pacific in conjunction with maintaining credible security in Afghanistan and complete unanimity on resolution of Ukraine crisis by diplomatic efforts and immediate stoppage of war, violence, and establishment of peace in war-torn country bears testimony to robust geopolitical synergy, democratic values, institutional affinity, and policy resilience between India and Japan with a vision that strengthens transparency in global governance and effective policy interventions in determining the contours of emerging world order.

Endnotes :


(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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