VIF - JINF ‘Bilateral Dialogue’ on India-Japan Relations, 16 February 2017
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The Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organized a bilateral dialogue with Japan Institute for National Fundamentals (JINF) on 16 February 2017 to deliberate on the changing strategic environment in Asia and enhance India-Japan bilateral ties. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there is growing synergy through their visions of India’s Act East Policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Further, India’s location at the centre of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and Japan at the cusp of the Pacific make them uniquely positioned to facilitate stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Welcome Remarks were delivered by General NC Vij (Director, VIF) who began with emphasizing the special friendship India enjoys with Japan and their stabilizing role in Indo-Pacific. He stressed that the growing uncertainties post the election of Donald Trump as US president had created an environment of ambivalence in the region. General Vij highlighted the various possible avenues for bilateral cooperation with Japan including economic, defence, technology-sharing, cultural and larger people to people interactions.

The Opening Remarks were made by Mr Yasushi Tomiyama, Planning Committee Member, JINF. Mr Tomiyama reiterated the growing significance and potential of India-Japan cooperation. He stated that despite Trump’s reaffirming of ties with Japan, Japan remained uncertain of Trump’s commitment to security of Asia-Pacific. Trump’s wavering stand on foreign policy issues and discarding TPP have been big disappointments for Japan.

The first session on ‘Geostrategic Challenges in the Indo-Pacific’ began with moderator Ambassador Kanwal Sibal’s notations. He stressed that much of the geostrategic challenges in the region were posed by China’s rise, which in itself is not a problem, but has been made complicated by China’s uncompromising language. He further highlighted that Chinese projects such as Maritime Silk Road, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) etc. bear suspicion as they appear to be a cloaking and softer version of seeking economic and military dominance. He also underscored the need for countries especially India and Japan to seek greater engagement and work independently of the US. The first speaker, Ambassador Aftab Seth, gave a comprehensive chronology of India-Japan bilateral ties highlighting salient events such as INS Prahar’s rescue of MV Alondra Rainbow, Abe’s visit as 2014 Republic Day chief guest, Japan’s 2015 National Security Legislation etc. The second speaker, Mr Tomiyama, focussed on recent events such as inconsistencies in Trump administration, China’s artificial islands and military installations in South China Sea, a resurgent Russia and the US-2 defence deal between India and Japan. The third speaker, Ambassador Rajiv Sikri highlighted the low reliability of US order, divisiveness in ASEAN, North Korean threat and the need to offer Russia opportunities to detach from China.

The second session dealt with Economic, Industrial and Technological Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. The session was opened by a detailed presentation by moderator, Sabyasachi Dasmohapatra who enumerated various salient points such as Japan’s significant assistance to India’s infrastructural development (65 projects underway), its strong entrenchment within India’s Auto sector and potential to partner on nearly all of PM Modi’s flagship projects such as Smart Cities, Digital India, Renewable energy, Sagarmala etc. and joint cooperation in Africa and Outer Space. The first speaker, Ranjeet Goswami spoke of the Tata Consultancy Experience (TCS) and its experience with Japan. He mentioned of the growing service industry linkages between India and Japan evidenced by the ten thousand Japanese professionals in India and twenty-five thousand Indian professionals in Japan. He further stated that Japan would need about sixty thousand IT professionals by 2020- a need which could be readily met by India. Mr Goswami was followed by Mr Tomiyama who spotlighted India’s introduction of the Goods and Services Tax system, the civil nuclear cooperation agreement and Shinkansen Project in India. The third speaker, Vikas Khita talked of Larsen & Toubro and its historic association with Japan. Mr Khita highlighted the growing opportunities offered by India’s growing energy needs. He specifically emphasized the Indian demand for nuclear energy that could help vitalize the global nuclear industry.

The third session discussed strengthening India-Japan strategic cooperation and addressing the maritime challenges. The session began with moderator and first speaker, Captain Seiji Kurosawa (MSDF, JINF), who spoke on the challenges posed by China’s military assertiveness in maintaining the rules-based maritime order. Emphasizing on the invalidity of the Nine-Dash Line, he elaborated on the Chinese naval activities in the Indo-Pacific and the militarization of the seven artificial Chinese islands in South China Sea. He also enumerated various recommendations such as strengthening legal frameworks (ITLOS), improving connectivity, expanding Malabar exercises and joint patrolling in the region. The second speaker of the session, Ambassador Yogendra Kumar highlighted the lack of overarching security architecture and the growing number of traditional and non-traditional threats in the region. He stressed on the need to ensure unobstructed passage through choke points and reaching out to Iran. The third and final speaker, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra described the various maritime dynamics in the region. Citing the unfavourable Russian geography, he elaborated on the similar maritime vulnerabilities of China and the need to calm uncertainty and fears through extensive dialogues and partnerships.

Overall, the bilateral dialogue served to reinforce the shift from an India-Japan bilateral relationship based on mutual values to one based on shared interests & complementarities that could lead to peace and prosperity for the entire Indo-Pacific region.

Event Date 
February 16, 2017
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