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India-Japan: Naye Daur Ki Nayi Dosti

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By Hemant Jain

Japan is one of the countries with which India has no ideological or strategic differences. With Japan, India does not have any troublesome issues that contiguous neighbours usually have. India has no boundary dispute with it and does not have a chequered past of fighting a one-to-one war with Japan for the simple reason that India does not share borders with it. And yet India is not far from Japan

Over the past one decade, Japan has notched up the Indian strategic ladder, thanks to the China factor. In fact, the political proximity between India and Japan can be solely attributed to China’s aggressive diplomatic and military posturing. China’s increasingly assertive diplomacy and its never-stated but always practiced strategy of weaving a string of pearls around India has been directly proportional to India’s tilt towards Japan.

But Japan has one more claim to be India’s number one friend in today’s world. It has been instrumental in silently revolutionizing India’s growth story, which is visible to the naked eye of the man on the street in India. Japan has emerged as a solid game changer for India in infrastructure growth. No other power on earth has been so pro-actively engaged with the Indians in beefing up the Indian infrastructure like Japan has.

The area of association between the two nations has various aspects. The powerful navies of India and Japan are working closely with each other on the high seas. The aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine capacity of India complements Japan’s missile destroyer-dominated navy that has recently added a giant helicopter carrier. Japan is also helping transform India’s economy with aid and investments on very generous terms. From the Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor to the possibility of bullet trains, from investment in manufacturing to intelligence sharing – Tokyo and New Delhi are locked in a real tango.

Japan is looking strategically at India for some time now and enhancing its role as a reliable partner. Over the years, India has received $36 billion of Japanese assistance. In fact, India has been the largest recipient of overseas Japanese aid since 1994.

India is emerging as a favoured destination in Asia for Japanese FDI. DIPP statistics show that Japanese companies have made actual investments of $12.66 billion to India between April 2000 and June 2012. This accounted for 7% of total FDI inflow into India and made Japan the 4th largest investor in India. The number of Japanese affiliated companies in India has grown significantly over the last five years and nearly 1000 Japanese companies are operating in India.

Japan is helping construct the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), which is set to turbo-charge the Indian economy and boost manufacturing. The DMIC is going to transform not just India’s creaky infrastructure but potentially the entire Indian economy. This is a mega project costing over $90 billion. Japan has provided an initial loan of $4.5 billion for this project. DMIC is a 1,483 km long dedicated freight train corridor across six states and two Union Territories. On both sides of the corridor, an area of 150-200 km will be developed as industrial townships.

At the recent Japan-India Summit,  Singh declared “Japan as a natural and indispensable partner in our quest for stability and peace in the vast region of Asia-Pacific.” Echoing him, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also repeatedly emphasized his 2007 remarks, “Confluence of the Two Seas,” which highlighted the maritime security and cooperation between the two countries.

China was clearly alarmed by this development, evident in the commentary that appeared in the Communist Party organ, Global TimesCalling Japanese “petty burglars” and “international provocateurs,” it warned India of getting close to Japan “at its own peril.”  Clearly, Beijing has not missed the emerging balance of power in Asia.

In fact, an Indo-Japanese entente against the growing influence of China in Asia is not a recent phenomenon. Japan and India have been cooperating on defence and security issues since 2001, when the bilateral Comprehensive Security Dialogue was inaugurated. Further institutionalization of bilateral security cooperation continued, with the two countries issuing “the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India” in October 2008, and commencing the bilateral 2+2 dialogue in 2009.

Moreover at the latest, Delhi Metro’s Japanese connection will be getting a boost, come January. As work on the third phase of the network gathers steam, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will be releasing the first instalment of its loan for the Delhi Metro network next month. Pegged at 53 per cent, the loan from JICA for the Rs 35,242 crore projects will form the bulk of funding for Phase III.

The synergies and similarities in the society, culture and economies of India and Japan, offer immense potential for enhanced cooperation that will benefit both countries. With the commonality of our values and broad convergence of our enlightened national interests , an India-Japan Partnership has the potential to create positive development for both countries and not for the two countries, but for Asia as a whole and in turn, the world as well.

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