By Dr D.K Giri
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was in Delhi to attend the 14th India-Japan summit. Notably, this was his first visit abroad after taking over as head of the Government. Since that first country happened to be India, observers are alluding to the significance Japan attaches to its bilateralism with New Delhi. Be that as it may, will the summit, taking place after three years, create new supply chains for the world economy? This is the call of the times as alternatives to the existing supply chains held by China are direly sought by world economies.
Recall that India-Japan bilateral relations grew by leaps and bounds since 2006 when the two signed the ‘strategic and global partnership’. The bilateral summits are occasions for boosting trade and investment, and this Summit last week (19th- 20th March) took place after three years. The 2019 Summit in which former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was to attend got cancelled due to the anti-CAA agitation in Assam. And subsequent summits in 2020-21 were cancelled because of the pandemic.
In 2014, under the Investment Promotion Partnership, Japan made an investment of 3.5 trillion JPY (28 billion USD). Had the summits taken place in the last three years, there could have been more investments. Fumio Kishida has made a commitment of 5 trillion JPY (42 billion USD) to be invested in India. This investment is aimed at deepening the Indo-Japanese collaboration in the face of Chinese dominance in the region and shall cover a wide range of activities involving Japanese finance and skilled Indian labour, and is expected to build supply chains.
In this visit, six major agreements were signed between India and Japan, covering various sectors –mainly digital security and green technologies. The agreements are: Memorandum of cooperation in the field of cyber-security, the activities envisaged are information sharing, capacity building and cybercity cooperation; loans from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), under which there will be seven loans from JICA to the tune of Rs 20,400 crore for projects in connectivity, water supply and sewage, horticulture, healthcare and biodiversity conservation; amendment to the India-Japan comprehensive economic partnership, which relates to certification of origin of fish surimi.
The fourth agreement is memorandum of cooperation on decentralising domestic waste water management, wherein Japan will transfer the ‘Johkasou’ technology for waste-water treatment. This technology is used in places where sewage disposal is not developed. The fifth is the India-Japan industrial competitiveness partnership roadmap for two industrial partnerships signed in November 2021, the roadmap for which is yet to be drawn. This is a working roadmap to the Memorandum of Cooperation on India-Japan Industrial Competitiveness Partnership that was signed in November 2021.Working groups have been formed in various sectors to facilitate the companies.Setting up of supply chains is also within the scope of this agreement.
The sixth agreement is related to urban development that builds on the MoU signed in 2007. The latest projects include affordable housing, smart cities development, urban flood management and waste water management etc. In addition to these agreements, the other announcements made were, clean energy partnerships, the $ 42-billion investment as mentioned before, and sustainable development initiatives for the North-Eastern Region.
All the above sound quite encouraging as the third and the fourth biggest economies in Asia begin to deepen their collaboration. Indeed, Japanese capital and India’s labour force as well as market will form a formidable combination for economic activities and both countries and in the 3rd country. But the matter of concern is the divergence of positions and perceptions on security and strategic issues.
Under Shinzo Abe, Japan amended its Constitution to engage militarily in international relations and security issues.Tokyo also has been taking clear positions on strategic and security matters. Take for example, Japan’s active involvement in QUAD. It has also taken a clear and categorical position on Russian invasion of Ukraine, whereas New Delhi has been disappointingly evasive on it. New Delhi has been abstaining from voting in condemning Russia or naming it as aggressor.
From available reports, Japan is nudging India to be more vocal on the war launched by Russia. While New Delhi and Tokyo are on the same page, vis-à-vis China, on Ukraine they are divergent. Kishida told a joint news conference on Saturday that “Russia’s invasion … shakes the very foundations of the international order and must be dealt with firmly”.Whereas Prime Minister Modi talked about dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the Ukrainian tangle.
The joint statement issued after the Summit, did not name Russia. It “emphasised the need for all countries to seek peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law without resorting to threat or use of force or any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo”.
In the past, India was known for its commitment to international norms and practices of democracy within the country. Although India’s economy was not growing so rapidly to commensurate with its potential, it was known for upholding robust democratic politics inside and for a rule-based order outside in international politics. Currently, the reverse trend is being noticed, New Delhi seems to do smart business with other countries, including Russia. India continues to buy oil and weapons from Russia which is at war with its neighbour.
Interestingly Japan, which was part of the Axis Powers in the Second World War, built its economy systematically as it was political shackled by post-war restrictions. It is now opening up to the world more assertively in politics and security issues. New Delhi on the other hand emerged as an independent political power in the Third World in 1947, when it got de-colonised. Since the 1990s, with the opening up of the economy, India seems to be forging ahead in building its economic growth, overseas trade, self-reliance, self-preservation and so on. But, politically, especially, on China and Russia, New Delhi has been fumbling.
It may be in order that after Kishida’s visit during which Modi would have talked on a range of issues, that the Indian Prime Minister takes a leaf out of the Japanese book and reaffirm its international political identity by speaking up on major international developments. New Delhi’s tacit support to Russia in the Ukraine war and espousal of democracy and diplomacy do not go hand in hand. New Delhi must have the closest collaboration with Japan as they share security concerns relating to Beijing. This collaboration should extend to Afghanistan, Myanmar and other South-Asian and South-East Asian countries. The ball is certainly in New Delhi’s court.—INFA
(The writer is Prof. of International Politics, JIMMC)