Japan-India Ties Ahead Of The 2018 Annual Summit

 The upcoming Annual Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo will be keenly watched for how far it addresses the concerns of Japan and mainly the future of the “Quadrilateral dialogue process” (Quad) that  turns one this November.

To begin with, the Annual Summit will provide an opportunity to assess the progress in the key projects that were cleared during Mr. Abe’s 2017 visit to Gandhinagar, where both sides sealed the high speed train project or the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. Though cleared at the highest level the train project has been caught in the land acquisition hurdles on the path of smooth implementation of the project. Japanese press has also taken note of some of the land-related issues and several articles have appeared in the Japanese media regarding this in recent months. The discussion at the highest level will help in dispelling some of the doubts from the Japanese side.

In the last few years, Japan has emerged not only as a key partner of India but also of several South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka where it carries out capacity development and cutting-edge innovation. This move was aimed at countering the growing shadow of China in South Asia and the Summit will provide a good opportunity to assess the South Asia strategy of Japan in the long run.

The Prime Ministerial visit will also be watched as the Indian Prime Minister will visit Northeast Asia since the landmark inter—Korean summit between the South Korean and the North Korean leaders’ kick-started the process of dialogue about the nuclear dispute of North Korea.  India has welcomed the development but has also urged for denuclearisation of North Korean.

During the “2 plus 2” dialogue with visiting US Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence, India took up the situation in the Korean peninsula and the global community to hold those countries that supplied North Korea with nuclear capabilities accountable. North Korea remains a significant threat to Japan due to the long range missiles that Pyongyang has developed. In the recent past, Pyongyang had tested its missiles over Japanese territory.

India had sent a delegation led by Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh to North Korea but so far New Delhi is watching the unfolding events keenly. India has not cleared what role it might like to play in Korea. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan could provide an understanding of the issue.

Indian diplomacy in 2018 has been marked by outreach to Russia and China. This came after nearly four years of warm interactions with the US-led block which includes Japan. A major development in the last four years of the government of Prime Minister Modi has been the development of Asia-Pacific region as a zone of operation for India and the resultant discussion on forming a “Quad” or “Quadrilateral” in the region covering Japan, Australia, US and India. This project is still in the initial stage.

After the initial dialogue in November 2017, subsequent talks were held in Delhi but little advance was made in the process of creating a maritime alliance of any kind in the Asia- Pacific region. India’s move to explore the Asian waters next to east Russia and China has also been noted by Beijing and Moscow, both discussed individually by Mr. Modi in the Wuhan and Sochi informal Summits held earlier this year.

The coming India Japan Annual Summit will also provide an opening to the growth in bilateral ties in the last few years starting from the negotiations for a civil nuclear deal with Japan being intensified. It is to the credit of the current Indian government that important bilateral deals like the civil nuclear pact and the Asia-Pacific focus of India were redefined. It remains to be seen how far the synergy between the two Asian giants goes ahead.

 Script: Kallol Bhattacherjee, Special Correspondent, The Hindu