Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj begins her three-day visit to Japan today. Swaraj will meet her counterpart Taro Kono and will co-chair a strategic dialogue on 29th March. It was reported that the two sides will be reviewing all bi-lateral aspects and will also give importance to the new areas of convergence of both the countries. Swaraj will be attending and be co-chairing the 9th India-Japan Strategic Dialogue. The India-Japan Strategic Dialogue is a bi-lateral summit that being in Japan and India alternatively since 2007.
India and Japan’s relationship has gathered momentum over a period of time. Never was the relationship between India and Japan was that of conflict. Japnese President Shinzo Abe addressing the Indian Parliament for the first time in 2007 had famously said, “a strong India is in the best interest of Japan, and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India”. Since then, the path was clear for India to root out its dilemma surrounding “Act East” policy. The speech had made it pretty clear India was not alone in its competition against China.
“This is a high-level dialogue between the two nations. The India-Japan Strategic Dialogue is an important platform for India”, says K.V. Kesavan, a leading scholar of Japnese studies and a Distinguished Fellow at ORF. India is likely to table issues over China’s One Road Initiative, increasing Chinese influence in Indian Ocean Region and the South China Sea, he told Financial Express Online.
Watch: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj leaves for Japan.
Strengthening our Special Strategic and Global Partnership with Japan! EAM @SushmaSwaraj departs on a 3-day visit to Japan for the 9th India-Japan Foreign Minister’s Strategic Dialogue in Tokyo. #KonnichiwaNamaste pic.twitter.com/IInVyJVSj7
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) March 28, 2018
India’s policy for Japan was similar across Governments in India. During the UPA II, the strategic dialogue was attended by Former Ministers S.M. Krishna and Salman Khurshid. India and Japan had extensively worked together to better bilateral relations since then. Shinzo Abe was also invited by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be the Chief Guest of the Republic Day parade in 2014. The two nations have held several joint maritime exercises, signed agreements on sea cooperation, and have had several cooperations in large-scale energy and infrastructure projects. Apart from these developmental projects, India and Japan have always asserted their opposition against terrorism and extremism that oppresses the South Asian region.
India’s policy towards Japan under the Narendra Modi regime has not quite changed. But, it has indeed strengthened the relationship between the two nations like never before. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India again in 2015 to hold the India-Japan Summit Meeting in New Delhi. The summit addressed matters on security, nuclear energy, high-speed railway and trade between the two nations. The two leaders signed the ‘Japan-India Vision 2025 Special Strategic and Global Partnership’. The vision underlined the two nation’s need for closer interaction and trade. The key highlight of the summit was a conclusion of the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology agreement. The two Prime Ministers had also expressed their intentions to collaborate on the development of US-2 STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) amphibian aircraft project.
“Narendra Modi spoke for the first time about North Korea and condemned its continued development of nuclear missiles during the Shinzo Abe’s visit. Issues around North Korea is also likely to be a major area of discussion,” says defence expert K.V. Kesavan.
Japan had also decided to continue with its participation in the India-US Malabar Exercises. The two Prime Minister’s wish of having a trilateral dialogue along with the US was a success. The first edition of the trilateral dialogue was held on 30th September 2015 in New York. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also visited Tokyo in 2016 and signed 10 MoUs further bolstering India-Japan relations. The two countries had also signed an Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.
In 2017, Narendra Modi broke the protocol of holding the summit in the capital and invited Abe to Ahmedabad. After holding siestas at the Sabarmati riverfront, the leaders presided over India’s first high-speed rail project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The two leaders also emphasised the significance of defence and security cooperation and agreed on the expansion of the Malabar Exercises to strengthen maritime power in the region. It was also the year where India made it as the largest aid recipient of Japan.
The 9th India-Japan strategic dialogue which is going to be held tomorrow will mark a new and a stronger bi-lateral tie between Indian and Japan. As demonstrated at earlier summits and dialogues, this year’s interaction between India and Japan is likely to widen the areas of convergence. Speaking to Financial Express, Kesavan also added that apart from increasing collaboration in energy, infrastructure, trade and culture, it is also likely that India might utilise the bi-lateral strength that with Japan to bolster its defence capabilities.