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Manmohan’s flight to Tokyo

Manmohan’s flight to Tokyo
Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan for the postponed annual visit comes in the wake of Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s India visit as also the Depsang intrusion by the Chinese armed forces last month. This gives the Tokyo visit piquancy for, at the height of this crisis, the prime minister had announced that he would stay an extra day in Japan, which may be taken to imply that strategic and security concerns will be important during this visit. Singh and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will take stock of the India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership and discuss how to further strengthen it as also international and regional issues of mutual concern. Yet the prime minister has, while working on the relationship, to do a balancing act by not holding the relationships with China or Japan hostage to either. While China is a rising power, relations with whom are going to be important for India, the ties with Japan hold the promise of a rapid Indian economic growth. As the Depsang incursion shows, there are unresolved issues with China that undermine the plans of a transformation of the Sino-India relationship but there are few such constraints to prevent a bold and swift further positive direction to the India-Japanese equation.

The two countries have a common interest in the expansion of the UN Security Council, which, if it were to come about, would raise the prestige of both. From the point of view of Japan, China’s rise must be countered by a stable balance of power in Asia that means an equitable and mutually beneficial strategic partnership with India.  Strategically, the equation with Japan means a boost to India’s maritime ambitions in the India Ocean, while giving it a foothold in the Pacific as well. Specifically, at present, the two countries will do Malabar-type exercises, and India will buy Japan’s first military export, the US2, a search-and-rescue amphibious aircraft for the high seas.  India has also to resume the civil-nuclear negotiations, which may be possible under Abe, for a Japanese deal is imperative for India to buy nuclear reactors or supplies from France or the United States. Since his victory in the elections last year, Abe has been making an effort to revive his country’s economy along while following a more assertive policy of reviving the national spirit, in which Japanese projects India has a role and an opportunity. Most importantly, Japan is keen to contribute to India’s manufacturing growth and infrastructural development and Japanese innovation can help Indian fortunes. Thus, the Indian prime minister’s visit to Japan is a chance to re-vitalise the relationship and bring the two countries closer.
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