Millennium Post

Only trilateral ties can push Asia up

The nomenclature to describe Indo-Japan relationship has been upped from strategic ties to special strategic ties in the light of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the island country and third largest world economy. The warm welcome accorded to Modi, the USD 35-billion investment deal and the intercultural balmy breeze that has been blowing from Tokyo to New Delhi and back all point towards a greatly enhanced mutual camaraderie between India and Japan.

The two most prominent Asian democracies indeed have a lot to give and take to/from each other, particularly in sectors like infrastructure, high-tech transport, space and defence technologies, among a number of other spheres of cooperation. Characteristic of Modi’s foreign policy adventures in the past, his stints in Bhutan and Nepal included, the Prime Minister’s first trip to a formidable global power and sweeping it off its stable feet, while earning kudos from national and international observers, has also slightly unnerved Beijing. But is it in New Delhi’s interest to turn Sino-Indian ties into a rocky boat on the choppy waters of Asian rivalries? While scripting a new chapter in Indo-Japanese relationship is paramount to meet massive investment targets and overcome economic uncertainty looming above for the last couple of years, it is equally important to keep in mind that alienating Beijing in favour of Tokyo might end harming us on the Asian dais in the longer run.

Trade requirements notwithstanding, let’s not forget even Japan is looking for an ally to counter China, especially in the light of the brewing tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over disputed islands in East and South China Seas. In fact, Indo-Japan military cooperation could boost New Delhi’s prospects to keep in check periodic incursions from both China and Pakistan on either side, while substantially boosting our maritime capabilities. Modi’s promise that ‘red carpet, not red tape’ would await the Japanese in India is both a tacit acknowledgement of the problems that might arise as well as a dismissal of the former, corruption-infested regime that neglected Asia to pursue interests in distant shores. It is true that Narendra Modi has queered the pitch of India’s foreign policy by wooing the South Asian neighbours, keeping Pakistan at a critical distance, maintaining an objective stance on both US and China, while being lauded in the opinion pages of both the countries.

However, even though Japan is a low-hanging fruit that needs Indian assurance to counter its own economic slowdown, New Delhi cannot afford to neglect Beijing in its courting of Tokyo. While Japan has been an important investor, we cannot afford to lose track of the fact that China remains the biggest source of FDI into India at present. Only carefully balanced trilateral ties will be effective in bolstering Asia’s case over US or European Union.        

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