The Japanese-Indian Summit: Another Building Block in Pacific Defense


2014-09-06  The rise of the PRC is certainly an important event and process in the 21st century.

But it can be forgotten that the PRC has virtually no developed allies, unless one wants to consider Putin capable of such a description.

What this means is that the constant set of assertions about what the PLA can and can not do must always be placed in the evolving strategic context and what powerful states are capable of doing to deal with the challenge.

Already, the PRC has driven the two greatest maritime powers of the 20th Century into a closer relationship.

And now the PRC is working hard to bring India and Japan into a closer working relationship as well.

The recent visit of the newly elected Prime Minister of India is a case in point.

As an editorial in The Japan Times put it:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, on a five-day visit to Japan through Wednesday, reached broad agreements to expand bilateral economic ties and security cooperation.

It is indeed a positive development for Japan to pursue what the leaders termed a “special strategic and global partnership” with the world’s largest democracy, which has a huge market of 1.2 billion people.

Still, Japan and India may find themselves talking at cross purposes if Tokyo is seeking closer ties with New Delhi as a means to counterbalance China’s growing influence and assertiveness in the region.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Finance Minister Taro Aso during a welcome ceremony at the Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo on September 1, 2014. AP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Finance Minister Taro Aso during a welcome ceremony at the Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo on September 1, 2014. AP

During their meeting on Monday, Abe and Modi agreed to consider upgrading the framework of their foreign and defense talks and to regularize joint exercises between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy.

Abe pledged to extend ¥3.5 trillion in Japan’s public and private investment and financing to India, including official development assistance, and double Japanese direct investments in India — both within five years.

Abe and Modi welcomed the accord on a commercial contract for production and supply of Indian rare earths to Japan, a move that would help reduce Japan’s reliance on China for the supply of minerals vital to the production of high-tech products.

They confirmed that the two governments would expedite talks for early conclusion of a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact that paves the way for export of Japan’s nuclear technology to India.

On the defense front, the two leaders said they would speed up working-level talks for exporting the MSDF’s US-2 amphibious aircraft to India.

Their joint statement called for maritime security, freedom of navigation and peaceful settlement of disputes under international law — an apparent reference to China’s maritime disputes with several countries in the East and South China Sea.

Behind the efforts to step up Japan-India security cooperation is China’s increasing maritime assertiveness and military buildup.

Along with their longtime bilateral border disputes, New Delhi is wary of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean. Japan’s relations with China remain deeply strained in recent years over the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands as well as other issues related to wartime history.

And in a story published in the same paper, the potential for the working relationship was highlighted:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his visiting Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, signed a joint declaration to further strengthen their strategic partnership after a summit at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo.

“I have been always saying Japan-India relationship holds the greatest potential,” Abe said at a joint news conference with Modi after signing the declaration. “Hand in hand with Prime Minister Modi, I’d like to elevate our bilateral relationship to a special strategic and global partnership by enhancing relations fundamentally in every field.”

Shaping a Joint Indian-Japanese agreement. Credit: India Strategic
Shaping a Joint Indian-Japanese agreement. Credit: India Strategic

Modi said his visit to Japan this time highlighted a mutual trust and signified deeper relations between Japan and his country. Japan is the first country outside the Indian subcontinent he has visited on a bilateral basis since he took office in May.

“Japan occupies an extremely high position in our foreign policy,” Modi told reporters at the news conference. “The reason is Japan has played a very important role in the development and growth of India.”

Modi also noted his country and Japan as peaceful states and democracies would exert influence in the world and region by cooperating in various fields.

Abe and Modi agreed to work harder to launch a “two-plus-two” security consultative framework involving their foreign and defense ministers.

They also agreed to continue joint maritime exercises in addition to trilateral drills conducted with the United States on a regular basis.

Japan’s sovereignty has been challenged by China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, a group of uninhabited islets that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu, and by Taiwan, where they are known as Tiaoyutai.

For its part, India is becoming more concerned over China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean, and also ongoing border disputes in the Himalayan region.

And on September 1, 2014, the two governments issued a joint declaration highlighting the way ahead.

The section of the declaration most relevant to defense and security is as follows:

Political, Defence and Security Partnership

6. The two Prime Ministers decided to continue the practice of annual summits and to meet as often as possible on the margins of regional and multilateral meetings.

7. Recognizing the special quality of bilateral engagement between India and Japan imparted by multi-sectoral ministerial and Cabinet-level dialogues, in particular, those between their Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers and Ministers dealing with finance, economy, trade and energy, the two Prime Ministers decided to intensify and invigorate such exchanges. In this regard, they welcomed that the next rounds of Foreign Ministers Strategic Dialogue and Defence Ministers dialogue would be held in 2014. They attached importance to the dialogue between their National Security Advisors, launched earlier this year soon after the creation of the National Security Secretariat in Japan, as a key instrument of building deeper mutual understanding and cooperation across the full range of security issues. They underlined the importance of the 2 plus 2 dialogue, involving Foreign and Defence Secretaries, for their growing strategic partnership, and decided to seek ways to intensify this dialogue.

8. The two Prime Ministers reaffirmed the importance of defence relations between India and Japan in their strategic partnership and decided to upgrade and strengthen them. They welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation and Exchanges in the Field of Defence during the visit. In this context, they attached importance to the regularization of bilateral maritime exercises as well as to Japan’s continued participation in India – US Malabar series of exercises. They also welcomed the existing dialogue mechanism and joint exercises between Indian and Japanese Coast Guards.

9. Prime Minister Modi welcomed the recent developments in Japan’s policy on transfer of defence equipment and technology. The two Prime Ministers expressed the hope that this would usher in a new era of cooperation in defence equipment and technology. They recognized the enormous future potential for transfer and collaborative projects in defence equipment and technology between the two countries. They welcomed progress made in discussions in the Joint Working Group on cooperation in US-2 amphibian aircraft and its technology, and directed their officials to accelerate their discussions. They also directed their officials to launch working-level consultations between the two countries with a view to promoting defence equipment and technology cooperation.

10. The two Prime Ministers recognized their wide-ranging shared interests in security of maritime and cyber domains, and decided to work with each other and with like-minded partners to preserve the integrity and inviolability of these global commons. They affirmed their shared commitment to maritime security, freedom of navigation and overflight, civil aviation safety, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.

When one talks of the US, allies, partners and coalitions and dealing with 21st century challenges, it is important to remember that it is relationships among allies and partners which will become an increasingly important factor in shaping what the US is able to do in global security and defense as well.

As we wrote in our book on Pacific strategy with regard to the evolution of Japanese defense policy:

The “dynamic defense” phase carries with it the seeds for the next phase— the shaping of a twin-anchor policy of having reach in the Arctic and the Indian Ocean.

Obviously, such reach is beyond the capabilities of the Japanese themselves and requires close integration with the United States and other allies. And such reach requires much greater C2, ISR, and weapons integration across the Japanese and allied force structure.[ref] Laird, Robbin F.; Timperlake, Edward (2013-10-28). Rebuilding American Military Power in the Pacific: A 21st-Century Strategy: A 21st-Century Strategy (The Changing Face of War) (Kindle Locations 3973-3976). ABC-CLIO. Kindle Edition.[/ref]

The US is important for Japan, but so are Australia and India to whom Prime Minister Abe has clearly reached out to and expanded working relationships as well.

Also see the piece by Harald Malmgren on the dynamics of decision-making in China as well: