Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India-Japan Defence Partnership

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India-Japan Defence Partnership

Article excerpt

After a long hiatus of mutual neglect, the India-Japan relationship is evolving in a robust manner, with convergence of interests in the economic, security/ strategic and defence domains. After discovering their economic complementarities, the two countries are engaged in strengthening defence cooperation to protect their mutual economic interests and thereby contribute to a stable regional order. This is being done by way of exchange of visits of defence ministers and senior government officials, and a series of agreements for cooperation in various areas.

The bilateral ties have also assumed a regional focus. This has been precipitated by the rise of China and its unpredictable stances on many bilateral and regional issues such as the South China Sea resources, maritime security, territorial disputes, etc. This single China factor is driving major powers in the region, including Japan and India as well as the US to rebalance their relationships with the others. For example, though Japan and Australia have security agreements with the US, with the latter obliged to defend them under treaty obligation, Japan has signed security cooperation agreements with India and Australia separately. Though these security agreements do not entail an obligation to defend each other in times of crisis, they provide enough scope to coordinate security issues with the objective to achieve peace and stability in the region.

The growing bonhomie between India and the US in the post-cold war era also is being shaped to a great extent by a rising China and growing concern about China's power projection capabilities beyond its borders. After dislodging Japan as the world's second-largest economy in 2010, it is being projected that China's long-term objective is to emerge as the world's single-biggest economy and strongest military power. China's aggressive stances on many regional and global issues stem from its perceived longerterm profile. The evolution of India-Japan defence and strategic relationship should be examined from this perspective.

Factors Driving India and Japan

Among the factors that are driving India and Japan to forge a defence and strategic partnership, maritime issues and securing the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) are the most important. Both economies are heavily dependent on imports of critical energy resources from the Persian Gulf, which makes maritime commerce important. Securing sea-based transport provides the trigger for forging closer naval cooperation. Japan's constitutional limitation inhibits the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) from deploying in international waters. Therefore, cooperation with the Indian Navy becomes a strategic priority for Japan.

India's geographic location endows it with an opportunity to play a critical strategic role in ensuring maritime safety. The country is positioned between two strategic chokepoints for global oil supplies - the Strait of Malacca to its east and the Strait of Hormuz to its west. The energy supplies of the major economies of Asia must pass through these two straits. It is estimated that as much as 33 per cent of international trade and 50 per cent of the world's oil pass through these sea lanes. For Japan, the Strait of Malacca is the main passage between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and therefore it is a vital lifeline. As much as 90 per cent of Japan's oil requirements come from the Persian Gulf.1 In recent years, this maritime passage has been heavily infested by pirates.

The Indian Navy has established its reputation in combating terrorism at sea and has been engaged in anti-piracy operations. Japanese ships have been attacked by pirates. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard rescued the Japanese vessel MV Alondra Rainbow, hijacked by pirates from the South China Sea in November 1999. By doing so, India demonstrated that it can play a critical stabilizing role in a volatile world, where the security environment was deteriorating rapidly. …

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