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Liu Zongyi: Tokyo-New Delhi special partnership fragile due to diverging goals


By Liu Zongyi    Source: Global Times    Published: 2015-12-15


The visit to India by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was concluded on Sunday. This is Abe`s third visit to India since he was sworn in as prime minister in late 2012 and his fifth talk with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Abe aims to boost defense and economic cooperation with India and advance the bilateral "Special Strategic Global Partnership."

Behind this special partnership is the ambition of the two countries to become regional powers and even global powers. It also reveals their intention to counterbalance a rising China.

On Saturday, New Delhi and Tokyo reached a number of major agreements in fields such as high-speed rail and defense technology. They also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) about the civilian use of nuclear power. Abe has achieved all his aims from his India visit and described the agreements as heralding a new era of cooperation between the two nations. Whether this is a new era for the two is open for discussion. But what`s clear for India and Japan watchers is that Abe is pushing forward bilateral ties regardless of the costs. Knowing Abe`s intentions, Modi has made contrived promises to lure Abe making more compromises or even abandoning his principles.

The cooperation of India and Japan on nuclear power and defense may exert a huge impact on the Asian landscape. The signing of the MoU indicates that Japan has steered away from its persistent principles by cooperating for the first time with a country that has not joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It means Japan admits that a country without joining the NPT can own nuclear weapons. This is a turning point in Japan`s nuclear policy.

In addition, the cooperation with India in defense facilities and technologies is the first time that Japan transfers large-scale military equipment to a foreign country after Japan announced the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and abandoned its long-held Three Principles on Arms Exports.

Through the abovementioned cooperation, the Abe administration hopes to draw close security and defense relations with India so as to establish the "democratic security diamond" that Abe has been relentlessly pursuing since 2007.

Modi has also given returns. The joint statement with Abe mentioned the South China Sea for the first time to show his support for Abe`s involvement in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Back in October when New Delhi invited Tokyo to join the Malabar exercises, India`s policy on the security of the Indian Ocean had changed. It also shows the maritime part of Abe`s "democratic security diamond" that aims at containing China is almost in place.

Economically, Japan will help build India`s first high-speed railway, linking India`s financial capital of Mumbai with Ahmedabad, an important economic and industrial hub in Gujarat, Modi`s home state. Besides, Japan will give development assistance loans to India for Chennai and Ahmedabad Metro projects.

Japan hopes to help India become an economic giant and benefit from the results. It also shows that Japan is determined to compete with China along the route of the "One Belt, One Road." The Japan-India "Special Strategic Global Partnership" is becoming a reality. However, such special partnership seems to be fragile, given China`s firm economic ties with both, the two`s different preferences for strategic security and economic technologies and the gambling mentality of the leaders from both sides.

Tokyo and New Delhi are hoping to impose pressure on China by clinging to the other, but at the same time, both Modi and Abe are making efforts to improve ties with China. Neither wants to be the first one to clash with China, while both are prepared to seek gains from the other side`s conflicts with Beijing.

The author is a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Key Words: India   Japan   China  

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