Developments in 2013, in the form of not just a Prime-Ministerial in meeting in May, but also establishment of dialogues (two plus two) between ministries of external affairs, industry and defence of both the countries has only underscored the commitment of both the nations in drawing closer to cooperate and collaborate.
The visit of the Emperor in late November 2013, though symbolic, had a strong impact on the Japanese as they still look at their emperor in reverence and it sent a message that India is significant. The visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the guest of hounour for the republic day celebrations, in spite of a busy schedule especially since the Diet is in progress, only confirms the importance that Japan gives to India.
With China growing powerful economically and flexing its political muscle in the East Asia region, Japan needs a partner who can help support and sustain peace in the Asian community. Japan interest in this direction is furthered by its concern over obstacle free energy transportation through the Indian Ocean.
Further, for Japan India is a market for both consumer goods and technology which can help it come out of its economic slump; a market in which it can park its long term capital and also a country in need of Japan’s proven expertise in infrastructure development technology and world class corporate. On the other hand Japan fulfils India’s hunger for capital and technology with a strong and non controversial image that Japan promotes among Indian political and business community.
The forthcoming visit of Japanese Prime Minster Abe would not see significant development in terms of agreements as India is heading for elections and a probable change of leadership. Further, this visit is not the yearly meeting of the premiers which is scheduled for later part of the year- a platform which Japan uses to give capital, technology and business directions.
Though closure on nuclear agreement is much desired, but a likely hood of it featuring in the discussion is remote due to uncertainties in Indian leadership. Likely developments are, firm financial commitments and a roadmap for a Chennai- Bengaluru superfast train and commitment for similar infrastructure for the Mumbai- Ahmadabad corridor.
What this visit emphasizes, especially since it comes almost on the heels of Emperor’s visit, is to send a message across to the international community that there can be no speculation that India Japan relations is moving beyond just looking at it through the prism of ‘economic gain’ but rather that of strong mutual cooperation and enduring solidarity.
(About the Author: Dr. Srabani Roy Choudhury is Associate Professor at School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi)