By Dr Subhash Kapila*
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s visit to India on September13-14 2017 though officially as part of the Annual Summits between the Prime Ministers of Japan and India emerges as geopolitically significant against the contextual Asian security environment muddied by China itself and its nuclear proxies in East Asia and South Asia.
Japan holds India in great geopolitical and strategic esteem as a potential Superpower and India under PM Modi needs to live upto this expectation and inherent in this esteem is Japan’s sincere desire to assist India in this direction. In a book released virtually coinciding with the Japanese PM’s visit, a former distinguished Japanese Ambassador to India, Amb. Hiroshi Hirabayashi has titled it as “The Last Superpower”. A sincere tribute from an Emerged Power itself
The explosiveness added by China to the Asian security environment in 2017 and in which Japan and India finds themselves enmeshed in China’s strategic and military crosshairs enjoins the Japanese and Indian Prime Ministers as they meet in the Ahmedabad Summit on September13-14 2017 to give a new substantive direction to their “Special Strategic and Global Partnership” so as to offset the China Threat to themselves and Asian security.
In fact the political and economic dimensions of this Partnership need to be subsumed into the over-riding and larger matrix of security and defence cooperation. What is at issue for Japan and India currently is national security and reinforcing of their absorptive capacities to take on the China Threat.
The Japanese and Indian Prime Ministers as they meet at the Ahmedabad Summit would hopefully be aware of the prevailing strategic reality that what stands between Chinese hegemony over Asia and Asian security is the Japan and India’s “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”. The connotation of “Global Partnership” to the earlier “Strategic Partnership” itself is a pointer that Japan and India as Emerged Powers have to jointly transcend the Asian dimensions and ascend the global stage. The outcome of the Ahmedabad Summit would be measured therefore on this scale.
The enormity of the challenges that face Japan and India today from China and its nuclear weapons proxies need a brief recall to set the contextual stage in to enable the two Prime Ministers of Japan and India to address the challenges appropriately.
East Asia security environment in which Japan is situated in September 2017 presents dangers of an explosive flashpoint generated by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICMs tests unrestrained by China as North Korea’s strategic patron and benefactor. China is using its North Korea nuclear weapons proxy not only to threaten Japan and South Korea as US Allies in the region but also targeting the United Sates as well. North Korea dare not challenge the United States and its Allies which host sizeable US Forward Military Presence hemming China but for a wink and permissive nod from China.
China also for some years, more notably since President Xi Jinping assumed charge of China has not only escalated tensions in the South China Sea but also nearer home to Japan in the East China Sea and Senkaku Islands. Chinese submarines prowl in Sea of Japan, besides Chinese Air Force overflights.
South Asia wherein India is situated has witnessed intense military brinkmanship by China on the Dokalam Plateau which could have ignited militarily. Dokalam Standoff between China and India was temporarily defused by China so as not to endanger the BRICS Summit in early September 2017 by Indian PM refusing to attend due to Chinese military escalation. Chinese intrusions into Indian Territory continue.
Like North Korea as China’s proxy indulging in conflict brinkmanship against Japan, in South Asia one witnesses China’s other nuclear weapons proxy, that is, Pakistan indulging in attempting to ignite Kashmir Valley in name of Islamic Jihad against India besides border clashes on the LOC. Pakistan too like North Korea has a wink and a permissive nod from its born again paramour—China.
Japan and India therefore contextually in September 2017 stand poised at dangerous crossroads geopolitically and strategically in relation to China’s not so benign, rather threatening, military rise, endangering Asian security. The position becomes more dangerous as China geopolitically challenges the United States, both directly and indirectly, with Japan and India as initial targets.
The Japan -India Summit in 2017 being held at Ahmadabad and therefore better termed as the Ahmedabad Summit 2017 acquires a a geopolitical and strategic significance unlike the earlier Japan-India Summits in view of the China-induced Asian security turbulence and China’s grab for global dominance in the garb of globalisation and global connectivity through its deceptive OBOR and CPEC both opposed by India.
Obviously a lot of groundwork has already been done by Indian Defence Minister’s visit to Tokyo last week for the Annual Defence Ministers Dialogue. Also accompanying him was a large delegation of top Indian industrialists participating in PM Mod’s ‘Make in India’ defence production projects.
China’s prime challenges today which both Japan and India would be faced with is in the maritime dimensions, missiles warfare, space warfare and cyber warfare. Chines air power too is also a force multiplier for China. Japan is a technologically advanced nation with advanced R&D and defence production infrastructure. With changes in Japan’s constitutional provisions in arms exports, Japan is well placed to assist India in collaboration in these fields in which India too has good leads.
The maritime dimensions of China’s naval threats in the Seas of East Asia and its recent drive for sizeable presence in Indian Ocean is an area of prime cooperation between Japan and India, both operationally and also in capacity- building of the Indian Navy. In terms of global convergence of interest in Indian Ocean, Japan and India rea fortunate in that their concerns of Chinese naval presence in Indian Ocean are shared by USA, Britain, France and Australia. India should be more forthcoming in terms of enlarging participation in the Malabar Series of Naval Exercises. There is no reason why Japan and India should not indulge in Joint Maritime Surveillance of the Indian Ocean.
Moving to Joint Military Exercises between Japan and India which are presently limited to the Navy only, should now be enlarged to include the Japanese Army and the Japanese Air Force. Special Forces techniques including counter-terrorism operations should be shared.
Defence production collaborations between Japan and India are the most promising dimensions that need to be exploited by India. My knowledge of Japanese defence production superiorities gained as a military diplomat in Japan for nearly four years, makes me assert that they are the best in the world.
Defence technology being a great force multiplier and an area in which India has been backward due to archaic bureaucratic DDO and MOD, is an area in which India can profitably gain with Japanese expertise. PM Modi’s priority for indigenous defence production offers great scope for Japanese defence majors. However, Japanese defence majors should avoid the Indian MOD route and engage in joint projects directly with Indian private sector defence enterprises. It is also for consideration as to why the Indian Government cannot enter into direct FMS contracts with Japanese Government on the pattern of the US.
Now moving to the higher plane of geopolitical domains, the Japanese and Indian Prime Ministers should at this Summit need to work out procedures and mechanisms for coordinated responses by Japan and India at the United Nations on critical issues and also to the Asian flashpoints situations.
Japan significantly supported India on the Dokalam Standoff and India must not shirk from doing likewise on the South China Sea issues and the North Korean Threat.
In the field of civil nuclear energy cooperation enabling India to acquire technologies from Japan, steady progress is visible. Recently, both countries had an “Exchange of Diplomatic Notes for Entry into Force of Japan-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.
Significantly, India made a big leap in strategic trust of Japan in which an Agreement has been signed allowing entry of Japanese participation of Development of India’s North East Region and also the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. No other country has been allowed this.
Concluding, one would like to emphasise that with Japan and India both headed by bold and assertive Prime Ministers in the persona of PM Abe and PM Modi, the Ahmedabad Summit would delineate a mote assertive and bold direction for the “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”. In terms of Asian security and global stability this is the need of the hour.
*Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at [email protected]
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