India-Japan Strategic Partnership: An Agenda – Analysis


By Mohammed Badrul Alam

“Japan and India enjoy deep mutual understanding and are fully committed to enhance the strategic and global partnership for peace and prosperity.” — Prime Ministers, Yoshihiko Noda and Dr.Manmohan Singh, Joint Statement, December 28, 2011

The currency of power and security objectives is clearly evident in the 21st century globalised world with multiple transnational connectivity and changing contours of power. India’s power and security options have been enhanced in the Asia Pacific in general and in context to Japan, in particular. After September 11 2001, both India and Japan have come closer in cooperating on various facets of security perimeters affecting Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and East Asia. India has actively supported the anti-terrorist stand taken by Japan and has lauded Japan’s decision to send S.D.F (Self-Defense Force) units to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean regions including Iraq and Afghanistan. India has also provided landing, refueling and docking facilities to Japanese fighter jets and ships.

Towards a Strategic Partnership: The Road So Far

India - Japan Relations
India – Japan Relations

In terms of security cooperation, Japan and India in recent times have confined themselves to energy security, maritime security and enhanced contacts between the Armed Forces of both countries. As two responsible maritime nations in Asia, both the countries have adhered to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as universally agreed principles of international maritime law. Recognising that India and Japan have large Exclusive Economic Zones and maritime interests (including safe passage for Japanese oil tankers plying from the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca through Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal under protection from Indian Navy and its Coast Guards) both the countries have expressed the need for enhanced cooperation in capacity building, technical assistance and information and data sharing between their respective agencies and in undertaking anti-piracy measures in the high seas.

Similarly, regular exchange visits between the two Coast Guards through meetings of heads of Coast Guards, mutual visits of Coast Guard ships and holding of combined exercises are very vital for both India and Japan in strengthening their respective security perimeters. In this context, the signing of a Memorandum on Cooperation on 24 November 2006 between the Coast Guards of India and Japan was welcomed. In 2012, naval vessels of both sides made mutual port calls and Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) visited India. Coming into force of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and reaffirming to enhance cooperation in respect of anti-piracy counter measures under its framework are welcome measures in this direction.

Japan and India have condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and have stressed that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism under any pretext. They share the view that international community must further intensify all out efforts and cooperation to fight this menacing terrorist threat to global peace and security. In this context, the two countries have pledged to work in unison through the India-Japan Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism as well as cooperation in multilateral forums such as Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Both Japan and India have also called upon all Member States of the UN to work towards the expeditious adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.

Forging Indo-Japan Strategic Partnership: Critical Areas and Challenges

As Asia, the largest continent, is likely to undergo major and profound transformation in terms of shifts in power configurations in the intermediate term, India and Japan are acutely aware of the need for political and security cooperation between the two countries for ensuring order, stability and equilibrium among the region’s great powers. Both the countries recognise that India-Japan security cooperation and the process of engagement has to be firmly rooted in shared and compatible values in both economic and strategic terms.

In one of the critical areas in which China is enjoying a monopoly of Rare Earth Elements (REE), controlling almost 97 per cent of the world’s REE market and with Japan being the world’s largest importer of REE, the latter sees India as a favorite destination for investing in this field. Japan has recently sought clearance for Rare Earth mining particularly in Odisha state known to be rich in REE. Japan has earmarked a $1.5 billion corpus for developing alternative source of rare earths by diversifying its import options.

A key challenge in the Indo-Japan bilateral relationship has been the power asymmetry surrounding the strategically important Indian Ocean region. India and Japan can cooperate proactively in order to tap the vast energy, mineral and livelihood resources in this region as well as in the adjoining South China Sea by checkmating China that has been eyeing the region under the ‘String of Pearls’ strategy. By doing so, both India and Japan can enhance their respective naval capability, transportation systems and maritime security.

Mohammed Badrul Alam
Professor, Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi
e-mail: [email protected]


IPCS (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies) conducts independent research on conventional and non-conventional security issues in the region and shares its findings with policy makers and the public. It provides a forum for discussion with the strategic community on strategic issues and strives to explore alternatives. Moreover, it works towards building capacity among young scholars for greater refinement of their analyses of South Asian security.

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