China, India and Japan synergy can help Asia

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/1 14:03:39

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Japan on October 28 and 29. This is Modi's third visit to Japan as India's prime minister, his 12th meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. Frequent visits by the two countries' leaders show that Tokyo and New Delhi intend to develop closer relations.

Japan-India relations have made remarkable achievements since Modi assumed power in May, 2014. In 2015, Japan became a permanent partner of Malabar naval exercise, originally an exercise between India and the US. When Abe visited India in December, 2015, India decided to use Japanese Shinkansen technology to build the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor. Modi and Abe witnessed the start of the corridor's construction in September, 2017. Japan and India signed a controversial civil nuclear agreement in 2016 that will allow Japanese companies to export atomic technology to the South Asian state and the countries agreed to build the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) in 2017.

During Modi's visit to Japan this time, Abe pledged loans worth 316 billion yen ($2.8 billion) for seven infrastructure projects in India. The two countries also decided to enter into a $75-billion bilateral currency swap agreement, and agreed to upgrade their "two-plus-two" bilateral diplomatic and security talks from the vice ministerial to the ministerial level. Excellent personal relations between Modi and Abe are a result of remarkable bilateral ties and not the reason behind the bonhomie.

Japan and India have no historical disputes. Indian revolutionary Subhash Chandra Bose's attempt during WWII to rid India of British rule with the help of Imperial Japan made him a traitor of the British Raj, but his defiant patriotism made him a hero in India. In Asian geopolitics, India is relatively far from Japan and there is no regional competitiveness involved. Together with Germany and Brazil, Japan and India are bidding for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The two countries also have no disputes over ideology.

India needs Japan for its economic development, which Modi regards as India's most important goal. Compared with previous governments, the Modi administration attaches more importance to foreign capital and technology. As the third largest economy, Japan has been one of the world's major foreign investors. During their development, Southeast Asian countries and China made good use of Japan's investment, technology and industrial transfer. Modi has extended the Act East Policy from Southeast Asia to Japan, hoping to use Japanese investment and technology to promote the "Make in India" initiative. During the past decade, India remained one of the largest recipients of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA). During Modi's recent visit, he called for greater cooperation with Japan to promote entrepreneurship and research and development in high-tech fields. For India, Japan is a powerful and reassuring partner.

Japan needs the Indian market. India is a rapidly growing market with 1.3 billion people, and Japanese enterprises have been actively investing in India since the 1990s. Although some of them faced difficulties in operating in India, they are still optimistic about India's long-term development prospects. Japan wants to gain the initiative in India's high-speed railway construction in the future.

China-Japan relations encountered setbacks a few years ago, prompting Japan to move closer to India. But under US President Donald Trump's "America First", Japan feels the pressure of US protectionism, which necessitates economic cooperation with India.

In the past meetings between Japanese and Indian leaders, China was an important topic of discussion, and Japan wanted to create the impression that it is trying to contain China together with India. But as China-India and China-Japan relations have improved, Modi and Abe should discuss how to cooperate with China, not how to come together to oppose Beijing. During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Japan in May, the two sides signed a memorandum on third-party market cooperation. On October 26, Li and Abe joined the first China-Japan Third-Party Market Cooperation Forum. As the three largest economies in Asia, China, Japan and India all have their advantages and needs, and Beijing and Tokyo can practice their third-party market cooperation in India. The three countries can achieve positive synergy.

During Abe's recent visit to China, he pledged to actively participate in China's Belt and Road initiative (BRI). The AAGC and the BRI can coordinate as they share similar geographical range and idea. If China, Japan and India can achieve cooperation, they will boost the world's confidence in the Asian economy.

The author is a research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University.

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