Saturday, January 05, 2013

Indo-Japanese Defence Co-Operation

"India is located in the center of sea lanes which connect Japan with the Middle East and Africa, making it an extremely important country in a geopolitical sense for Japan"

This illustration, below, gives you an overview of the nature and extent of current military & security-related co-operation between India and Japan.


- Defense Cooperation and Exchanges with Other Nations~India~

A look at it, and one could, not so inaccurately, conclude that the military aspect of the Indo-Japanese relationship is quite fledgling at the moment. Most proposals for co-operation, though impressive, are yet to fully emerge from the drawing boards, with large portion of interaction being of an Academic, across the table-type in nature. Scale of those that have been implemented have enough scope for expansion, something that would happen once both countries gain sufficient confidence regarding the viability of such a relationship. India & Japan, it can be said, are testing the waters at the moment, a statement that takes on additional meaning given the current nature of their military engagement.

If one were to look back to try and trace the "history" of development of co-operation between India & Japan in the defence arena, one would find that this 'study of the history' is in fact a 'study of the contemporary'. That's is because the first significant step towards building up such bilateral co-operation occurred only in 2008 with the 'Joint declaration on Security Cooperation between India and Japan'3. Until that time, despite the two nations enjoying a healthy politics, trade & culture/religion-driven relationship, virtually none existed on the military front. The reason being, Japan, living under the comfort of America's Nuclear umbrella, enjoys the luxury of holding a certain world-view w.r.t. security & deterrence, that India can ill-afford to share. Therefore, looking at India with such tinted vision makes it difficult for the 'Land of the rising Sun' to appreciate India's position. Thus, the impasse.

However, developments over the past decade or so appears to have made them to begin coming around to reconsider their earlier held notions. Growth of Communist China has been paralleled by its destabilising, provocative posturing, especially towards the countries bordering it, that includes India & Japan. Of Taiwan, another country with whom it has a territorial dispute, just like with nearly every country bordering it, as attributed to Mao Zedong,

"Mao Tse-Tung announced further, the Chinese People’s Republic does not intend to start a war with the United States of America over Taiwan. We can wait 10-20 and even 30 or 40 years, continued Mao Tse-Tung. In this case we are taking into account the experience of the Soviet Union, which over 22 years [1918-1940--ed.] did not take military measures to return the Baltic states to the ranks of the USSR"

The statement being made in 1959, the 40 year wait would, therefore, correspond to a culmination in 1999 - a near match with the time since when China's claims on territories of not just Taiwan, that it claims as whole, but also portions of other nations, have grown more strident.

Thus, with commonality of this part-ally/competitor/adversary of sizable geography, it is only natural that the two nations begin gravitating towards each others, co-coordinating to ensure that their respective interests and aims are safeguarded. One can gauge how seriously the Japanese are betting on developing a relationship with India, that has a robust military & security component, from this statement,

"In October 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India visited Japan and the two Prime Ministers signed the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India, coming after similar declarations with the United States and Australia. India is, thereby, the third country with whom Japan has signed a joint declaration on security."

As evident from the on-the-ground military engagement1 between India & Japan, the current thrust is on initially developing strong maritime co-operation & partnership, be it through joint bi/multi-lateral Naval exercises or International maritime patrol. It isn't very hard to infer why. Japan, just like India is a Hydrocarbon deficit nation, importing them in large quantities to meet requirements. Thus, it is absolutely imperative to ensure that the Sea Lines Of Communication [SLOC] are secure & sanitised for their fuel to flow in unhindered. Maritime co-operation of this nature is, therefore, one with the least bones of contention - a launchpad from where to start building up stronger relation. It bodes well for both nations that Japanese aircraft manufacturer ShinMaywa, with its US-2 aircraft, is in competition to meet Indian Air Force's [IAF] requirement for 6 Amphibious Aircrafts. It is also offering the same to the Indian Navy, for its own requirement for 9 such seaplanes, with a possibility that the final number could rise to 18. One has to assume that the number 18 was arrived at by considering a follow-on to the Navy's 9, the IAF's 6 being a separate contract, if it does go ahead [would entail some serious jurisdictional "stepping on toes", though].

No symbol of co-operation between nations is stronger than that demonstrated through a deep and meaningful military engagement. However, it would take Herculean effort, especially on part of Japan, to make it possible, since their aforementioned world-view is deeply enshrined in the beliefs of its citizens, with legislative & legal sanctity. Having said this, it need reiteration that India & Japan have what it takes to be organic partners - both uphold & cherish dearly the idea of genuine democracy. Miracles of miracles, even the Communists in India are democratic. Both nations also hold similar outlook towards the world on matters of economic & international relations with common allies, and are faced with threats and concerns common to both. It is nobody's argument that war would ensue in the continent tomorrow. Au contraire, it is to the mutual benefit of the three nations to continue to maintain peace, increase and improve co-operation, whose benefits would eventually radiate out to the other Asian countries in its vicinity. China & India have publicly demonstrated their commitment to poverty alleviation of its citizenry, an effort that has been internationally acknowledged to be bearing fruits. Although the road ahead is still long, with numerous challenges to be surmounted, one must not detract from what the two have achieved, so far2. Any conflict will, therefore, put paid to this humongously challenging task, landing both back at the starting point, perhaps further back. The engine driving their respective efforts are their economic and trade relations, in which the three nations are deeply enmeshed, feeding each other and off each other. Those that have a lot to lose from war, therefore, must be the ones to invest the most in peace, provided the other nation hasn't hinged its entire identity & existence on being not-"the other country". However, relations that would prove critical in times of war take many decades to mature, and it is this very demonstration of a relation, that would itself serve as an effective deterrent to war, maintaining peace.

Experts suggest that the recent re-election of Shinzo Abe as Japan's Prime Minister bodes well for India, as he has been a proponent for Japan to partner India on the strategic & military front. Given the current climes in the region, it is absolutely imperative that India and Japan resolve their differences amicably to put up a collaborative effort in protecting individual and mutual interests, for growth and development of its people & the continent. While one wouldn't want to comment on the larger "Arc of Democracy" in this post, with India & Japan located on either sides, it would certainly be to the benefit of all to put a "Cap of Democracy" on bellicose intentions.


Related: India-Russia military co-operation

1 = Apologies for the use of this ironical phrase. Ironies notwithstanding, it just seemed perfect

2 = For a comprehensive understanding of poverty alleviation in India so far & the road ahead, read - India's Reforms: How they Produced Inclusive Growth [Hardcover] by Arvind Panagariya & Jagdish Bhagwati

3 = India-Japan Security Cooperation - Chinese Perceptions