No, it is not Manmohan Singh’s love in Tokyo. Call it ‘strategic love’.
The proof of the pudding is in eating. Apply this dictum in the context of India-Japan relations and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s about-to-be concluded Japan visit, and the facts speak for themselves.
Here are some facts as reflected through the just-released Joint Statement on the Prime Minister’s visit to Japan, appropriately titled “Strengthening the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan beyond the 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations.”
Japan has agreed to give loan to India worth 71 billion yen (almost seven million US dollars) for the Mumbai Metro Line III project as well as the yen loan of the fiscal year 2012 totaling 353.106 billion yen (3.47 billion dollars) for eight projects. Besides, Japan has also pledged 17.7 billion yen (174 million dollars) for the Campus Development Project of Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (Phase 2) and 13 billion yen (127 million dollars) for the Tamil Nadu Investment Promotion Programme.
All this put together amounts to a staggering 4.46 billion US dollars and all of that in just one visit of the Indian Prime Minister and his talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
More importantly, the Japanese money will flow into actual infrastructural development works across the length and breadth of India with Japanese technical assistance and it is not a dole to keep the Indian economy afloat – just taking a leaf out of the Pakistan brand of aid politics.
During United States President Barack Obama’s India visit in November 2010, Obama had sewn up some twenty deals worth ten billion dollars. An elated Obama had then said that he would go back to his country and tell his people that his India visit had yielded fifty thousand American jobs.
Now imagine how many jobs the Japanese financial assistance over the next few years will generate for India
And yet there is no grandstanding by the humble Japanese. This conduct conforms to the dictionary definition of a true friend.
Of course, it will be naïve to think that the Japanese are loosening their purse strings for India overnight for nothing and imagine ‘Hindi-Japanese bhai bhai’ kind of misplaced ideas. In international diplomacy, there are no free lunches.
It’s true that no other country in the world today feels as threatened by China’s so-called “peaceful rise” as Japan. But then India too feels threatened by China. That is why Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister and a known India friend, had said in his address to the joint session of Indian parliament in the Central Hall in the summer of 2007 that the Indo-Japan relations were a “confluence of the two seas”, a phrase that he drew from the title of a book written by the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh in 1655.
Abe is an unabashed China-basher who says he is determined to see that the South China Sea does not become a “Lake Beijing”. He has proposed an ADSD – Asia Democratic Security Diamond, comprising Japan, India, Australia and the US.
This is what Abe said in a signed article in December 2012: “If Japan were to yield, the South China Sea would become even more fortified. Freedom of navigation, vital for trading countries such as Japan and South Korea, would be seriously hindered. The naval assets of the United States, in addition to those of Japan, would find it difficult to enter the entire area, though the majority of the two China seas is international water.”
Abe has forecast that in about a decade Japan-India relations would overtake Japan-China and even Japan-US relations. “I envisage a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US state of Hawaii form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific,” he said in this article.
Now have a look at the India-Japan Joint Statement at the end of the Singh-Abe talks. Manmohan Singh has expressed his eagerness to live Abe’s dream. Sample the language in the exact quotes from the Indo-Japan bilateral statement:
· The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the steady growth of political exchanges, dialogue and policy coordination at all levels. They positively evaluated Ministerial-level annual dialogues and exchanges, particularly the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue and the Ministerial Level Economic Dialogue. The two Prime Ministers also noted the successful outcomes achieved during the"2 plus 2” dialogue, the Foreign Secretary level Dialogue, the Foreign Office Consultations, the Defence Policy Dialogue, the Trilateral Dialogue between India, Japan and the United States, as well as other key interactions on various areas including cyber, counter-terrorism and economic partnership. The two Prime Ministers welcomed the launch of the bilateral Maritime Affairs Dialogue, the first meeting of which was held on 29 January 2013 in Delhi.
· The two Prime Ministers welcomed the expanding defence relations between the two countriesbased on the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation betweenIndia and Japan. The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction that the first bilateral exercise betweenthe Indian Navy (IN)and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)was held in June 2012 off the coast of Japan and decided to conduct such exercises on a regular basis with increased frequency. They decided to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) to explore modality for the cooperation on the US-2 amphibian aircraft.
India and Japan were never as close to each other as they are today. The bonding is to become all the stronger in the near future. All thanks to China.
If you press a balloon from one side, it will bloat from another side. China has pressed the balloon from two corners almost simultaneously. It may well prove to be China’s hamartia.
*The writer is a Firstpost columnist and a strategic analyst. email@example.com.