Furthering the India-Japan Relationship

This past weekend, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 13th India-Japan annual summit, a series of formal and informal talks between the two leaders and their governments. Abe and Modi enjoy a close, personal relationship, with Abe hosting Modi for a private dinner at a personal villa, a first for the summit.

The two leaders discussed a wide variety of issues, as India and Japan share many interests and a high level of economic cooperation. Chief among the discussions were emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence. Both Japan and India seek to catch up with Europe and the United States in these areas and prevent China from surpassing them. The two nations believe that they can achieve greater cooperation between the two nations. Japan’s strength lies in hardware, while India has a strong software sector. Japan seeks to enhance its position by attracting talent from India, especially as the United States tightens requirements on H-1B visas for skilled workers. India seeks to attract further Japanese investment in its manufacturing sector, as both countries aim to achieve greater two-way cooperation. The beginnings of this can already be seen, as Modi announced on Monday that Japanese investors have said they will invest 2.5 billion dollars in India. The Japanese government is also heavily invested in helping India develop and build a super-fast railway system.

Another important issue the two prime ministers will discuss is their increased military cooperation. While economic ties have been important, defense and security cooperation have been the driving force of Indian-Japanese relations. India and Japan plan to increase their already strong ties in this area, including conducting military exercises together, along with Japan acting as an observer at Cope India, a joint military exercise between the United States and India. In addition, agreements have been signed between the two navies regarding maritime domain awareness and security issues. In what would be a particularly significant move, there is speculation that India and Japan may sign a Mutual Logistical Support Agreement, meaning that they could access each other’s bases for logistical support. In addition, Japan and India complement each other well when it comes to military technology. Modi has announced a $100 billion military-modernization program and has sought to acquire modern, up-to-date technology. Meanwhile, Japan is seeking to demonstrate to the world that is a reliable arms technology provider. This partnership can be seen most explicitly in Japanese eagerness to cooperate with India on its submarine program.

India and Japan relations have also been impacted heavily by U.S. policy towards China. As tensions between the United States and China grow, many U.S. allies, including Japan, have sought out alternative economic partners to reduce the impact of the ongoing trade war and avoid the negative economic effects of being caught in the middle. For many of these nations, such as Japan and Australia, India is seen as an attractive option. As Modi has long expressed his aim to see India establish itself as a global power, he would welcome this increased level of foreign investment and economic cooperation.

Japan and India have made decisions to continue these high-level talks, with plans announced Monday that they will be conducting their own 2+2 dialogues, meaning further dialogue for their Foreign and Defense Ministers. This appears to indicate that India and Japan will continue cooperating in areas of their economy and defense and seek to coordinate their foreign policy in the region and globally.

Prime Minister Abe had just visited China days before hosting PM Modi, in what appears to be a delicate balancing act. As many in China may view the statements coming out from the India-Japan summit discussing increased military cooperation and maritime security as coded language to prevent a rising China, Abe has preemptively sought to lessen the blow. His visit to China is being described by many as a potential turning point in the frequently tense relations between Japan and China. Despite the tensions between the United States and China, over the past year Japan and China have signed over 500 business deals, ranging from infrastructure to currency swaps. They have also pledged to increase high-level diplomatic and military exchanges, as well as agreeing to not aim threats or aggression at one another. It remains to be seen if Abe’s attempts at juggling relations between the United States, China, and India will succeed.