Home India-Japan Bilateral: Taking The Alliance Forward

India-Japan Bilateral: Taking The Alliance Forward


It is no wonder that India has a stable, reliable and strangely comfortable relationship with Japan. Most would not know that the history of this bond goes back to the 6th century when Buddhism was first introduced in Japan. In fact, after the World War II, India was among the first countries that Japan signed a peace treaty with, in 1952.[1]What started with Nehru, Vajpayee, and the ‘Global and Strategic Partnership’ in Manmohan Singh’s tenure, progressed in 2014, when Prime Minister NarendraModi upgraded this to the ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’. Further, when Prime Minister Abe visited India in 2015, he aimed at an action-focused elaborate association and announced a joint statement by the two parties: ‘Japan and India Vision 2025 Special Strategic and Global Partnership Working Together for Peace and Prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region and the World’. There is no doubt such a statement showed an undoubted stance as allies, and offered undeniable trust in the counterpart.


Converging Interests

The main element of commonality between the two countries with regard to Indo-Pacific region is China and its increasing influence over countries in the Asia continent. India and Japan must now work cohesively on various aspects to balance out power in the neighbourhood. Being the two strongest countries in the region, apart from China, there is no doubt it would benefit both parties in working intimately on defence and nuclear cooperation, infrastructure, economic aspects, terrorism, and also to continue environment and cultural dialogues with one another onto a platform of further public inclusion. Both allies have already signed agreements pertaining to outer space, environment, cultural exchange, education, and armament industry, among many other fields.


Economic and Infrastuctural Reinforcement

Japan holds a special interest in India’s history with East Africa. It is more poignant now, with India having initiated setting up the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, in alliance with Japan. The primary intent to establish the corridor is to focus on four key areas: Development Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, Enhancing Skills, and People-to-People Partnership.[2] Also known as the Freedom Corridor, this connectivity initiative will fund projects on capacity building and infrastructure in the East Africa region. Japan and India’s connectivity agenda also includes projects in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Iran among others. Japan has also agreed to participate in the assignment of building the Chabahar port in Iran. 
Between 2016-17 Japanese investments in India showed a significant leap to reached $ 4.7 billion, from the $ 2.6 billion during the period of 2015-16; with Japan now ranking as the third biggest investor in India, and the highest contributor as a single country source.[3] Japan has also agreed to fund projects to enhance connectivity in Northeast India through construction of national highways and bridges.       


One of the most popular schemes initiated by PMModi, on a domestic level, is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which focuses on making India a cleaner country. When it comes to protecting and preserving the environment, Japan is in the front line; so the two countries concurred on the need for use of dependable, clean affordable and renewable energy through the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.


Conforming Through Defence and Security

Japan’s recent developments towards remilitarisation may spark concerns among neighbouring Asian states, based on Japan’s history of military assertion, but explicitly working together with India on security issues will help stabilise Japan’s prominent position on regional security. Both nation states have been pursuing establishment of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, giving yet another reason for the logically and mutually beneficial tie binding together India and Japan.

With plans to augment assistance towards security in maritime-Asia region, India has offered training to Malaysian fighter pilots, aided in preservation of Indonesian Air Force fighters and presented Singaporean forces with air and land bases for their training.[4] Alternatively, with recent amendment of Japanese Constitution and reinterpretation of their military stance, Japan has been more willing to  sell their military technology to India, along with the US2 Amphibious aircrafts, which is a huge step towards military development for India.

As the South China Sea continues to be an area of conflict, when PM Modi visited Japan in 2016, a joint statement was released revealing that the leaders of both countries are aware of the need to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea in accordance to universally accepted international laws including the UNCLOS.[5] Despite the Malabar exercise having been initiated between India and USA in 1992[6], India hosting the trilateral maritime exercise in Malabar between Indian, American and Japanese naval forces, in July 2017, symbolises a more momentous alliance than ever before. It would surely benefit both India and Japan to think about conducting similar strategic dialogues through land warfare exercises and to facilitate ground forces cooperation.


The Subtle Soft Power Breaking Through

Soon after starting his term, Prime Minister Modi took significant initiative to acknowledge and emphasise India’s roots with Buddhism, with its potential as soft power in the Asian subcontinent. India let China take a dominant role in Asian Buddhism, and now is the only time India can work to revive and widely accept its Buddhist culture. In fact, Buddhist connectivity has considerably portrayed India as a “non-threatening power”[7], and provided India a more approachable platform for other smaller nations in Asia.


India’s cultural diplomacy with Japan is still very lacking, despite the various existing cultural ties. To strengthen the bind of the relationship between India and Japan, a little tighter, influence of soft power is inevitable. The level that India-Japan ties must upgrade to should be through the youth of both countries. The Japanese embassy in India has plans of conducting seminars in schools to promote studying in Japan, and to assist students who want to, as well as seminars on management techniques. Japan also has special historical traditional ties in Northeast India, particularly in Manipur and Nagaland, where almost 70,000 Japanese soldiers had lost their lives. Japanese ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, recently stated that a war museum would be built, in Manipur, on the land that had once supported a Japanese camp during World War II.[8]  




Eventually, India and Japan will continue to ride on the same boat though innumerable sea lanes, and are moving further into various interdependent concordats that will be decisive in not only this bilateral relation but future regional affairs. The two nations must find new ways of connecting on a futuristic stage and incorporating social and cultural liaisons between populations of both states. India and Japan will continue to share much more than common values of democracy, freedom and liberty, and work together to encourage peace, cooperation and collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region.







  1. ‘Japan & India’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/india/relation/relation.html {Last accessed June 20th, 2017}
  2. NehaSinha, ‘Asia-Africa Growth Corridor: Can It Be A Game Changer?’, Vivekananda International Foundation, 5 June 2017, http://www.vifindia.org/article/2017/june/05/asia-africa-growth-corridor-can-it-be-a-game-changer{Last accessed June 23rd, 2017}
  3. Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ‘Japan’s investments in India getting diverse’, The Economic Times, 27 May 2017, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/japans-investments-in-india-getting-diverse/articleshow/58863341.cms{Last accessed June 19th, 2017}
  4. Satoru Nagao, ‘A Japan-India partnership in Maritime Asia’, Observer Research Foundation, 9 February 2017,http://www.orfonline.org/research/importance-japan-india-cooperation-south-china-sea/{Last accessed June 21st, 2017}
  5. Ministry of External Affairs, India, http://mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/27599/IndiaJapan+Joint+Statement+during+the+visit+of+Prime+Minister+to+Japan{Last accessed June 20th, 2017}
  6. ‘Japan, India look to strengthen defense ties ahead of trilateral naval exercises with U.S.’, The Japan Times, 9 May 2017, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/09/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-india-look-strengthen-defense-ties-ahead-trilateral-naval-exercises-u-s/#.WVOEWpKGPIV{Last accessed June 20th, 2017}
  7. http://www.idsa.in/issuebrief/asias-buddhist-connectivity-and-indias-role_pstobdan_190216{Last accessed June 27th, 2017}
  8. IboyaimaLaithangbam, ‘Japan to build war museum in Manipur’, The Hindu, 21 May 2017, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/japan-to-build-war-museum-in-manipur/article18519330.ece{Last accessed June 26th, 2017}
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