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Japan and India looked back at China

Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi strengthen military and economic cooperation

Japan and India looked back at China

Valery Kistanov

Head of the Center for Japanese Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies
In the second decade of September, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe paid an official visit to India. He was warmly and warmly received by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. It was the 10-I meeting of the two leaders after in Modi came to power in 2014 year. In recent years, relations between the second and third economies of Asia have significantly deepened due to the fact that Abe and Mody, who have established close relations among themselves, intend to work together to balance China as the dominant power in Asia. According to the American news agency Reuters, who on the eve of the Japan-India summit quoted the Asahi Shimbun newspaper published in Tokyo, one of the Eurasian analysts said: "Almost everything that happens during the visit will in part be done with China in my head."

It is noteworthy that Abe's visit took place only a few days after New Delhi and Beijing agreed to end the longest and most serious military confrontation in the disputed territory along their common border in recent decades. This dispute created in the world fears of a border conflict between Asian giants with unpredictable consequences. During the meeting, the two prime ministers reaffirmed their countries' cooperation in the field of security and economy, aimed at confronting, as Japanese and Indian analysts believe, China's territorial and military expansion.

In the military sphere, India and Japan intend to rely on a powerful naval presence in the region of the United States, the main potential enemy of the PRC. The heads of both states agreed to expand the joint exercises conducted by the Indian and US Navy, as well as the Japanese Marine Self-Defense Forces. In a joint press conference with Modi, Abe said: "We will continue to promote cooperation between Japan, India and the US based on the relationship of mutual trust with President Donald Trump." The two leaders also discussed, one-on-one, the discussions on the suspension of the deal on the acquisition of several Japanese amphibious aircraft by India. In addition, the agenda of economic cooperation between the two countries is the construction of nuclear power plants in India on Japanese technologies.

Abe and Modi once again agreed on the need to ensure freedom of navigation in the face of the increasing, in their opinion, China’s expansionist activities in the seas and oceans. As Japanese commentators point out, both figures actually supported cooperation in creating a single anti-Chinese maritime security front with the participation of Washington. On this occasion, Abe said: "We will strengthen the cooperation of like-minded countries that share our values."

The Chinese factor is also behind the build-up of economic cooperation between the second and third economic powers of Asia. The deal of Japan and India in the sphere of infrastructure also means China. Abe and Modi agreed to create a new India-Japan East Forum of Action (India-Japan Act East Forum) to develop roads, electricity and other projects in Northeast India. To develop the road network, Japan provided the Indian government with 38,6 billion yen (349 million dollars). In this regard, the Japanese Prime Minister said: "We will provide comprehensive support to the northeastern states of India, and both countries will further promote the prosperity of the entire region." However, behind these beautiful words there are concrete practical calculations.

The fact is that this region of India is located not far from the Doklam Plateau, a border area disputed by China and Bhutan, an ally of India. The construction of the road by China in the disputed area, discovered in mid-June, led to a confrontation between the Chinese and Indian military, which lasted two and a half months. Thus, with the help of the development of Northeast India, Tokyo and New Delhi intend to hinder Beijing’s potential advancement to the Indian Ocean.

For their part, Japan and India with the help of investments intend to actively explore the coast of this ocean. So, both countries are already cooperating in the construction of a terminal for the import of liquefied gas in the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka - in the same island state where China already contributes to the development of this port. Beijing's "One Belt, One Way" initiative aims to create an international infrastructure corridor to Europe by land and to Africa by sea. Japan and India intend to confront China in this area by creating their own sea and land lines.

A joint statement on the results of Abe's visit to India, promulgated by the two prime ministers, underscores "the importance of freedom of navigation", as well as "peace, stability and development in the Indo-Pacific region". These expressions combine Abe's naval strategy, which he proposed last year with the aim of assuring the freedom of navigation in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and Modi's Act East policy, focused on India's cooperation with East Asian countries .

However, it should be noted that although New Delhi reinforces its suspicion about the so-called sea expansion of China, as demonstrated by the aforementioned participation of the Indian fleet in joint naval exercises with Japan and the United States in July this year, India maintains extensive economic ties with China on the land. Not to mention the fact that both countries are members of the BRICS economic group strengthening its influence in the world arena. For Japan, China has also recently become an international economic partner number one.

These moments should serve as a certain brake on the way of turning the military and economic ligament of Tokyo - New Delhi into a structure frankly aimed at containing China. It is also obvious that the experienced Indian leadership will not allow anyone to play their country as an anti-Chinese card. There are certain differences in the approaches of Japan and India to their great neighbor. So, unlike India, which unequivocally negatively views Beijing’s One Belt, One Way initiative as a competitive strategic project, Japan has recently begun to give more positive assessments of this initiative and even thinks about its own participation in it.

According to a high-ranking official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, if Japan will pinch the creation of an anti-Chinese tandem in Japan and India, New Delhi can distance itself from its Far Eastern partner. We will add, if only to maintain our own image of the state, which has not changed its policy of non-alignment.
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