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Show: India and Japan emerge as strong regional allies among rising China

By Sreeram ChauliaPrime Minister Narendra Modis third visit to Japan on 28-29 October for his fifth annual summit with his…

By Sreeram Chaulia

Prime Minister Narendra Modis third visit to Japan on 28-29 October for his fifth annual summit with his counterpart, Shinzo Abe, is a driving force for India’s only “special strategic and global partnership”. From the personal chemistry between the two leaders to the depth and breadth of the bilateral cooperation, it is obvious that Japan and India become de facto allies, not two other powers in Asia.

Modi and Abe oversee negotiations on a new military logistics package called Acsa and Acquisition Agreement, which would offer the Indian and Japanese fleets access to each other’s service and refueling facilities. This deal is comparable to the agreement on logistics exchange agreement (LEMOA) signed by India in 201

6 with the United States.

Such landmarks in defense diplomacy signal that India under Modi has overcome previous hangings of entering alliance-based arrangements. Abe has invested a lot in growing his “bromance” with Modi because he sees the latter as a unique bold actor willing to move forward to improve defense and economic coordination with Japan than former Indian prime minister.

United Against China
During a former prime minister in 2007, Abe sought India’s participation in a “four-sided” mechanism involving Japan, Australia and the United States to contain China’s growing power in Asia. When she returned to the office in 2012, Abe drew attention to the concept of a “democratic security diamond” involving the four countries to “protect maritime municipalities stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific” from authoritarian China.

But the then Indian government, led by Manmohan Singh, flew out of fear of suffering China’s anger, and the United States was covered with other priorities. The Quad idea had to wait until 2017 to restart, but doubt about how far it can operate remains among US President Donald Trump’s strategic flip-flops.

Unlike East Asian countries where Japanese history as a colonist limits full blooded convergence, the Indians see Japan as a major economic modernizer and technical clergy that can help raise India to middle income status. Commercial and military expansion of President Xi Jinpsons China bore India as an intruder, but Abe Japan takes its place as a “normal” Asian force with a proactive military and foreign aid profile welcomed in India.

This is because Japan does not claim an inch of Indian territory and does not intend to control India’s rise in global multilateral institutions or in South and Southeast Asia. Due to its smaller size and non-hegemonic outlook compared with China, an independent Japan is good news in India.

As Modi and Abe surround themselves as comrades with a common enemy, they look at concrete infrastructure projects to be implemented jointly in countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Japan’s commitment to the development of the ocean infrastructure in East Africa and the Middle East offers other places where partnership cooperation with India is a win-win proposal.

Japan and India-sponsored Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) has not generated the same buzz as China’s humungous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but it must evolve for a balanced Indo-Pacific that avoids Abes’ rescue scenario of a giant “Chinese lake “.

Abe striving nationalist goals to revive Japan’s lost military power and his pursuit of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) match Modi’s vision. Mutual sharing of the Chinese inhabitants has been the unspoken but obvious cement binding.

Trump Factor
As the United States is also amalgamated by China’s sharp-sided ascension, it is believed that it would go together with Japan and India. But recently, this simple formation has been revealed by Trump’s irregular and strategically unpleasant foreign policy.

Just before host Modi, Abe traveled to China on a historic state visit and proposed a “new dimension” in a “new era” of Japan-China cooperation. The punch between traditional rivals Japan and China happens in the shadow of Trump, whose trade war and proven desire to remove US troops from East Asia and reduce US military activities in that region are joking Tokyo.

Trumps chaotic position forces the three major in Asia – China, Japan and India – to calibrate their complex triangular bands.

If China and Japan abandon historical animus and try to approach, India looks to repair the fence with China to deal with territorial disputes from escalating.

The recent launch of a China-India partnership to educate diplomats from Afghanistan suggests that the Trump factor creates new opportunities where Asian actors consider it more rational to agree internally instead of tapping American guarantees to Attach an Asian party to another.

As said, the essential pattern in Japan and India lagging laws to counter China remains. It is driven by the geography and character of China’s regime and its ambitions of global domination. Trump can inadvertently mitigate Chinese centric logic in Japan-India quasi alliance. But Modi and Abe turn like a couple with the long-term horizon in sight, where China inevitably weaves big.

(The author is Professor and Dean of Jindal School of International Affairs)

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