S Jaishankar and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi Wrap Up 15th Round Of India-Japan Strategic Dialogue

Faced with a growing threat from an assertive China, relations between India and Japan have grown exponentially in recent years.

EAM S Jaishankar and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi

Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi rounded off the 15th round of strategic dialogue in New Delhi on Thursday. India’s political ties with Japan have grown in leaps and bounds in the last few decades as both nations face the threat of an assertive China in Asia.

This is a far cry from 1998 when Japan took a tough stand on India’s nuclear tests and slapped economic sanctions on India. Japanese officials often said that the nuclear issue was a major hindrance in ties with a nation committed to nuclear weapons. New Delhi while hitting back at other countries critical of its nuclear tests was much more accommodating to Japan’s views. India understood that as a country that had faced the devastating effect of atomic bomb, the public mood in Japan was vehemently anti-nuclear. 

All of that is now in the past. The world now is very different from what it was in 1998. The China factor has changed the security and strategic outlook of most Asian powers. Japan is no exception, more so as China and Japan have a bitter past history and continue to have major territorial disputes over a group of islands called the Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyu by the Chinese.

China’s growing military and economic clout and attempt to assert its dominance in the Indo-Pacific region has become a major concern for Japan and East Asian countries — many of whom also have territorial disputes with China around the South China Sea. India has had to change its business-as-usual attitude toward China after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pushed into Indian territory in Ladakh and Doklam. The Quad and the invitation to Japan to be a part of Malabar exercises conducted earlier by India and the United States was a direct result of China’s aggressive stand.   

India and Japan are moving forward in bilateral defence and security cooperation. This has become easier with Japan loosening its former pacifist policies and strengthening its armed forces. Chiefs of army, navy, and air force of both countries now have regular exchanges. There is talk now of deepening  defence equipment and technology cooperation.

India and Japan are on the same page on major international issues, except perhaps on the war in Ukraine. The two foreign ministers had a comprehensive review of both bilateral and regional and global matters.  

“The ministers emphasised the importance of achieving the target of JPY 5 trillion Japanese investment in India in the period 2022-27. They explored potential areas of collaboration in critical and emerging technologies, including semiconductors; resilient supply chains; and digital public infrastructure, among others,” a statement issued at the end of the talks by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) noted.

The mandatory lines about “a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region that is inclusive and rules-based” was naturally included in the statement. The ministers discussed the Quad and also exchanged views on the long-pending United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms. Both India and Japan are keen to be part of an expanded UNSC. Japan is a major donor to UN and India, thanks to its size and population, claims its right to be there as well. Yet despite decades of talk, the Permanent Five (P5) members —USA, China, France, Russia, UK— are in no hurry to expand the charmed circle.