17:03 GMT, July 19, 2012 The geo-strategic uncertainties that prevail in Asia will drive India and Japan increasingly in the direction of jointly addressing the need for maintaining the prevailing balance of power in the continent, according to scholars of India and Japan.
This view was expressed at a joint seminar in Kyoto, Japan, on a bilateral India-Japan conference on ” Discussing Contemporary India” from 29 June to 1 July 2012. The conference was organised by Japan’s two premier universities- Kyoto University and Ryukoku University with support from Observer Research Foundation, with National Institute for Humanities, Japan, and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
The scholars and experts said they would like to see Asia remain multipolar, free from the rise of any hegemon and a balance of power system that remains pluralistic, inclusive and outward-looking. They pointed out that both the countries believe in engaging Beijing in security and economic spheres and that in any scenario of regional peace and security, China will play an important role. So, the interests of Indo-Japanese partnership would be best served by getting China integrated in the Asian affairs as a responsible stakeholder, the scholars said.
But at the same time they also suggested taking certain precautionary diplomatic steps to hedge against any overt assertiveness from Beijing. They also said that the trilateral dialogue between the US, Japan and India should be viewed as a measure to restrain China from playing an overbearing role in the region.
The conference, which focused its attention mainly on India, was divided into two sections. The first section dealt with a variety of social and economic issues that are in the forefront of debates in Indian domestic politics. There were interesting papers on “Political Representation of Subaltern Groups” by Prof Kanchan Chandra; on “Minority Question in India: The case of Gujarat” by Prof Kazuya Nakamizu; on ” Social Movement and the Transformation of Forest Management in the Uttarkhand” by Prof Shinya Ishizaka; on “Caste and Vernacular Politics in Tamil Nadu” by Prof Andrew Wyatt’s; and on “Politics of Relations: Local Networks of Development and Livelihood in Orissa” by Prof Akio Tanabe.
The second section, which had four full sessions, was wholly devoted to examining in depth the expanding dimensions of the Indo-Japanese partnership. Several papers covering the strategic and economic aspects of the partnership were presented by both Indian and Japanese scholars. In the first session, Prof. K.V. Kesavan and Prof. Takenori Horimoto presented detailed overviews of the different phases that the bilateral relations had passed through during the last sixty years. Though their presentations were from two different perspectives, there were vast areas where their views were in full agreement.
Both the scholars pointed out that even during the cold war years when a psychological barrier kept the two countries apart, the leaders of the two countries were wise enough to identify certain spheres where they could forge useful bilateral ties. For instance, their decision to give priority to economic interactions was sound and constituted a solid base for the partnership. Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) and India’s iron ore exports to Japan even during the 1950s had long term positive implications for the partnership.
They agreed that bilateral partnership entered a new phase after 2000 following the historic visit made to India by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori who called upon both countries to build a global partnership which would help them look beyond their bilateral issues and seek to play more positive roles in trying to solve regional and global problems. Since then, both countries have moved quite fast to add new dimensions to their partnership. Today the partnership is not limited only to economic matters, but encompasses a wide range of interests including security, safety of the sea-lanes, energy cooperation, counter terrorism, UN reforms and climate change.
Both countries have also created elaborate institutional structures to carry forward the goals of the partnership. It is hard to think of any other Asian country which has developed similar institutional mechanisms to promote bilateral ties at different levels. The signing of the Declaration on Security Cooperation in October 2008 followed by an Action Plan in 2009 added a strong security dimension to the bilateral relations. Japan has signed such agreements only with Australia, the US and Canada.
Prof. Kesavan and Prof. Horimoto pointed out that the Indo-Japanese partnership enjoys bipartisan support in both countries and it is not adversely affected by the political changes that take place in the two countries. For instance, the transfer of power from the Liberal Democratic Party- led coalition to the Democratic Party of Japan -led government in 2009 did not affect the course of the partnership. The Action Plan envisaged by LDP’s Prime Minister Taro Aso was successfully adopted by his successor and rival party government in 2009 led Yukio Hatoyama.
It was also pointed that though the partnership has become multi-dimensional in nature, economic ties will continue to be its core component for considerable time. The continuing significance of the ODA, the prospects of a breakthrough in our trade and investment relations especially following the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the complementarities in our mutual economic dealings will continue to underline that priority.
They also said that the geo-strategic uncertainties that prevail in Asia will drive India and Japan increasingly in the direction of jointly addressing the need for maintaining the prevailing balance of power in the continent.
Prof Akio Tanabe, as discussant, made several useful comments on the papers and the paper writers did well to explain that the present security cooperation between India and Japan does not constitute a security alliance. Alliance has far broader implications than cooperation. But at the same time, one should also see the Indo-Japanese security cooperation in the context of similar such accords between Japan and Australia, Australia and India, US-Japan security alliance and the new US-Japan and India trilateral dialogue.
In the second session on “Political and Security Implications”, there were three presentations by Prof Osamu Yoshida, Dr Marie Izuyama and Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan. Dr Yoshida highlighted how, in the midst of differences in their strategic orientations, with India emphasizing its strategic autonomy and Japan strongly committed to its alliance with the US, certain issues of common concern like the rise of China and maritime security have driven both India and Japan to develop a strategic partnership in recent years. On the question of the expansion of the bilateral security cooperation, Dr Yoshida struck a note of caution that mere commitment to democratic values alone would not be sufficient to overcome the contradictions that could arise from India’s basic policy of maintaining policy options and Japan’s firm adherence to its alliance with the US. Dr Izuyama emphasized the maritime aspects of the bilateral partnership in the changing geopolitical environment of Asia. Dr Rajeshwari Rajagopalan, in her presentation, brought out the key drivers shaping India-Japan security and economic ties including an uncertain Asia, China’s rise, North Korea’s nuclear and missile technologies programmes and maritime security. Both countries have steadily strengthened their economic links in trade, investment and development assistance. They have also set up several institutional mechanisms to promoter mutual cooperation in the security sphere as well. According to Dr Rajeswari, some of the potential areas for their strategic cooperation include joint military exercises, maritime security, space research, etc.
The third session was devoted to examine the prospects of cooperation between the two countries in the energy field and to survey the course of bilateral economic interactions. Ms Lydia Powell in her presentation pointed out how Japan as one of the most efficient countries in the use of clean energy technology could help India, an energy inefficient country. She stated that increasing the efficiency of sub-critical Pulverised Coal power plants in India by one per cent would decrease coal use by three per cent and this could reduce annual coal consumption by about 100 million tonnes and carbon emissions by 170 million tonnes. Japan has started imparting training to Indian technicians in clean coal technology (CCT) and the number will grow in the coming years. A successful model project was carried out by Japan’s NEDO to reduce ash content in Indian coal on a commercial scale. This new technology is expected to be introduced in 2012 in India. The Delhi Metro system, largely assisted by Japanese funds, is the world’s first railway project registered with the United Nations under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor to be built with Japanese assistance, according to her, will further address the challenge of skewed rail-road mix in India and assist in reducing congestion to improve efficiency of freight traffic. She also identified renewable energy, civilian nuclear energy and steel industry as potential areas of active cooperation between the two countries.
Lydia Powell’s paper was followed by a comprehensive presentation by Prof Takahiro Sato of Kobe University on India-Japan economic relations. His paper threw a lot of light on the initial phase of the India-Japan economic relations during the 1950s and 1960s when Japan imported India’s iron ore for building its own steel industry. His analysis of the post-1991 phase in the growth of the bilateral economic partnership was richly supported by useful data. His paper raised considerable optimism in the strength of the partnership and he concluded that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor “will serve as a springboard for further strengthening the Japan-India economic relations.”
The fourth and concluding session was addressed by two senior Japanese scholars Prof Nagasaki Nobuko and Prof Nakamura Hisashi. Their brief speeches touched on the historical and contemporary aspects of the bilateral relations. This occasion provided an opportunity for all participants to make their observations on any aspect of the India-Japan partnership. The session turned out to be extremely interesting as the participants felt free to express their views on wide range of issues.
Finally, Prof K.V. Kesavan and Prof Takenori Horimoto, who thanked the organizers and participants for their support and cooperation in making the conference a successful event, hoped to continue this dialogue as an on-going exercise in the coming years.
By Prof. K.V. Kesavan, Distinguished Fellow
Observer Research Foundation