Japanese Royal Visit To Boost Japan –India Ties - Eastern Mirror
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Japanese royal visit to boost Japan –India ties

By The Editorial Team Updated: Nov 29, 2013 9:47 pm

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Emperor and Empress of Japan will arrive in India for the first time Saturday to raise the “mutual interests” of people of the two countries. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will be on a six-day official visit that has already drawn considerable media attention because of the good ratings the two democracies enjoy among their people and the number of policy dialogues both have been holding on trade and investment, energy, security and global governance.Under Japan’s post-War constitution, the emperor is “the symbol of the State”, who “reigns but does not govern”. Yet, he wields significant influence, for being a unifying figure and the Japanese people’s respect for the monarchy. The emperor makes select overseas visits that are viewed as exercises in public diplomacy which convey important signals about Japan’s foreign policy.
The unspoken, non-verbalised message of the current imperial visit is to advance the pro-India policy of the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees India as key to its growth and security strategy. During his last visit to the country in 2007, Abe had set forth a vision for a major role for India and Japan in the future security architecture in the Asia-Pacific.
Bilateral relations have come a long way since May 1998, when Japan slapped sanctions and suspended its Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) over India’s nuclear tests. In fact, Japan and India are natural allies as there are no bitter “history issues” of the kind that colour or complicate Tokyo’s relations with nations across East and Southeast Asia. National interests and the fast-changing strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region have brought the two closer.
Today, the ties are warm, deep and multi-layered, which can be traced to the two countries’ demographics and economic needs that complement each other.
Japan has an ageing population, while India’s is overwhelmingly young. Japan has technology and infrastructure knowhow that India needs for its development. India has natural resources and is a strategic location, being closer to the Middle East and European markets. Companies like Hitachi and Panasonic see India as a manufacturing base for exporting to Africa and Europe. Some companies have already pivoted investments from China to India after strained ties over the disputed Senkaku/Daiyou island chain in East China Sea.
“India needs Japanese technology and investment. In turn, India offers increasing opportunities for the growth and globalization of Japanese companies for the overall prosperity and growth of Japan… There are strong synergies between our economies, which need an open, rule-based trading system to prosper,” said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a visit to Tokyo last May.
Abe returned to power last December promising to revive Japan’s moribund economy. He is seeking a 21st-century-style post-industrial comeback and has even turned to “soft power” to fashion a “Cool Japan” growth strategy. Japanese auto and electronics industries, the main drivers of the economy, are now facing stiff competition, especially from Asian rivals like South Korea. To offset the fall in market dominance, his government, in collaboration with the private sector, this week launched the “Cool Japan Fund” which will invest up to Y90 billion ($917 million) in cultural exports such as fashion, food and media. As they say, Abe wants the world to buy not just the Sony or Honda products but also the Japanese sake, sashimi and anime.
And in India, the blue robotic cat Doraemon, Pokemon, Hello Kitty and Ninza warriors have eclipsed the popularity of Western Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Abe stresses on democracy as a source of security, and has proposed a grand “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” connecting Japan in the East to India in the South and to Europe in the West. He is hard-selling his “proactive pacifism” as Japan is concerned about the growing economic and military muscle-flexing by its former colony, China, and the missile and nuclear threats from North Korea. His administration is seeking to broaden regional cooperation, including defence capacity-building collaboration with India and “deepen and develop strategic global partnership”.
Like Japan, India has an interest in strengthening a stable security order that will allow it to increase the flows of trade and investment to catalyze development at home. The Indian prime minister said both the countries have established “a new relationship based on shared values and shared interests” and have “a shared vision of rising Asia”.
“We attach particular importance to intensifying political dialogue, strategic consultations and progressively strengthening defence relations, including through naval exercises and collaboration on defence technology,” said Singh.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid indicated the shape of things to come. “Strategic ties are that you share information, that you exercise together and that you are willing to cooperate in the area of defence production. We have signalled that we don’t want to be merely at a client stage purchasing defence equipment from our strategic partners. We want to share research, development and joint production, and that’s at a very nascent stage but that is the fundamental basis on which we want strategic relationship to build,” he said in a recent interview.
During the Asia-Europe Meeting earlier this month, India and Japan said a joint working group would meet soon to discuss the sale of military hardware, including the amphibious US-2 ShinMayba aircraft. The two countries are also stepping up plans for a civil nuclear cooperation deal for which they reopened talks in September. There are plans for a joint exercise between Japan’s maritime self-defence force and the Indian Navy by the end of this year. They also discussed promoting regional economic integration and connectivity for a “more balanced regional architecture”.
In recent years, India’s “Look East” policy has acquired more strategic content to achieve the geopolitical objective of ensuring stability in the region. It has been trying to enhance its economic ties with security collaborations.
It is in such a context that Emperor Akihito’s visit should be viewed. India’s sincerity in deepening and broadening ties with Japan can be gauged from the prime minister’s decision to appoint a special envoy, former law minister Aswani Kumar, to oversee preparations for the visit that the external affairs ministry says “will immeasurably expand and strengthen the India-Japan strategic and global partnership”.
In a departure from protocol, the prime minister will be personally receiving the royal couple at the airport. Seen in this perspective, the imperial visit will help make India-Japan relations one of the major alliances of the near future.
By Saroj Mohanty
(Courtesy ians.in)

By The Editorial Team Updated: Nov 29, 2013 9:47:55 pm
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