Japan and India are taking their friendshipto a different level. The two democracies share a lot in common and Japan isthe pivot around which the Indian policy of 'Looking East' is built. And inChina, both have a shared threat perception.


The fields of co-operation between the twonations are many. For one, the powerful navies of India and Japan are workingclosely with each other on the high seas. The aircraft carrier and nuclearsubmarine capacity of India complements Japan's missile destroyer-dominatednavy that has recently added a giant helicopter carrier. Japan is also helpingtransform India's economy with aid and investments on very generous terms. Fromthe Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor to the possibility of bullet trains, frominvestment in manufacturing to intelligence sharing - Tokyo and New Delhi arelocked in a real tango.


Japan is looking strategically at India forsome time now and enhancing its role as a reliable partner. Over the years,India has received $36 billion of Japanese assistance. In fact, India has beenthe largest recipient of overseas Japanese aid since 1994.


Moreover, both countries face an assertiveChinese posture in territorial claims. Japan faces these on the sea while Indiahas a land controversy. This mutual threat perception has acted as additional'glue' for this bilateral relationship. Together, they have the most powerfulnavies in Asia. Also, both have an additional interest in expanding thepermanent membership of the Security Council at the UN.


Japanhas walked the friendship talk for over a generation now, first with the Marutiand now with the Metro rail.



The Indian middle class got their firstaffordable car in Maruti, which was from the Japanese firm Suzuki. And ittransformed India's urban outlook. Similarly, anyone who has taken a ride onthe Delhi Metro knows what a radical change it is for urban commuting. Hereagain, a Japanese soft loan of $3 billion was helpful. Japan also provides thetechnical expertise, which has made smooth construction of the Metro possible.


Japanis helping construct the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), which is setto turbo-charge the Indian economy and boost manufacturing.

The DMIC is going to transform not justIndia's creaky infrastructure but potentially the entire Indian economy. Thisis a mega project costing over $90 billion. Japan has provided an initial loanof $4.5 billion for this project. DMIC is a 1,483 km long dedicated freighttrain corridor across six states and two Union Territories. On both sides of thecorridor, an area of 150-200 km will be developed as industrial townships.


Insheer scale, the DMIC is awesome.


It aims at doubling the employmentpotential in 7 years while industrial output is projected to go up three timesin 9 years. Exports from the project and its periphery are likely to quadruplein 8 years. As the Japanese expertise and money are combined with Indiancapabilities for this project, the key impact will be in terms of industrialtownships that will be developed around the corridor. Gujarat and Rajasthanwill gain the maximum as 70% of the infrastructure will be developed in thesetwo states. But the project will really boost India's manufacturing sector asit will open many possibilities along the route.


Japanhas also signalled that it is keen to bring its famous bullet train to India.


In a way, bullet trains symbolise Japan'sburgeoning ecosystem. They are also extremely expensive and require the kind oftechnology that India does not have. An investment of $10 billion will berequired to introduce these trains here. As of now, India is looking at speedsof up to 350 km an hour while the government had admitted in the Parliamentthat Indian trains run on an average of 40 km/hour. The first bullet train willbe connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad, reducing the travel time to about 2.5hours, instead of the current 6.5 hours. With both countries moving forward onthis proposal, India's outdated train system will soon get a swanky new avatar.


Japan'sPM Shinzo Abe has a personal commitment to India.


The Japanese Prime Minister is an oldfriend of India. In his book Utsukushii Kuni E (Towards a Beautiful Country),he has elaborated his vision, saying that the Indo-Japanese relations could beas important as the Sino-Japanese relations. When Abe addressed the IndianParliament way back in 2007, he termed this friendship as "...theconfluence of the two seas." He went further, saying India and Japan couldbe as important as Japan and the US. Thus Japan's leadership has investedserious political capital in the future of its friendship with India.

日本首相是印度的老朋友了。在安倍的大作《美しい国へ》(译注:英文名“Towards a Beautiful Country”,国内翻译为《给美丽的祖国》)一书中,安倍详尽阐述了他的观点,曾说印日关系和中日关系一样重要。2007年安倍还曾给印度议会致信,信中提到印日友谊“正如两海汇流一般”。安倍更进一步指出,印日之间的关系可以发展得和日美关系一样重要。可见日本的领导层是真心重视印日友谊的未来,不惜大手笔投入政治资本的。

Japanand India are coming very close in international security relations.


India and Japan are beefing up theirsecurity co-operation and coming closer in the field of defence. This isbecause both are faced with common threats and both nurture the common valuesof democracy. The countries also signed a path-breaking joint declaration onsecurity back in 2008. The security co-operation has deepened over time andincluded joint exercises between the two navies on the high seas. Last year, 4ships and 1,400 sailors from the Indian side took part in it but next year, itis set to get bigger. Japan is also entering the Indian defence market and hasoffered its multi-capability US-2 amphibious aircraft to India.


India and Japan share a lot of soft power.


Japan appreciates the fact that the Indianjudge, Justice Radhagobind Pal, dissented from the verdict that sentencedJapanese leaders as war criminals in the 1946 trial after Japan's defeat inWWII. Interestingly, his was the sole dissent in this case. Both countries havea common heritage in Buddhism and Japan has funded many Buddhist sites in Indiain terms of conservation and infrastructure development. On the entertainmentfront, Indian kids love Japanese characters such as Doremon, Shinchen and NinjaHattori, which are by far the most popular cartoons here in India. Finally, youcannot miss Japanese food at any party thrown by the Indian elite. Indians havea yen for sushi.


This relationship is likely to grow.


It won't be wrong to assume thatIndia-Japan relations are entering a new era. For long, Japan took a cue fromthe US in its foreign policy. But this is changing fast and Japan is now farmore assertive in its foreign affairs. The natural complements of the powerfulmaritime forces and a commitment to democracy are propelling the two countrieson a new trajectory directly and not just via Washington. Both counties areseeing billions of dollars of new investments and trade between them. And bothhave much to gain by coming strategically together as China remains a commonthreat to Tokyo and New Delhi. India will do well to nurture this relationshipcarefully.



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