The seventh India-Japan Defense Policy dialogue was held in New Delhi on April 5, 2023. It was co-chaired by Defence Secretary of India, Giridhar Aramane and Vice-Minister of Defense for International Affairs of Japan, Oka Masani. The discussions held included a wide range of issues including Service-level exercises and engagements, regional security issues and cooperation in defence equipment and technology. On the other hand, the Japanese Vice-Minister presented the Japanese ideas regarding new policy pointers for strengthening the Indo-Pacific. These ideas are a part of the recently released Japanese National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy.
Terms of the Dialogue
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that India shares Japan’s vision for a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific and that both countries must continue to broaden the scope of their bilateral cooperation. During the conversation, Singh conveyed this to Masami. The dialogue took place two weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited India, during which he described the country as an “indispensable partner” in Japan’s efforts to achieve the ambitious goal of Indo-Pacific peace, prosperity, and stability.
In the Defence Policy Dialogue, India and Japan agreed to broaden their defence cooperation in new and emerging domains such as space and cyber as part of a broader strategic engagement. Oka reaffirmed Japan’s desire to expand bilateral defence cooperation, including collaboration in the defence equipment and technology sectors.
Masami said, “Rajnath Singh conveyed that India shares Japan’s vision for a free, open, secure and rules-based Indo-Pacific and stressed that both the countries must continue to expand the scope of their bilateral cooperation.” Oka was accompanied by the Japanese Ambassador to India Suzuki Hiroshi, who thanked Singh for the impetus provided by his “strong and positive” leadership in strengthening bilateral defence ties, according to the ministry.
What is in it for India?
Japan is one of the few countries with whom India has 2+2 ministerial dialogue. India and Japan’s defence forces also organize a series of bilateral exercises such as the JIMEX (naval), Malabar exercise (Naval Exercise), ‘Veer Guardian’ and SHINYUU ‘Maitri’ (Air Force), and Dharma Guardian (Army). India and Japan are both members of the QUAD, G20, and G4, as well as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The India-Japan Act East Forum was founded in 2017 with the goal of providing a platform for India-Japan collaboration under the umbrella of India’s “Act East Policy” and Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visits to New Delhi held nearly a year after his previous visit in 2022, is a significant shift in Japan’s global and regional outlook. Held exactly right after the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit, indicating increased cooperation among these three major Indo-Pacific countries. It was evident from the beginning that a major reason behind the visit is for cooperation between the G7 and G20, of which Japan is president of the G7 and India is president of the G20. Furthermore, the visit would seek to deepen Japan-India strategic and global partnership, which Prime Minister Kishida accomplished by laying out his vision for the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” with “India as an indispensable partner.” Kishida used his speech to the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi to announce a new Japan-led initiative to counter China’s growing regional assertiveness. The term “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” was used first by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his speech in 2007.
The significance of India in Kishida’s Indo-Pacific speech is clear. So is the expression of concerns about “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” which poses a fundamental challenge to the world’s ability to defend peace. He stated that his new thinking was influenced by the rise of the Global South and countries such as India. China was not mentioned, but in discussing his principles on the rule of law at sea, he stated that states should make their claims within the bounds of international law and “not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims,” and that disputes should be settled peacefully. He stated that as part of this, Japan would use its ODA strategically and expand it in various ways. A new framework that would also aid in the mobilisation of private capital could help raise more than $75 billion in private and public funds for infrastructure by 2030.
The goal of India-Japan cooperation is to keep China in check in the Indo-Pacific region. Their responses are shaped differently by geography, with Japan emphasising maritime capabilities and India emphasising land capabilities. There are also differences in that fellow Quad members Japan and Australia are formal military allies of the United States, whereas India is not. Fears of China, however, are shaping the new initiatives and orientations, and Japan and India are the two key lynchpins of the free and open Indo-Pacific.
India and Japan must transform their military strategies in order to prevent the rise of a securing hegemony in the Indo-Pacific, i.e., the balance between the US and China. More collaboration and cooperation can benefit both countries. There is also a lot of potential in terms of Make in India. Japanese digital technology could be combined with Indian raw materials and labour to form joint ventures.