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14th India-Japan Prime Ministers Annual Summit
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Lt Gen Prakash Katoch | Date:23 Mar , 2022 0 Comments
Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited India on March 19-20 for the 14th India-Japan Annual Summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Tokyo announced Kishida’s visit on March 18, with Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stating that during his first overseas trip since his visit to Britain last November, Kishida will take up the Ukraine situation with leaders of India and Cambodia holding the rotating presidency of ASEAN. Announcing the visit just a day prior with focus on Ukraine gave the impression the US, having landed itself in a soup by forcing Russia to invade Ukraine, wanted Kishida to act as its emissary. Kishida is also to host the next Quad meeting in Japan during May or June.

Welcoming PM Kishida, PM Modi said the India-Japan Economic Partnership has made unprecedented progress and Japan is one of the largest investors in India. He said the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project is progressing well with both nations working as ‘One Team One Project’. Modi expressed happiness that the target set in 2014 for Japanese investment of 3.5 trillion Yen has been exceeded. Kashida announced a new target of investing 5 trillion yen (Rs three lakh crore) in India in the coming five years.

During the summit, both leaders exchanged views on a number of global, regional and bilateral issues, reviewing the progress in the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership over the last few years and discussed ways to boost economic and cultural linkages between the two countries. They also decided to increase coordination at the UN and other international forums.

Both Prime Ministers reaffirmed the values and principles enunciated in the India-Japan Vision Statement issued in 2018, looked forward to the next Indo-Japanese 2+2 Dialogue to be hosted in Tokyo and committed to continuing bilateral and multilateral exercises. They acknowledged collaboration in Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) and robotics and directed that more areas for cooperation in defence equipment and technologies be identified.

Both renewed their commitment to promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, affirmed the importance of Quad including delivering tangible outcomes on the Quad’s positive and constructive agenda, especially on COVID vaccines, critical and emerging technologies, climate action, infrastructure coordination, cyber-security, space and education.

PM Kishida welcomed the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) announced by PM Modi in 2019 and both acknowledged the cooperation between the IPOI and Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). They reiterated strong support for ASEAN’s unity and centrality. As two leading powers in the Indo-Pacific region, they reaffirmed their commitment to UNCLOS and emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint particularly in the South China Sea (SCS).

Both leaders condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and reaffirmed collaboration to realize peace and stability in Afghanistan and importance of UNSCR 2593 (2021) demanding Afghan territory not be used for terrorist activities. Both condemned all forms of terrorism, also asking Pakistan to take .resolute action against terrorist networks operating out of its territory.

Both Prime Ministers expressed concern over the situation in Myanmar and called for implementation of the ASEAN 5-point plan. Both said there was no other choice but the path of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the Ukraine conflict and affirmed taking steps to address the humanitarian crisis. Both reiterated effort towards a nuclear-free world, continued contribution to global efforts for combating COVID-19 and cooperation in tackling climate change and energy issues.

Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a rule-based multilateral trading system with WTO at its core. PM Modi appreciated Japanese initiatives to strengthen economic cooperation with India. Both emphasized the importance of collaboration to address illicit technology transfers, build resilient supply chains and strengthen the protection of critical infrastructure, including through the Quad.

Six signed during the visit of PM Kishida are as under:

    • Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of Cyber-security – information sharing, capacity building programs and cooperation.
    • Seven loans from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) worth Rs 20,400 crores for projects in connectivity, water supply and sewerage, horticulture, healthcare, and biodiversity conservation across India.
    • Amendment to India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement – fish surimi with non-originating additives to be considered as an originating good of India.
    • Memorandum of Cooperation on Decentralized Domestic Wastewater Management – to allow ‘Johkasou’ Technology by Japanese companies for decentralized wastewater treatment in India.
    • India-Japan Industrial Competitiveness Partnership Roadmap – to address issues that Japanese companies currently face in India through a fast-track mechanism.
    • Memorandum of Cooperation on Sustainable Urban Development – includes smart cities development, affordable housing, urban flood management, wastewater management, Intelligent Transport Management System and the like.

The Clean Energy Partnership between India and Japan is to encourage manufacturing in India, creation of resilient and trustworthy supply chains as well as fostering collaboration in research and development. It will cover areas like electric vehicles, storage systems including batteries, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, development of solar energy; hydrogen; ammonia; etc. in addition is the Sustainable Development Initiative for the North Eastern Region of India, which includes both ongoing projects and possible future cooperation in areas like connectivity, healthcare, new and renewable energy, as well as bamboo supply chain.

India and Japan both face an aggressive China, with China having made fresh intrusions in Eastern Ladakh during May-June 2020. Admiral John Aquillino, Commander Indo-Pacific Command, said on March 21 that China has fully militarized the illegally occupied South China Sea and it is a matter of few years before the war-like region would arise in that region. This sure is a matter of serious concern for Japan and other nations in the region.   But the most important question is what the US did all these years when China was illegally occupying and militarizing the SCS – absolutely nothing.

The fact is that the US will never have the guts to fight a war directly with Russia or China, which is clear from the Ukraine conflict. That is the reason decades back in private conversation Japanese used to refer to US troops stationed in Japan as “paid security guards” only to ensure Japan does not go nuclear – period.

Ironically, Japan has no option but to tag along with the US and face the consequences. For example, sanctioning Russia on America’s behest has resulted in Russia’s refusal to continue ongoing discussions for a peace treaty with Japan. Also, Russia has stopped visa-free trips of Japanese citizens to the South Kuriles (sacred to Japanese because their war dead are buried there) and has withdrawn from the dialogue with Japan on establishing joint economic activities on these islands. In addition, Russia has blocked the extension of Japan as a partner of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in the sectoral dialogue.

Getting back to the 14th prime ministerial summit, this had special significance since it coincided with the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Japan. Japan participated in the MILAN 2022 for the first time. The inaugural fighter exercise between the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Indian Air Force is being planned in the near future.  However, bilateral trade needs to be pushed up. Two-way India-Japan trade, according to an Exim Bank report in 2019, was around $18 billion up from $10 billion a decade earlier. But the balance remains tilted in favour of Japan with India running deficits over consecutive years. Tokyo’s non-tariff barriers are considered to be the root of the problem but these don’t appear to be getting addressed.

Also, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail was to become operational in 2022 as per the original schedule but this target has been pushed back to 2026 because of problems in land acquisition in Maharashtra – woes of the India democracy with different political parties at the Centre and State level in perpetual confrontation. Incidentally, other corridors like Delhi-Varanasi and Mumbai-Nagpur are also being considered for high-speed rail projects.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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