Post World War II Japan had no autonomy in defence and, India and Japan have had diplomatic relations since 1952 wherein their relationship saw different trajectories, especially during the Cold War. In 2010, India and Japan initiated a 2+2 dialogue involving Secretaries and Vice Ministers from their Foreign and Defence Ministries. PM Narendra Modi affirmed India’s interest in the Defence Sector and also signed the Civil Nuclear Deal in 2016.
The Defence Cooperation between the two nations was initiated to protect the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) and provide security for the Japanese ships in the Indian Ocean. Japan faces constitutional and operational constraints to protect its Maritime assets and trade routes. In October 2018, both reaffirmed their desire to further deepen bilateral security and defence cooperation and institute Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue (2+2).
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh went on a Five day tour to Japan and South Korea. He held talks with his Japanese Counterpart Takeshi Iwaya on further strengthening bilateral Defence and Strategic ties. Singh also met PM Shinzo Abe and put forth India’s commitment to enhance defence engagements with Japan.
India and Japan carried out a detailed review of Security situation in the Indo-Pacific region as it is vital for stability in the relationship between the two nations. The Trilateral Maritime exercise between India-US-Japan, called ‘Malabar Exercise’ is essential for the evolving Defence Cooperation between Delhi and Tokyo. It is said that the Trilateral Exercise will be held from late September this year which is aimed at achieving greater interoperability among the navies of the three countries.
As far as the situation of strengthening the region of Indo-Pacific is concerned, the US has been trying to push India for its increased role in the region in order to contain China’s growing power. Rajnath singh said, ‘my visit to Japan has been remarkable and successful in many ways. This visit has reiterated our Prime Ministers’ unwavering commitment to working together towards a vision for Indo-Pacific region’.
The Ministerial Defence Dialogue also aims to further strengthen India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Moreover, the two countries are natural allies in the field of defence and security which will eventually help in their defence cooperation. The relationship between the two nations grew incredibly under the leadership of PM Abe and PM Modi since 2014. Their personal rapport and chemistry has also helped build the relations over time.
The Ministerial talks also held that the two countries would work hard towards an early conclusion of an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) which allows them to share defence capabilities as well as supplies, including fuel and ammunition. This agreement would give access to Indian forces and the Japan Self-Defence Force (JSDF) to naval bases for logistical support. It also grants each of their armed forces reciprocal access to the other’s bases and military facilities.
According to the Joint Statement, the two nations affirmed that strengthening cooperation in the area of defence equipment and technology is essential for enhancing the cooperation between India and Japan.
The major issue of supply of US-2 Amphibious aircraft by Japan to India was addressed during the talks which requires comprehensive deliberation. The deal on the Amphibious aircraft has been stuck because of the pricing issues. While both the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard are expanding, these amphibious aircraft will add to the strength of these services and will be used for Search and Rescue aircraft (SAR) operations.
The Japanese company has offered to manufacture the aircraft in India with complete technology transfer (ToT) and on completion, the Indian order is also willing to export it to third countries.
The emerging relationship between India and Japan is of importance to the Asia-Pacific region as their partnership seeks to establish regional peace. Japan’s fear of China’s growing economic and military power may change the dynamics of Indo-Japan relations.
Both India and Japan have border disputes with China, which further makes their Strategic Cooperation vital to balance Beijing’s growing power. However, the specific disputes that the two countries have with China are territorial and bilateral, and it is not very clear whether India and Japan can support each other on these issues or not.
Joint Statement issued during the Ministerial talks, claimed that the two Ministers affirmed their intention to hold the first Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue under the 2+2 dialogue framework ahead of the Indo-Japan Annual Summit later this year. What is of importance here is that the negotiations held between India and Japan on Cross-Servicing Agreement will give access to each other’s military facilities.
The drive to develop closer ties between the two nations is clearly seen as PM Abe will be visiting Delhi in the month of December to hold first 2+2 Security talks.