Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Japan to take part in an annual summit with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, to take stock of the challenges both nations face, notably with regard to the U.S. and China. This will be the 13th annual summit and the fifth one to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Japan is one of the only two countries with which India holds annual bilateral summits, the other being Russia. The agenda for the upcoming summit includes defence pacts and collaboration for connectivity projects in the Indo-Pacific region. The Summit is expected to launch “a concrete infrastructure project implemented together” in South Asia. Under the framework of the Special Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan, the two leaders would also have wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Trade ties:

  • The Shinkansen bullet train project (Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor) has gathered speed, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency releasing the first tranche of ₹5,500 crore recently.
  • India and Japan have stepped up military exchanges, but pending purchase of ShinMaywa US-2 amphibian aircraft should be carried forward.
  • In 2011, India and Japan began implementing the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement; yet seven years later, bilateral trade has yet to hit even the $20 billion mark.
  • India’s exports to Japan have in fact contracted in four of the past six years.
  • Since early 2010, Japan and India have discussed joint infrastructure projects in third countries, including announcing an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor.
  • But not a single project has taken off, including in Myanmar and the Mekong countries where the two share complementary interests.

Defence cooperation

  • The first joint military exercise named “Dharma Guardian” between India and Japan was held in Mizoram
  • The exercise is aimed at developing mutual understanding and respect between militaries of both countries, as also facilitate in tracking worldwide phenomenon of terrorism
  • Yet, 10 years later, the two sides have failed to realise the sale of a single defence article and there exists no conventional threat-specific contingency scenario in which the two militaries can practicably cooperate.
  • The veiled threat to embargo Chinese shipping at the Indo-Pacific’s chokepoints might make for good theatre but is poor policy.
  • India and Japan must grapple with the gulf that separates their guiding strategic precepts if they are to transcend the hollow institutionalisation that infects strategic ties.

Strategy of alliance

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi eloquently restated at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, New Delhi remains conspicuously committed to a non-Western, pluralistic model of cooperative security in Asia.

Shangri-La Dialogue

  • The SLD is a top annual even where top representatives and defence personnel from several countries from 28 Asia Pacific countries as well as from across the world assemble.
  • Hosted by London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the government of Singapore since 2002, the SLD has become “one of world’s great strategic gatherings” as it boosts security cooperation and mutual confidence through easy communication between defence personnel and policymakers.
  • This event gives an opportunity for officials and defence personnel to discuss in depth various regional security issues in break-up groups or on the sidelines, thus making it an effective diplomatic platform.
  • The SLD recognises emerging security concerns and prevalent security concerns every year and focuses on thorough discussions on them.
  • The SLD gets its name from its venue – Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.

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