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Japan-India Ties Deepen As Fear of China Grows

France’s Le Monde newspaper gets a story that has somehow eluded the US press:  India and Japan are steadily deepening their relationship.  The story (unfortunately written in French, a bad habit the Parisian press seems for some reason unwilling to change) is huge:

“Votre voisin est votre ennemi naturel et le voisin de votre voisin est votre ami”, dit le stratège indien Kautilya. Cette maxime semble s’appliquer particulièrement bien aux relations indo-japonaises qui prennent de plus en plus d’ampleur, notamment lorsqu’il s’agit de faire front à “l’ascension pacifique” (selon Pékin) de l’empire du milieu.

Or, according to our team of crack translators and analysts here at VM,

“Your neighbor is your natural enemy and your neighbor’s neighbor your friend,” says the Indian strategist Kautilya. This maxim is particularly apt when it comes to Indo-Japanese relations, which are deepening in the face of the Middle Kingdom’s self-proclaimed “peaceful rise”.

Late last month, Le Monde observes, Japan and India held major joint naval exercises; the month before that, the prime ministers of the two countries announced wide ranging plans to deepen commercial, strategic and financial ties.

India and Japan don’t just have concerns about China’s naval power in common, the article reminds us.  North Korea’s nuclear program is Japan’s biggest nightmare; North Korea and Pakistan are two rogue nuclear powers who collaborate in various dark and devious ways.  China backs them both.

The Japan-Indian entente has its roots in history. Many Indians (seeking independence from Britain at the time) sympathized with Japan during World War Two.  An Indian nationalist raised an army that fought with Japan against the Brits; since Japan never occupied India, Indians did not experience the horrors of Japanese occupation that left such a bad taste across much of east and southeast Asia.

The modern rapprochement dates back to 2000 and has been steadily deepening when it comes to security issues. In the last few years the economic relationship between the two countries has also been rapidly expanding.  Japan has agreed to help back the Indian currency in case of a financial crisis, and new trade agreements have paved the way for what both sides hope will be an explosion of bilateral trade.

For Japan, bigger investments in India offer a way to hedge against rising factory wages in China, the specter of unrest there, and the fear that China would someday use Japanese investments (and supply chain dependency) as a weapon in the political relationship.  Backing the rise of India helps Japanese corporations and deepens a political and security relationship that underpins the wider US-Japan-India entente that increasingly shapes the geopolitics of maritime Asia.

Additionally, India and Japan are working to increase the interoperability of their naval forces, and Japan has eased restrictions on arms exports partly in order to gain access to the enormous Indian market.

Largely unnoticed by the US media, the geopolitical realities of the 21st century continue to emerge.

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  • Anthony

    Not only are the 21st century geopolitical realities continuing to emerge but also its maritime shape is definitively developing – changing/transitioning global dynamics (shift from Atlantic to Pacific/Indian waters perhaps).

  • Jim.

    We can probably expect the geopolitical realities of the 21st century to look a bit like the Euro-political realities of centuries past — shifting alliances, checkerboard diplomacy, balance of power.

    We need people at State who understand thse things. Do we have them?

  • Eurydice

    Well, to be fair to the media, they don’t make money off of geopolitical realities. They make money from politics and political advertising. That’s why we’ve got the political paparazzi out there 24/7 covering every possible burp and hiccup. And the beauty part is this constant air time encourages even more spending and campaigning on the part of the politicians.

    So, if Japan and India want the US public to notice the importance of their deepening ties, they’ll have to pay for it just like anybody else.

  • RHD

    The Japanese are now rightfully concerned about a Chinese-dominated Co-Prosperity Sphere. But these competitive rivalries between and among China, Japan and India arise in a context where each has an overriding interest in stability, cooperation and managing the inevitable conflicts that will arise.

  • Gary L

    Great insights! I hope you’ll consider adding your team of crack translators and analysts to the VM 2012 bonus pool.

  • Luke Lea

    So we are arming our future enemy by building up his economy? China doesn’t know how to make things for its own people. But it sure knows how to make bombs.

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