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Asia's Game of Thrones
India Mulls Enhanced Naval Cooperation with Japan

India’s naval chief is heading to Japan to explore the possibility of new cooperation with his Japanese counterparts, the Hindustan Times reports:

Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba is on a five-day visit to Japan during which he will explore new avenues of cooperation with the country which has emerged as a close partner of India in recent years, both on the nuclear energy front as well as military.

The visit also comes at a time when India, Japan and the US are preparing for their next edition of the Malabar exercise which will focus on submarine hunting amid increasing forays by the Chinese underwater vessels in the Indian Ocean.

“The visit aims to consolidate existing maritime cooperation initiatives as well as explore new avenues,” a statement by the Navy said.

India and Japan share similar maritime challenges such as long coastline, extensive Exclusive Economic Zone, coastal security, large coastal shipping and fishing fleet, wherein both navies have opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences, it added.

In itself, an official visit between the Indian and Japanese navies may not seem immediately newsworthy. But the news comes amid an important wider trend of increasing closeness between the two countries. In 2015, for instance, Japan permanently joined the annual Malabar naval exercises led by the United States and India, despite Beijing’s objections. And just this past month, India and Japan signed a nuclear cooperation agreement allowing Japan to export its nuclear technology to India: a confidence-boosting bet on India’s reliability as both an economic partner and a responsible developer of nuclear energy.

The shared threat of China is one obvious reason behind India and Japan’s growing friendliness. Tokyo is warily eyeing Beijing’s assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, just as New Delhi worries about China’s growing “string of pearls” in the Indian Ocean. But there are other factors that make the two countries natural partners. In Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe, India and Japan have two like-minded nationalist leaders intent on raising their countries’ international standing by forging new regional partnerships. India and Japan share certain cultural affinities as well, from the non-Abrahamic religions that dominate their cultures to their status as Asia’s two largest democracies.

It is worth watching, then, to see what comes of the naval summit, and how India and Japan will continue to build on their cooperation in the years to come. Modi and Abe may not make pivots as obvious as Duterte’s, but signs suggest that they are patiently forging a strong partnership that could have important long-term consequences throughout Asia.

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  • Disappeared4x

    Hmmm, struggling to see how the Japanese think they have any cultural affinity with any other religion, belief system, or culture, but also can not think of any reason New Delhi wants a formal apology from Japan over WW2. New Delhi worries as much about China’s ever-closer relationship with Pakistan, and China’s Tibetan control of India’s watershed:

    “…Its relationship with India, for example, is roiled by increasing discord over shared water resources. Recently, to complete a major
    dam project, China said it has cut off the flow of a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, the lifeline of Bangladesh and northeastern India. The tributary drains into the Brahmaputra within Tibet itself. The blocking of the Xiabuqu River’s flow comes amid ongoing Chinese work to dam another Brahmaputra tributary, the Lhasa River, into a series of artificial lakes.

    … Chinese mega-projects now are increasingly concentrated in the resource-rich minority homelands, especially the Tibetan Plateau — the starting point of 10 major Asian rivers. This has spurred growing concern in downstream countries over how China is using its control over Asia’s largest river systems to re-engineer cross-border flows. With as many as 18 downstream neighbors, China enjoys riparian dominance of a kind unmatched in the world.

    Meanwhile, China’s close ally, Pakistan, has initiated — for the second time in this decade —international arbitral tribunal proceedings
    against India under the terms of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. Seeking international intercession is part of Pakistan’s “water war” strategy against upstream India.

    When Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947 as the first Islamic republic of the postcolonial era, the partition left the Indus headwater on the Indian side of the border, but the river basin’s larger segment in the newly created country. This division armed India with formidable water leverage over Pakistan.

    Yet, after protracted negotiations, India agreed to what still ranks as the world’s most generous water-sharing pact: The Indus treaty
    reserved for Pakistan the largest three rivers that make up more than four-fifths of the total Indus-system water. It kept for India just 19.48
    percent of the total water. Still, Pakistan has used the treaty to sustain its conflict and tensions with India, including over Kashmir. …”

    “Asia’s fight over fresh water” by Brahma Chellaney Dec 18, 2016

    • Andrew Allison

      My enemy’s enemy is my friend? I suspect that national security is much more important than cultural affinity. The idea of an Indian nuclear umbrella for Japan is very interesting. Is there perhaps a NPTO in the offing?

      • Disappeared4x

        Sorry, NPTO? Nagaland Police Telecommunication Organization?? Nagaland, on India’s border with Burma has a population 75% Baptist, and is where the fiercest battle between British India and Japan took place, in 1944, the Battle of the Tennis Court in Kohima. Japan lost that battle.

        My study of South Asia does lead to curious factoids. In 1999, India had more college graduates than residential refrigerators. Electricity continues to be in short supply. Nuclear power makes sense since China is compromising much of India’s hydropower potential.

        This post made me think that India is a nuclear weapons power with very serious issues over water. If India is seeking Japan’s help with nuclear power, what does Japan want? Beyond more Bollywood, even the IDEA of a nuclear umbrella with India makes sense, in addition to whatever treaties the USA has with Japan.

        Plus, Japan probably wants a low-wage assembly destination that is NOT China. Got to assemble all those robots somewhere.

        • Correct me if I’m wrong Disappeared4x (I trust your Google-fu search skills), but I remember reading somewhere that if Japan had the will to do so, it could produce a nuclear missile a week. A country with that kind of capability doesn’t strike me as one that would be searching for an Indian nuclear umbrella.

          • Disappeared4x

            Lo siento, no me gusta su cebo. Leer un poco más.

          • What the hell are you talking about? How is anything I said “bait”? Next time use a better translator; it conjugated “read” wrong. Maybe you should do a little more reading, eh?

          • Disappeared4x

            Japan has full nuclear capability, but for many reasons, is not a nuclear weapon power. You could have taken a minute to learn that, but instead attempted to draw me into a ‘comment conversation’.

            The IDEA of a Indian nuclear umbrella for Japan as Pax America fades? Why not?

            Using Spanish is my new response tactic to commenters who might be unserious, or worse. My Castilian gets muddled by Dominican…

          • I’m fully aware of that Japan is not a nuclear weapon power, although Shinzo Abe is trying his hardest to change that. “Drawing you into a ‘comment conversation'” makes you sound pretty elitist, dude. Bueno de conocer otro hispano-hablante.

          • Disappeared4x
        • India has made many great contributions to human civilizations, their culture is very old and respectable, and their democracy is somewhat promising as well. They are also the 4th strongest military force on the planet as of early 2016.

          However, if you check out the illiteracy and education rates for their youth today, one might be greatly discouraged.

          • Disappeared4x

            Good points. India’s challenges are considerable, especially when population increases faster than the nation’s ability to expand education. India is a great land empire, difficult to assess any statistics without a lot more detail.

            Looking at any nation’s ‘population pyramid’ is helpful, at least to see who is still having children, but not why.


  • The problem is that Japan is still a pacifist power, and still restricted by its Constitution in many ways. If India really does get involved in some kind of conflict, could the Japanese really come to their aid? I fear not.

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