“Confluence of the Two Seas”- the speech on his first visit to the Indian Parliament in 2007 was a turning point of Indo Japan strategic relations. That’s how influential the Japanese leader Shinzo Abe was. From hoisting Japan to the heights of consistent infrastructural growth to creating the famous monetary model “Abenomics”, Shinzo Abe proved himself to be the right man for the job. India will remember Abe with a fondness for his impactful contribution in steering India’s modernisation and the Indo Japan geostrategic plans.
The last Modi-Abe summit :
On 10th September, as India and Japan sign a key agreement for reciprocal provision of supplies and services between their defence forces as the drivers of closer military cooperation and regional security, the leaders push for collective responsibility in securing the global maritime commons. Catalysing maritime security cooperation with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, advancing maritime domain awareness, finalising reciprocal support concerning logistics, supplies, and services through Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), and augmenting interoperability within Indo-Pacific navies through Malabar exercises enabled greater leeway in managing a range of shared challenges. In short, the agreement sets a framework for closer cooperation between the Armed Forces of India and Japan in the reciprocal provision of supplies and services. while engaged in bilateral training activities, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Humanitarian International Relief and others.
The summit comes in the wake of China’s aggressive expansion in the Indo Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea, threatening the security of the two nations. Having said that, it’s unsurprising to see continued progress on landmark agreements, from 2006 declaration of a “strategic and global partnership” to 2018 “Vision 2025” Special Strategic and Global Partnership of Indo Pacific region concerns rise in both New Delhi and Tokyo about the sustainability of Asia’s regional security architecture in the face of a more aggressive China.
Maritime relations and strategy-
The background of infrastructural ties between the two nations helped in the convergence of their bilateral security and defence cooperation when they signed a bilateral agreement in 2018. Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) allows the Indian military and the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) to use each other’s military bases for logistical support. This was followed by multiple negotiations in logistics and supply support to each military base. But to understand why this holds a crucial place in the global geopolitics, one needs to understand what made the two nations unite and have each other’s back in the Indo Pacific maritime. There is a common enemy which is driven by expansionist motives in the name of reviving ancient acquisition. Yes, you guessed it right.
China and Japan are separated by a cluster of uninhabited islands. Japan calls it Senkaku while China renamed it to Diaoyu. China’s assertion in the Senkaku island which has been controlled and administered by Tokyo for more than 5 decades. Growing maritime interference in the South China Sea, and Chinese claims on territories which are predominantly owned by Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam or Malaysia.
The picture above gives you an idea of the claims made by the respective nations. The deciding factor which can turn the tables is the regulation in a)Malaccan Strait and b)Indian Ocean. Evidently, Japan and India are fighting the same enemy, one in the borders and the other in the seas. This unfolded more proactive cooperation in recent years thus leading to the formation of a quadrilateral agreement within Australia, Japan, USA and India. India being the only developing economy in it, and playing the most crucial role in the Indian Ocean gains excessive global traction. In the online summit with Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, PM Modi has established firm interest on a stricter regulation and control of the Indian Ocean by the exchange of military base between Coco Islands and Andaman and Nicobar.
Every nation China lays eyes on is derived by a single motive of outweighing China’s heavy nuclear deployment. With this agreement on reciprocal logistics and supply with India, Japan takes the plan a step further. Abe envisaged Tokyo’s role in the international system as a stabiliser. His Indo-Pacific Vision remained anchored to the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, and trade liberalisation.
Suga taking over-
With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepping down for serious health concerns and Suga Yoshihide taking charge of the post, India has to reset the template of its approach to the closest strategic partner. Suga has come to power as a unique non-factional politician. However, Suga may take a slightly more moderate approach to China, something that will be watched carefully in New Delhi and Washington. Suga has not involved himself with foreign policy, as Abe did. In fact, analysts see that, he will approach foreign policy through the domestic prism. This will make India a keen watcher of the drivers of Suga’s domestic policy. Being in the limelight, Suga has a tremendous pressure to carry forward the legacy of Abe as the diplomats will keenly observe his actions.
Abe has successfully steered development in strategic peripheries, including the Northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Assam road connectivity projects is a product of the Japanese commitment as it advances quality infrastructure and links the Northeast to the regional value chains and markets of Southeast Asia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi developed a personal bond with Abe, and the two leaders were in the process of giving shape to a new defence and security architecture in Asia, something which India will be hoping to continue with Suga.
– Utsari Gupta Bhaya, Associate Editor