New Delhi: India and Japan moved their relations up a notch on Monday to signal closer economic and defence ties, seemingly unmindful of the reactions the move could draw from Asian giant China.

Both sides made veiled references to China, implying that the deepening of the relationship had also assumed a geostrategic overtone, especially since they emphasized the importance of Japan and India in jointly influencing the future of Asia and the world.

Accordingly, the two countries rechristened their global and strategic partnership a “special" global and strategic partnership.

“Japan will play an increasingly important role in India’s economic transformation and development. Prime Minister Abe has pledged a qualitatively new level of Japanese support and partnership for India’s inclusive development, including transformation of India’s manufacturing and infrastructure sectors," Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters after his talks with Abe.

A “successful India" and a “successful Japan" would benefit both countries and “the relationship will be a force of peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world," the Indian Prime Minister added.

Japan is Modi’s first bilateral visit outside the Indian subcontinent since taking office on 26 May. Modi, who was elected on a pro-development-and-jobs ticket, had listed skilling young Indians and providing them jobs as one of his key priorities. His visit is being seen as aimed at drawing Japanese investment and expertise into Indian manufacturing and infrastructure that in turn will boost the Indian economy and generate jobs.

Both India and Japan have territorial tensions with China and are wary of its rise. India and Japan affirming their commitment “to maritime security, freedom of navigation and overflight, civil aviation safety, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law" was aimed at China, said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of East Asian studies at New-Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University.

According to the Tokyo Declaration released after Monday’s talks between Modi and Abe, Japan also offered to provide India financial, technical and operational support to introduce the Shinkansen network of high-speed railway system in India.

“The big takeway from this visit is on the economy," said Kondapalli. “There is a realization that India is a growing opportunity" for Japan, Kondapalli said, adding that the second major takeaway was in the strategic space.

In a bid to double Japanese foreign direct investment and the number of Japanese companies in India within five years, Modi and Abe agreed to launch the Japan-India Investment Promotion Partnership. They also welcomed the setting up of electronic parks in India as well as Japan Industrial Townships that are expected to give India’s manufacturing sector a much-needed boost.

With Japan pledging $33.5 billion in the next five years, Japanese investment into India could go up to $3 billion a year, which will be “substantially higher" than the $12 billion investment that has come in since the year 2000, Kondapalli said.

In another significant move, Japan promised to remove six of India’s space- and defence-related entities from its “Foreign End User List"—brought out by the Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry, to provide Japanese exporters with information on foreign companies or organizations that are suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction. This was highlighted by Modi as a “reflection of the new level of mutual trust and commitment to deepen our strategic partnership in all dimensions".

Both sides decided to speed up talks on concluding a civil nuclear deal, and collaborate in defence equipment production and technology-sharing between the two countries.

In remarks to the press in Tokyo, Modi explained the significance of the inclusion of the word “special" to describe India-Japan relations stating that ties were not “confined to economic cooperation".

“(India and Japan have) agreed to intensify our political dialogue and cooperation. We intend to give a new thrust and direction to our defence cooperation, including collaboration in defence technology and equipment, given our shared interest in peace and stability and maritime security. We have also decided to expand our cooperation in advanced technology, science and technology, people-to-people exchanges, educational exchanges," Modi said.

The choice of Japan for his first bilateral visit outside the subcontinent “is a reflection of the fact that India considers Japan among its closest and most reliable partners and that India’s relations with Japan is of the highest priority for my government", Modi said.

“This is not only because Japan is a vital partner for India’s transformation, but also because India and Japan as two peace-loving and democratic nations can play an influential role in shaping the future of Asia and the world," he added.

Modi’s choice of words like according India’s ties with Japan “highest priority", the emphasis on both being democracies influencing the future of Asia and the world, and underlining their commitment to peace and stability and international rule of law showed an implicit alliance between India and Japan, Kondapalli said.

Earlier in the day, Modi announced that he would constitute a special team that would be attached to his office to fast-track clearances for investment proposals from Japan. The move is aimed at wooing big-ticket Japanese investment into India, Asia’s third largest economy. In a speech to the Nippon Keidanren, the Japanese chamber of commerce and industry, and the Japan-India Business Cooperation Committee, he said that two nominees picked by Japan will also be part of the decision-making team that evaluates business proposals, a government statement quoting Modi said.

In a possible reference to China and its uneasy ties with countries such as Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines due to territorial disputes, Modi outlined what he called “the approaches for development, or vikaswaad, vs expansionism or vistarwaad". Modi said India and Japan must show the way of the Buddha to the world and act as a force for development.

Close