By Girish Linganna
The Indo-Pacific region has continued to be the focal point of diplomatic efforts in the last few weeks for Washington and its partners. During Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s India visit on March 20, Japan introduced its Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Plan. Additionally, Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS) strengthened deterrence measures in San Diego on March 13, while the Quad foreign ministers furthered the geostrategic agenda in New Delhi on March 3. Geo-economics also played a role, as the Bali negotiations from March 13-19 established high-standard regulations for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).
Key points from each conversation emphasize the global struggle for dominance and impact, involving contrasting beliefs, standards, philosophies and perspectives on order. Ranging from advanced supply networks to cutting-edge innovations, semiconductors to undersea wiring, and aerial devices to unmanned aerial vehicles—the competition is on in full swing.
In the context of India’s G-20 and Japan’s G-7 leadership roles this year, it is crucial to synchronize their priorities on urgent worldwide matters, such as food, energy, climate change and health, as the ability of Asian leaders is being challenged on the international stage.
In the midst of divided international politics, Kishida’s trip to New Delhi last month offered a chance to forge connections with the Global South, a topic that is progressively featuring in his crucial policy addresses. Japan’s most recent Development Cooperation White Paper additionally emphasized its importance. By interacting with the Global South, Kishida demonstrates flexibility, while advocating against enforcing values and promoting the “removal of pre-conceived notions” when comprehending “the unique historical and cultural backgrounds” of each nation.
Nonetheless, a more significant query exists beneath the India-Japan partnership: Considering the varying stances between New Delhi and its Quad allies regarding Ukraine, does Tokyo continue to prioritize the India-Japan connection?
The rise of Beijing in the international arena has created an imbalance of power between China and the US globally, as well as between China and the neighbouring Asian countries regionally. As a result, policymakers in Tokyo and New Delhi are reconsidering their strategic options to protect their national interests.
China’s plan to build a ‘Great Wall of Steel’, announced during the ‘Two Sessions’, will have a significant impact on Asian geopolitics and further strengthen the India-Japan strategic partnership. Both countries share the common goal of resisting China’s aggressive actions and its open hegemonic ambitions.
China’s neighbours are acutely aware of the potential regional security implications of Xi Jinping’s third term and his emphasis on modernizing national defence, accompanied by increased defence spending. As a result, Japan is currently engaged in discussions on bolstering deterrence through the revised National Security Strategy (NSS) introduced in December. The country’s ongoing security discourse involves various aspects, such as increasing the cost on China, obtaining counterstrike capabilities, doubling defence spending, and potentially sharing nuclear weapons—all under the guise of the carefully crafted narrative that “what’s happening in Ukraine today could happen in East Asia tomorrow”.
Tokyo’s reluctance to accept a regional order dominated by China is rooted in its alliance with the US and a multi-layered network of allies based on shared values in the Indo-Pacific region, including Australia, India, the South-East Asian countries and European powers.
In Kishida’s perspective, it is crucial to recognize India’s significance. Instead of diminishing, the Quad allies have strengthened their strategic alignment with India. Given its strategic location, demographic advantage, economic potential, and proficiency in information technology, India will play a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of global politics. Therefore, investing in India is a wise decision.
India is a significant player in the Indo-Pacific strategy of Washington, Canberra, and Tokyo. India and Japan are actively involved in various initiatives, including Quad working groups, India-Japan-Australia Resilient Supply Chain Initiatives (RSCI) and joint military exercises, such as Malabar and La Pérouse, currently operating at full capacity.
Kishida strongly emphasized India’s significance as a crucial partner in his proposed FOIP Plan. This aligns with the view of Kurt Campbell, the Indo-Pacific Coordinator at the US National Security Council, who regards the US-India relationship as the most crucial one for the US in the 21st Century.
Kishida’s decision to unveil his FOIP Plan in Delhi, the same location where former PM Abe Shinzo had made his famous ‘Confluence of the Two Seas’ speech in August 2007, highlights the importance of India in Japanese strategic planning. It is evident that India holds a significant position in Japan’s strategic considerations.
Kishida’s FOIP Plan has four primary pillars, and India will play a central role in each of them. The pillars include principles that promote peace through diversity, inclusiveness and openness and partnerships that address challenges in the Indo-Pacific region and also emphasises multi-layered connectivity, as well as security and safety, in both sea and airspace. India’s involvement in these areas will be crucial to the success of Kishida’s overall strategy. (IPA Service)