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Japan and India’s Convergent Strategic Trajectories

Paper No. 6069                                  Dated 03-Feb-2016

By Dr Subhash Kapila

In December 2015 , Japan and India jointly validated their convergent strategic trajectories when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a historic move affirmed “Japan and India Vision 2025 Special Strategic and Global Partnership: Working Together for Peace and Prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region and the World”.

Such validation of convergent strategic trajectories by two powerful emerging ‘Global Powers’ do not occur in a vacuum but emerge and are shaped by the contextual regional and global security environment. Japan and India’s increasing strategic convergence of interests is solely and pointedly being impelled by China’s threatening military rise and aggressive brinkmanship endangering Indo Pacific security and stability. There is no other major threat of consequence on the Indo Pacific horizon.

The growing intensity of Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership needs to be directly related to the degree of the enhancement of the China Threat perceived by both these now powerful nations and other countries in the region being militarily coerced by China. This vividly emerges from a truthful strategic reality check and belies any official assertions to the contrary by Japan and India, which can best be dismissed at being overt diplomatic protestations. This veneer is too flimsy to hide that the China Threat figures prominently as the prime threat in their threat perceptions calculus.

There is yet another significant determinant in the growing intensity of Japan-India strategic convergences and that is the United States factor which comes heavily into play at two different strategic levels.

Contemporaneously, it is the United States which has gently nudged Japan and India for the last couple of years towards a proximate strategic partnership. This arose from the United States realisation that the burgeoning emergence of China’s military profile and the China Threat in the Indo Pacific can best be managed by Japan and India’s strategic sharing of the military burden in light of United States worldwide strategic and security commitments. This effort got traction from the commonality of both Japan and India having good strategic partnerships with the United States and further that Japan and India have no strategic divisive issues throwing shadows on their strategic objectives of managing the China Threat.

On another plane, another factor which impels Japan and India towards a proximate and substantial strategic partnership, and which finds mention in my earlier SAAG Papers and my latest book on the ‘China-India Military confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives’ is the strategic urge of Japan and India to forge an ‘Asian Indigenous Strategic Coalition’ to come into play should the United States in the pursuance of its compulsive China Hedging Strategy strategically ditch Japan and India or at best soft-pedal its strategic partnerships with Japan and India, to appease China.

Either way, it would be safe to assert that the convergent strategic trajectories of Japan and India stand destined to zoom ahead in the decades to come irrespective of United States hedging stances in favour of China.

Japan and India’s convergent strategic trajectories are zooming ahead today because both Japan and India have at their helm two dynamic Prime Ministers in the persona of Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both are fired by a passionate zeal to propel their respective nations to emerge as substantial global players.  But in the pursuance of their respective national aspirations, Japan and India are being opposed and contested by China which wants to attain the ‘numero uno’ leadership status in Asia.

With public opinion in both Japan and India overwhelmingly in favour of good and substantial relations between Japan and India, there is little chance that China can mould and divert Japanese and Indian public opinion to the contrary

Concluding, one would like to emphasise that time is on the side of Japan and India to accelerate and synchronise their convergent strategic trajectories with the common and joint aim of securing Indo Pacific security and stability against all threats, including those from China and North Korea and the China-Pakistan Axis.

(Dr Subhash Kapila is a graduate of the Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley and combines a rich experience of Indian Army, Cabinet Secretariat, and diplomatic assignments in Bhutan, Japan, South Korea and USA. Currently, Consultant International Relations & Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at