While the takeaways from the summit between the two countries next month will be watched closely in the region New Delhi has introduced a third actor into the proceedings that govern Indo-Pacific events - Russia.
It is now official - Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe are scheduled to headline an India-Japan summit next month.
The development is significant given that it comes amidst a dialogue that the two nations are poised to sign off on a military pact which is the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and, equally importantly, stress test the concept of Japanese manufacturing units shifting to India. Economic cooperation and the opening of doors to Japanese manufacturing activity are some of the key agreements on the table coupled with Tokyo's involvement in sprucing up the port infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
September 10th is the earmarked date for discussions between the two leaders and it could not have been a more opportune moment given that it comes against the backdrop of aggressive postures adopted by China on both trade and military fronts against India, Australia and Japan and its belligerent actions in the South China Sea.
A positive outcome of this consultation will end up in the solidification of the Quad - the quadrilateral coalition of four countries - India, Japan, Australia and the US.
New Delhi and Tokyo will be focusing on ways and means to keep freedom of navigation in the seas as hassle free as possible and thwart China's aggressive actions. Support and logistics will be the buzzwords to be activated by the two leaders given that India already has similar agreements with Australia and the US.
While the takeaways from the summit will be watched closely in the region India has introduced a third actor into the Indo-Pacific proceedings - Russia.
It is no secret that Moscow has been developing ties with Beijing, but it is equally accepted that its age-old bonds with New Delhi are still as strong as ever with the capacity to evolve further. India and Russia are old friends and strategic partners and the prospect of a tri-lateral track for an Indo-Pacific initiative with Japan could bear fruit.
New Delhi's stance on this is simple and displays the clarity and inclusiveness of its foreign policy - the Indo-Pacific is a free, open, transparent and inclusive model excluding nobody and with ASEAN as its centre. In doing so, India is wooing Russia to be an important part of this alliance. The foreign ministries of India and Russia had reflected on the Russia-Japan-India trilateral mechanism early this month. The low hanging fruit from this will be joint investments and development of projects.
India and the US have been steadily aligning with each other on multiple programs. Both countries appreciate each other's value. And while this is true, New Delhi is also confident that its ties with Russia are important on history and substance. Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have actively been seeking fresh avenues of cooperation primarily by standing firm next to each other and maintaining a consistent foreign policy track. Russia is also India's steadfast ally in the United Nations Security Council having made no secret of their intention to vote New Delhi into the inner sanctum of nations in the Security Council. In short, this relationship is sustainable and is being scaled up through the application of various processes.
The Russia-India-China trilateral meeting which was proposed by Moscow is one such example of the role that Russia wants to play between New Delhi and Beijing - given the current gloomy association between the two nations. A meeting was organized on June 23, a week after the brutal Galwan border clash between Indian and Chinese troops, with the foreign ministers of all three countries in attendance. While the progress of such a assembly is still to be recorded, and with Moscow stating emphatically that it was not acting as mediator between Beijing and New Delhi, it nevertheless, did try to encourage both parties to seek out amicable solutions.
The India-Russia engagements have been validated through the decades. It would benefit the troika of Russia-Japan and India to forge out collaborations that could lead to greater economic and security engagements for future stability.
The true import of an India-Japan partnership was summed up in a panel session during India Global Week #BeTheRevival which took place from July 11-13th.
In the discussion titled Urgency of Deepening Japan & India Business Relations, the panelists reiterated the urgency of such a partnership to thwart the belligerence of China, for registering overall economic prosperity and securing the stability of the Asia Pacific region.
Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) stated, “India-Japan have a robust strategic, global partnership; there's been a sea change in ties with Japan since Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014. Japan has been an integral part of every major infrastructure project in India - it is visible across all India's flagship programmes - from Smart Cities, Digital India, Startup India, Ayushman Bharat and more.
“There's a deep appreciation in Japan that India has a long-term future and an open democratic society so there's been a China plus strategy for long. The litany of requirements of the Japanese may keep adding on but if Indian companies can have the patience, we can beat the others vying for Japanese investments.”
Sachit Jain, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Vardhman Special Steels Ltd went on to add that, “If India wants to be $5trn economy, global partnerships are crucial and Japan becomes the ideal partner on this journey. Trust, openness, relationship building, staying the course are key to a stronger India-Japan partnership.”
Chinoy held out a lot of optimism by pointing towards the win-win objective that India and Japan could achieve over wider cooperation. “The Japanese are perfectionists and once convinced, the ship of Japanese industry can be swivelled in India's direction,” he said while focusing on India's foreign policy stance towards Japan. “India is a very good brand in Japan,” he observed.
Rajesh Shah, Co-Chairman & Managing Director, Mukand Ltd. put India-Japan ties in perspective saying, “India-Japan relations are built on the strong personal ties between prime minister Modi and Abe. It is time to review these ties and assess what is needed for the next few years.”