Modi's engagement with Japan, now in the absence of his ally Shinzo Abe, could provide New Delhi with the perfect opportunity to kickstart the activities of the Quad for greater commercial and military associations in the Indo-Pacific.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's proposed visit to Japan next month will provide the two nations with an opportunity to sign a key military logistic pact, Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), and discuss the possibility of some Japanese manufacturing units shifting to India. More specifically, however, Modi's visit has the potential to kickstart in earnest the activities related to the Quad in order to come up with effective measures and thwart the nuisance value posed by China across the Asian region. There will be one small change, however, during Modi's visit - the absence of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe who resigned on Friday, due to a deteriorating health condition. Abe's departure from office will end a stint which highlighted his country's position as the world's third-biggest economy. The outgoing premier had tried to revive his nation's growth and reinforce its defences amidst the effects of the crippling pandemic.
Race for Japan's top job
Abe's absence will have sparked a race for Japan's top job within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the
winner will be formally elected in parliament holding the post for the rest of Abe's term given that he had a year left in office when he resigned. According to Reuters, Former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida have expressed interest in the top job. The outside contender is Abe′s close aide, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. Modi will, however, be reassured by the fact that whoever wins the party poll is likely to keep Abe′s reflationary "Abenomics" policies, as Japan struggles with the impact of the coronavirus, but may have trouble emulating the political longevity that is so far Abe′s biggest legacy. According to Jesper Koll, senior adviser to asset manager WisdomTree Investments who spoke to Reuters, "The broad picture remains intact. In terms of economic and fiscal policy, the focus remains very much on reflation.”
India is keen to galvanize the maneuverings of the Quad and this could be one reason why it skipped the summit of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which featured the economic ministers of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and from China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand on Thursday to focus on the forthcoming Japan visit. India is opposed to the RCEP even though the members reiterated during the summit that the doors “were open to India.” The RCEP, established in 2012, is a free trade agreement (FTA) between the bloc′s 10 members and its six FTA partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. The RCEP, established in 2012, is a free trade agreement (FTA) between the bloc′s 10 members and its six FTA partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
Also read: How India and Japan can help Bhutan
Confluence of the two seas
Since Abe made his famous address in Indian Parliament, on August 22, 2007, espousing on the 'confluence of the two seas', the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), comprising of India, US, Australia and Japan, has not yet kickstarted their agenda in earnest, a key component of which is to thwart the wayward activities of China and develop the organisation as a combined security grouping and economic union. Modi's trip is expected to solidify Japan's economic cooperation with India invite Japanese manufacturing activity and building up port infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. After all, it was Abe who had announced underwriting $2.3 billion to assist Japanese companies who could quit their partnership with China and relocate to other Asian states in the region thus giving India a golden opportunity to reassert its opportunities and make a play for investments. A case in point has been the recently concluded Indo-Japan Business Forum last week where Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa called on Japan to strengthen its partnership with the Indian state and develop business.
Speaking to the media, Yediyurappa said, “Urged Japan, which has a significant presence in Karnataka to strengthen their partnership in the state. Our government has taken strong measures to build a robust economy and make Karnataka a benchmark state in India,” he said. According to Yediyurappa, India and Japan “Have shared values as we both have belief in democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law." The relationship had substance and purpose. "To achieve more significant economic transformation, India encourages FDI investment from Japanese companies in all sectors. India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is a comprehensive deal covering both trades in goods and services."
The chief minister underlined that India is one of the "most attractive investment destinations for Japanese companies. FDI from Japan to India increased from $1.6 billion in 2017-18 to $3.2 billion in 2019-20. For us in Karnataka, Japan is an important partner," he said. To illustrate these sentiments the Karnataka government has developed 519 acres of with infrastructure facilities such as roads, power, and water supply to facilitate Japanese investments.
Coupled closely to certifying that India benefits from Japan's support in trade and commerce will be the government's efforts to ensure that the QUAD fulfils the purpose for which it was designed given that 13 years have passed by since the consortium was envisaged.
India should step up
The current scenario, despite the absence of Abe, is a golden opportunity for India to step up and re-emphasise its global and regional influence which it has carefully cultivated during the period of the pandemic thanks to the foresight and positive governance of prime minister Narendra Modi. The Quad should be used by India as a tool to eke out more opportunities outside of the coalition specially with nations like Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand. Coupled to that New Delhi also needs to seek partnerships with countries falling within the ambit of the Indo-Pacific, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and in South East Asia that are casualties of the pandemic and prey to a belligerent China. The geo-politics of the regions are changing rapidly due to multiple global disruptions and China will act fast in order to capitalize on opportunities. Beijing has no reverence for international order and it circumvents it to capitalize on economic and military advantages. China's tactics is aided in large part by contrasting foreign policy principles of various countries in the Indo Pacific, IORA and other regions and nations are often at odds with each other on various issues. India, however, is a principled international actor that is committed to a rule based international order.
The time has come for India to draw up a comprehensive blueprint for a greater regional and global role. Preparing for self sufficiency New Delhi has shown by now, in defending its borders, and calling for a heightened atmosphere of self-reliance back at home to aid local trade, commerce and industry, that it is prepared to strive for self sufficiency. Internationally, it is actively fostering, through effective foreign policy overtures, medical aid and positive bi-lateral relations, that it is the champion of collective growth and peace among nations. It is promoting the concept of constructive alliances based upon mutual self respect and the spirit of cooperation and collaboration effectively. Modi's humanitarian approach with aid being disbursed during the pandemic, coupled reforms at home has leveraged India's equity, inviting international acclaim as well as growing business-related interest. The time has come for India to draw up a comprehensive blueprint for a greater regional and global role followed by a strict execution of it.