New Delhi: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s maiden visit to India Saturday is expected to firm up Tokyo’s partnership with New Delhi under the Indo-Pacific strategic construct and the Quadrilateral security dialogue, or Quad, amid a raging war between Russia and Ukraine.
Kishida and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be holding the 14th India-Japan Annual Summit, which will also look into some pressing bilateral issues between New Delhi and Tokyo, especially in defence cooperation, under their strategic and global partnership, sources told ThePrint.
Since India and Japan have not been able to hold the annual summit for the last four years, some significant bilateral issues between both countries have not been addressed, sources further said. India and Japan had held their first 2+2 talks between the foreign and defense ministries in 2019.
Prime minister Modi had spoken to his Japanese counterpart on phone in October 2021, soon after he assumed office. During the call, both sides had expressed a desire to further strengthen their special strategic and global partnership.
India and Japan are expected to discuss long-term joint research on advanced technologies and development of systems under their strategic partnership, which will also have implications on their partnership in the Indo-Pacific sphere, sources said.
The prime ministers are also expected to discuss the long-pending Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail network project — under which a bullet train will run on Japanese ‘Shinkansen’ technology — which has become a controversial subject in India’s internal politics.
The two-day visit, which is taking place on Japan’s request, may also look into potential plans by Tokyo to discuss expansion of the bullet train project.
The Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor with 12 industrial townships, the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor — some of the mega Japan-India projects that have been facing long delays — will also be discussed, sources said.
During the 2017 summit, India and Japan had established the India-Japan Act East Forum with the objective of coordinating India’s developmental projects in the Northeast in areas of connectivity, forest management, disaster risk reduction and capacity building. This might also be in focus during the visit, owing to the comeback of the junta regime in Myanmar.
In September 2020, India and Japan also signed the Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services Agreement (RPSS) between the armed forces of India and the ‘Self-Defense Forces’ of Japan.
Kishida had last visited India as Japan’s foreign minister in 2015, accompanying former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of India and Japan diplomatic relations, which began on 28 April, 1952.
“The annual summit meeting between Japan and India was regularly held. Still, unfortunately, it has not been held for several years. A meeting between the leaders of Japan and India should be welcomed, albeit for a brief period and on a working visit,” said Fukunaga Masaaki, professor and assistant director at the Center for South Asian Studies, Gifu University.
China, Ukraine will be in focus
Apart from bilateral issues, both sides will also be discussing China’s growing influence in the region, something that has been as much of a concern for Tokyo as it is for New Delhi.
While Kishida is expected to discuss China’s growing assertiveness in the region and also the role it is playing in the Russia-Ukraine war, India will discuss the ongoing border standoff with Beijing, sources said.
Japan has been discussing with India China’s military adventures in the Senkaku Islands, and whether both countries need to increase their joint military exercises.
“Given the evolving geo-political and economic situation, both sides are looking to deepen partnership under Quad and Indo-Pacific,” a source told ThePrint.
In this aspect, Japan and India will also be discussing their plans to be part of mega supply chain networks that are now bound to come under strain owing to the Russia-Ukraine war.
“PM Kishida’s visit will be an unique opportunity to sharpen the strategic maturity of our Indo-Pacific Vision ahead of the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo,” Titli Basu, associate fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, told ThePrint.
“The real substance will lay in the frank discussion between Asia’s two potent democracies on the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the impact of all these for China’s relationship with not just Russia, but also the US, EU, Japan and India,” she added.
According to Masaaki, what PM Kishida needs to do now is not “persuade” India but rather confirm India’s foreign policy and accurately convey it to the US and other countries.
“For Japan to build the next generation of cooperative relations with India, it should first create more opportunities for dialogue,” said Masaaki.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)