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Japan-India Military-to-Military Coopertaion-Imperatives

Paper No. 5777                                 Dated 29-Aug-2014

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Japan, India and China form the Asian Powers Triad on which will revolve the future of Asian security. China gets excluded due to its hegemonistic impulses leaving Japan and India as the twin pillars of Asian security.

This reality stands emphasised in my earlier Papers along with the imperatives of Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership signed years earlier, as forming the nucleus around which Asian less powerful neighbours could coalesce around to offset the imbalance in the Asian balance-of-power equations.

Japan and India ever since Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s first tenure have worked assiduously to add substance to the Japan-India Strategic Partnership. This has not gone unnoticed by China and has caused some strategic concerns to it. China consequently has embarked on initiatives to prevent India getting into a proximate strategic partnership with Japan. Prime Minister Modi should not get enticed with such Chinese manoeuvrings especially when the Chinese President comes calling next month.

The United States following a dual-track policy of appeasing China and at the same time canvassing for a Japan-India-US Military Alliance subtly encourages the Japan-India relationship.

The Japan-India Strategic Partnership seems well on its way to exploit the growing strategic convergences between the two nations against the backdrop of China’s military overbearing behaviour in East Asia and South East Asia. However this process would be incomplete if Japan and India do not foster greater military-to-military contacts and cooperation between the Armed Forces of Japan and India.

Strategic Partnerships cannot be substantial or meaningful without the under-pinning of substantial military-to-military contacts and cooperation. Therefore Japan and India especially need to accelerate their initiatives in this direction.

As Prime Minister Modi heads for Tokyo tomorrow for a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe which should turn out to be a promising one, one would sincerely hope that the Indian Prime Minister also dwells in his discussions on greater military-to-military contacts and cooperation between the two Armed Forces as also greater access to Japanese defence production technologies.

Having spent nearly four years as a military diplomat in Tokyo many years ago one is amply qualified to make recommendations in this direction.

While high level military dignitaries’ visits take place and joint exercises between the India Navy and the Japanese Navy take place regularly, one has not observed joint exercises between the Indian Army and the Japanese Army and also the Indian Air Force and the Japanese Air Force. Some would argue that Japan-India joint naval exercises are adequate enough to signal greater Japan-India strategic cooperation.

If that be so then how is India conducting joint Army and Air Forces exercises with UK, France and Russia and even with the Chinese Army? Why should Japan be excluded when China is included in joint exercises? Is it because India is timidly afraid that such enhanced military-to-military cooperation would ruffle Chinese feathers?

Japan has a much richer record of martial traditions and spectacular military victories as part of its military history. The United States would never have been able to step onto Mainland Japan in the Second World War but for the use of the devastating power of two US nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki against Japan.

Japan and Indian Armed Forces both share a rich legacy of military traditions and both nations would benefit from enhanced military-to military contacts and cooperation across the entire military spectrum

Japanese defence technology outclasses all Western defence technologies and such are their advances in this field that in my time the biggest irritant in Japan-US defence cooperation was the Japanese reluctance to part with their advanced technologies to the United States. One good example worth quoting is that ‘stealth technologies’ for use by combat aircraft and ships originated from Japan. Japan also leads in avionics, communications, and electronic warfare technologies. Radars of all types especially surveillance radars is another field of advanced Japanese defence technologies.

A very good sign in terms of Japan’s willingness to provide defence exports to India is the likelihood of signing of the contract to provide fifteen amphibious aircraft by Japan.  It may not be known that the first four naval craft for the Indian Coast Guard were contracted during my tenure in Japan.

With Japan now engaged in tearing down its self-imposed restrictions in defence exports and defence technology exports tremendous potential exists for India to tap the high defence technology reservoir of Japan. Detailed studies in this direction must be initiated by Indian Armed Forces for updating their defence modernisation.

Japan’s warship building industry is highly advanced and is self-reliant both in terms of design expertise and also defence technologies. Besides joint maritime exercises India could benefit from Japanese expertise to modernise her naval ships construction shipyards to speed up India’s naval expansion.

Associated with military cooperation what India must also engage with Japan is military intelligence sharing especially on target areas of concern for Indian security.

The list is endless but suffice it to say that great potential exists in Japan-India military-to military cooperation and contacts.

Needless to emphasise again is the strategic reality that Japan and India are increasingly being looked upon in Asian capitals as the ’Twin Pillars’ of Asian security. While Japan has shown no reluctance towards shouldering this onerous responsibility, clear signals are yet to emerge from India on this account. India has to shed its strategic ambiguities as reflected in my last two Papers.

Hopefully, as Japan and India meet next Monday in Tokyo where Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe sit down together to discuss the Asian strategic blueprint in the coming years, both these assertive and visionary Prime Ministers would craft strategies and initiatives that would contribute to a peaceful Asia not vulnerable to any hegemonistic impulses.