Strategic Interests Pull Japan and India Together

Posted in India , Japan | 16-Feb-07 | Author: Chietigj Bajpaee

In recent years, Japan and India have come out of their self-imposed shells and constraints of history to emerge as increasingly active players on the international stage. Nonetheless, further progress is required if these states are to reach their full potential in the foreign policy spheres. Japan would have to escape the shackles of its post-WWII pacifist constitution, while India would have to break free of its Cold War non-aligned mentality and Pakistan-centric foreign policy.

With their overlapping values and interests, Japan and India have the potential to assist each other in their foreign policy objectives. As successful non-Western democracies, India and Japan also offer an alternative model or "third way" to conduct international relations to Washington's model of humanitarian intervention and preemptive action and Beijing's model of aid "without conditions" and call for a multipolar world.

Role Reversal

In many ways, Japan and India need to undergo a role reversal -- Japan needs to distance itself from the United States in order to be seen as an independent actor, while India needs to move away from its non-aligned mentality, which has often left it "sitting on the fence" of major foreign policy issues, to forge a closer relationship with the United States. This does not imply that Japan should abandon the U.S.-Japan alliance or that India should become a "deputy" to the United States in Asia. Rather, both states need to adopt more flexible and proactive foreign policy approaches.

For instance, India's fear of alignment has led it to sit on the sidelines of numerous multilateral forums in Asia. For example, in recent years India has distanced itself from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.), where it is an observer. This was demonstrated most recently by India being the only country not to send its head of state to the last S.C.O. summit in Shanghai in June 2006.

Similarly, India has been a reluctant participant of the Sino-Russian-Indian strategic triangle for fear of antagonizing the United States. Meanwhile, India has also been reluctant to join the Australia-Japan-U.S. Trilateral Strategic Dialogue or be seen as too close to the United States for fear of undermining relations with China. While such policies have granted India a degree of strategic flexibility, it has also left it on the periphery of major foreign policy issues, such as playing a more significant role in Central Asia.

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