Development, not expansionism, says Modi with China on mind

Modi AbeIIIn an oblique reference to perceived Chinese assertiveness in the region, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned against the tendency towards “expansionism”, and pitched for closer ties between India and Japan to help fructify a peaceful Asian century.

“We have to decide if we want to have ‘vikas vaad’ (development) or ‘vistar vaad’ (expansionism) which leads to disintegration,” said Modi while speaking to business titans of India and Japan in Tokyo.

“Those who follow the path of Buddha and have faith in ‘vikas vaad’, they develop. But we see, those having ideas of the 18th century, engage in encroachments and enter seas (of others),” said Modi on September 1, at a business luncheon with a delegation of Japan’s top industry leaders in Tokyo.

Modi didn’t name any country when he spoke about expansionism, but his remarks are widely construed as being targeted at what some see as China’s expansionist ambitions in the region. The remarks had a certain edge as he was speaking in Tokyo, which is locked into a festering spat with Beijing over competing territorial claims in Senkaku/Diaoyou islands.

“The whole world accepts that the 21st century will belong to Asia. But I have a question. How should the 21st century be? We have to give an answer to this. It will depend on how deep and progressive our relationship (between India and Japan) is,” said the Indian prime minister.

The remarks were widely welcomed in Japan, which is feeling the brunt of tensions with China over the disputed islands in the East China Sea. In Beijing, China’s foreign office, which has been closely tracking Mr Modi’s visit to Japan, chose not to react to his remarks as Beijing prepares for a substantive visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to New Delhi mid-September.

The prime ministers of India and Japan wrapped up their summit talks in Tokyo Sept 1, which culminated in the two countries elevating their ties to the level of special global and strategic partnership, forging of an all-embracing investment partnership and the signing of a defence cooperation agreement, which will enhance security cooperation among Asia’s leading democracies. The nuclear deal could not be sealed, but Tokyo announced a mammoth $35 billion investment package for a host of infrastructure projects in India.

Prime Minister Modi will have to do a delicate balancing act and display some deft smart diplomacy as he courts Japan on the one hand and seeks Chinese investments to bolster India’s infrastructure sector. India and China are preparing for a successful visit by Xi Jinping to New Delhi, which is expected to lead to pledges of increased Chinese investment in India and Chinese participation in industrial parks.