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There is nothing like the India-Japan connect that gives an ascendant and assertive China jitters. Given the bonhomie and bonding that was on display between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Ahmedabad and transformative outcomes that emanated from the summit meeting on September 14, the Chinese media’s backlash hardly comes as a surprise.
Dismissing the “growing intimacy” between India and Japan, the Global Times, the hawkish Chinese tabloid which led the propaganda blitz during the Doklam standoff, has warned India not to get into containment games with Japan.
“After the Doklam standoff, more voices in the Indian media instigate the country to step up cooperation with the US and Japan against China and exaggerate the geopolitical significance of closer India-Japan ties. Yet this to a large degree has exposed the vulnerable feeling of the Indian strategic circle in front of China”, the Global Times said in an op-ed article. It attacked Japan by saying “… Japan has been more narrow-minded in looking for allies globally to encircle China.”
Opening a new era in their partnership, India and Japan have inked 15 pacts in diverse areas, including nuclear energy, clean energy, high-speed rail and infrastructural development.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe held wide-ranging talks in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar on September 14 that will upscale economic and strategic partnership between two of Asia’s leading democracies.
Against the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region, India and Japan decided to expand their defence ties and jointly called for “achieving a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” The strategic connect between India and Japan was detailed in the joint statement which envisages an alignment of Japan’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy with India’s Act East Policy, joint exercises and enhanced collaboration in producing military hardware.
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Marking the transformative moment in India-Japan relations, Asia’s second and third largest economies signed a historic nuclear pact that signals a new dawn in their burgeoning relations, and makes Tokyo an indispensable partner in India’s development journey.
In Kantei, the stately glass-and-wood office of Japan’s prime minister, there was an atmosphere of quiet celebration as Tokyo made a leap of faith and exceptionalized India by signing its first nuclear deal with a country which hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe smiled as India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Japan’s ambassador to India signed the pact and shook hands warmly.
It was an India-plus exception and underscored New Delhi’s growing profile in Tokyo’s strategic calculus. For Mr Abe it wasn’t an easy decision given Japan’s entrenched nuclear non-proliferation orthodoxy and its singular experience of being attacked by nuclear negotiations, but in the end his strategic vision of the potential of the world’s fastest growing economy and an emerging security provider won.
The text of the nuclear agreement has not been made public so far, but Mr Jaishankar underlined “striking similarities” with the 123 agreement India signed with the US. It’s an improvised and updated version of the 123 agreement, albeit with Japan-specific features.
The deal’s importance goes much beyond nuclear commerce, and paves the stage for a marked acceleration of India-Japan relations in all areas, including trade and investment, green energy and connectivity. This was clear from the signing of 10 agreements and a soaring vision of India-Japan relations which will draw Asia’s two leading democracies in a tighter strategic embrace in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal also signalled a more proactive and expanded role by Japan in key schemes of national renewal, including Make in India, Digital India and Skill India.
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