Foreign Policy Watch: India-Japan

India-Japan ties under Shinzo Abe


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India-Japan ties flourished under Mr. Abe

Shinzo Abe, the former Prime Minister of Japan, was shot dead.

Japan under Abe

  • Abe, one of the most consequential leaders of Japan in its post-war history — was the country’s longest serving PM.
  • During his time in office, Abe was a great friend of India, and a relationship that he invested personally in.
  • He also had a special rapport with PM Modi, which came out on multiple occasions.

Transformation in India-Japan ties

(1) Personal visits

  • During his first stint in 2006-07, Abe visited India and addressed Parliament.
  • He visited India thrice: in January 2014, December 2015, and September 2017.
  • No other Prime Minister of Japan has made so many visits to India.
  • He was the first Japanese PM to be Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in 2014.

(2) Bilateral talks

  • The foundation for “Global Partnership between Japan and India” was laid in 2001, and annual bilateral summits were agreed in 2005, Abe accelerated the pace of ties since 2012.
  • In August 2007, when Abe visited India for the first time as PM, he delivered the now-famous “Confluence of the Two Seas” speech — laying the foundation for his concept of Indo-Pacific.
  • This concept has now become mainstream and one of the main pillars of India-Japan ties.

(3) Nuclear deal

  • In September 2014, Modi and Abe agreed to upgrade the bilateral relationship to “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”.
  • The relationship grew and encompassed issues from civilian nuclear energy to maritime security, bullet trains to quality infrastructure, Act East policy to Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • When Modi went to Japan in 2014, the Indo-Japan nuclear deal was still uncertain, with Tokyo sensitive about a pact with a non-Nuclear-Proliferation-Treaty member country.
  • Abe convinced the anti-nuclear hawks in Japan to sign the agreement in 2016.

(4) Defence cooperation

  • While the security agreement was in place since 2008, under Abe the two sides decided to have Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting (2+2).
  • They started negotiations on the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement — a kind of military logistics support pact.
  • In November 2019, the first 2+2 was held in New Delhi.
  • A pact for transfer of defence equipment and technology was also signed in 2015, an uncommon agreement for post-War Japan.

(5) Indo-Pacific narrative

  • During Abe’s tenure, India and Japan came closer in the Indo-Pacific architecture.
  • Abe had spelt out his vision of the Confluence of the Two Seas in his 2007 speech when the Quad was formed.
  • It collapsed soon, but in October 2017, as Chinese aggression grew in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and India’s borders in Doklam, it was Abe’s Japan that really mooted the idea of reviving the Quad.

(6) Development cooperation

  • During Abe’s visit in 2015, India decided to introduce the Shinkansen System (bullet train).
  • Under Abe’s leadership, India and Japan also formed the Act East Forum and are engaged in projects in the Northeast, closely watched by China.
  • The two countries also planned joint projects in Maldives and Sri Lanka among others to counter Beijing’s influence.

(7) Stand against China

  • Since 2013, Indian and Chinese soldiers have had four publicly known border-stand-offs — April 2013, September 2014, June-August 2017, and the ongoing one since May 2020.
  • Abe’s Japan has stood with India through each of them.
  • During the Doklam crisis and the current stand-off, Japan has made statements against China for changing the status quo.

Conclusion: A leader India always missed

  • Abe was a valuable G-7 leader for India, focused on strategic, economic and political deliverables, and not getting distracted by India’s domestic developments — much to New Delhi’s comfort.
  • Having hosted Modi at his ancestral home in Yamanashi, the first such reception extended to a foreign leader, Abe was feted at a roadshow in Ahmedabad.
  • Quite befittingly, the Indian government in January 2021 announced the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian honour, for Abe.



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