Foreign Policy Watch: India-Japan

Japan-India Combat Exercise and the Chinese Concerns


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Veer Guardian 2023

Mains level: India-Japan relations


Central Idea

  • Japan and India have launched their second Joint Air Defense Exercise called “Veer Guardian 2023” to conduct multi-domain air combat operations in a complex environment and deepen their mutual operational understanding while fostering closer defence cooperation. This increased military collaboration between Japan and India under US guidance in the Indo-Pacific is causing subdued panic among Chinese commentators.

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All you need to know about Veer Guardian 2023

  • Bilateral exercise: Veer Guardian is a bilateral air exercise between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).
  • Fourth edition: The exercise took place at Hyakuri Air Base, near Tokyo in Japan in January 2023 and was the fourth edition of the Veer Guardian series.
  • Participation: The IAF participated with six Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighters and two C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, while the JASDF deployed six Mitsubishi F-2 fighters.
  • The primary objectives of the exercise: To enhance interoperability between the two air forces, exchange best practices and operational experiences, and improve understanding of each other’s tactics and procedures.
  • Drills: The exercise included various aerial manoeuvres, air combat scenarios, air-to-ground strikes, and close air support operations. The Indian side also participated in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) drill, which involved the C-17 aircraft dropping relief supplies to a simulated disaster-hit area.

Japan-India collusion against China

  • Japan’s Pursuit of Allies: Japan has been actively seeking allies to counterbalance China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific region. It has formed alliances with several countries, including the US, Germany, the UK, Australia, and India.
  • Japan-India Security Cooperation: Japan and India have a reciprocal access agreement in place since 2020. They have regularly been conducting joint military exercises in naval, ground and air domains.
  • Opportunities for India to gain experience: India, having faced a three-year-long border standoff with China, sees the joint air exercises with Japan as a rare opportunity to gain experience over the East China Sea. Therefore, the joint drill with Japan can become a stepping stone to future quadrilateral air exercises.


Why China is concerned about the increasing collaboration between Japan and India?

  • Japan’s National Security Strategy: The NSS sees China as Japan’s biggest challenge ever seen and recommends a counter-strike capability by 2027.
  • Japan’s strategy to counter China’s increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific region: The Chinese government believes that Japan is exaggerating the China Threat Theory as evidenced by Japan’s recently published National Security Strategy (NSS).
  • Limiting Strategic manoeuvrability: A stronger India poses a major threat to China’s west while Japan in the east remains a major threat. As both India and Japan are significant players in the Asia-Pacific region, their collaboration could potentially limit China’s strategic maneuverability.
  • Balance of power: Together, India and Japan can bring a paradigmatic shift in the region’s security. The increasing collaboration with India is one of the ways in which Japan is seeking to balance its power with China.
  • Concern for national security: Moreover, China sees Japan’s recent efforts to court allies and introduce NATO forces in the Asia-Pacific region as potentially leading to a resurgence of Japan’s militarist past, which is a concern for China’s national security.


  • In sum, the Japan-India joint air drill will impart crucial combat experience to both air forces. It will also further Japan’s approach to involve India deeper in the East Asian security architecture. However, for China, the air drill comes as an ominous portent for the future.

Mains question

Q. What is the significance of the Veer Guardian 2023 joint air exercise between India and Japan, and why is China concerned about the increasing collaboration between these two countries? Discuss

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