India-Japan Relations - The recent inaugural 2+2 dialogue was attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar from India and Foreign Affairs Minister Motegi Toshimitsu, and Defence Minister Kono Taro from Japan.

Key outcomes: Joint declaration by India-Japan comprised of following points

  • Tackling terrorism: It called upon Pakistan to take resolute and irreversible action against terrorism and fully comply with international commitments including to FATF.
  • Maritime security: The ministers noted the commencement of the exchange of information based on the Implementing Arrangement between the two countries signed last year for deeper cooperation between the two Navies.
  • Ensuring maritime safety in achieving a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific: They agreed to further cooperation in the field of capacity building in maritime security and Maritime Domain Awareness including “through cooperation with other countries.” 
  • Acknowledgment of setting up of Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) was set by India in 2018.The Indian side looked forward to Japanese side dispatching a liaison officer at the IFC-IOR in the near future.
  • The IFC-IOR was inaugurated in December 2018 within the premises of the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.
  • The IMAC is the single point center linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • Several Indian Ocean littoral states have joined the coastal radar chain network. These include Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles. Bangladesh is set to join the network and talks are on with Thailand as well.
  • All countries which have signed white shipping information exchange agreements with India are IFC partners.
  • The centre is actively interacting with the maritime community and has already built linkages with 18 countries and 15 multinational/maritime security centres
  • Military cooperation: The two sides will coordinate the first India-Japan joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan.
  • South China Sea (SCS): The Ministers took note of the negotiations of a Code of Conduct (COC) and urged that it should be effective, substantive, and consistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ensure freedom of navigation and must not prejudice the rights and interests of the stakeholders using the South China Sea and freedoms of all states under international law

Historical background of Indo-Japan relations

  • The people of India and Japan have engaged in cultural exchanges, primarily as a result of Buddhism, which spread indirectly from India to Japan, via China and Korea.
  • Independence movement: The leader of the Indian Independence Movement, Rash Behari Bose was instrumental in forging  India–Japan relations during India’s independence movement. 
  • During World War II,The British occupiers of India and Japan were enemies during World War II.  Subhas Chandra Bose used Japanese sponsorship to form the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA).
  • After the restoration of Japan's sovereignty, Japan and India signed a peace treaty, establishing official diplomatic relations on 28 April 1952, in which India waived all reparation claims against Japan. 
  • During the cold war: Relations between the two nations were constrained, Japan as a result of World War II reconstruction, was a U.S. ally, whereas India pursued a non-aligned foreign policy, often leaning towards the Soviet Union.
  • Pokhran nuclear test: In 1998, Japan imposed sanctions on India following the Pokhran-II, an Indian nuclear weapons test, which included the suspension of all political exchanges and the cutting off of economic assistance. These sanctions were lifted three years later. 

The current state of India-Japan relations:

Political Relations: Regular high-level visits and engagements between India-Japan have taken place at G20 Summit held in Osaka, G7 Summit in Biarritz (August 2019), and Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok (5 September 2019). In the meeting in Vladivostok, India-Japan decided to hold the first 2+2 Ministerial Meeting at an early date.

Economic and Commercial Cooperation 

  • The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that came into force in August 2011 is the most comprehensive of all such agreements concluded by India.
  • Japan has been extending bilateral loan and grant assistance to India since 1958, and is the largest bilateral donor for India. 
  • Japan already has invested in the $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (1,483 km high-speed rail and road line) which will see the setting up of new cities, industrial parks, ports, and airports.
  • In FY 2017-2018, India-Japan bilateral trade reached US$ 15.71 billion. 
    • India’s primary exports to Japan have been petroleum products, chemicals, elements, etc. 
    • India’s primary imports from Japan are machinery, transport equipment, iron and steel, electronic goods, etc. 
  • Japanese FDI into India has mainly been in an automobile, electrical equipment, telecommunications, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors e.g.  Suzuki
  • Cooperation in Skill Development: Japanese companies have established ten Japan-India Institute of Manufacturing (JIM) in India.
  • Cooperation in Railway Sector Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Railway (MAHSR)

Indian Community: Approximately 35,000 Indians live in Japan. The Nishikasai area in Tokyo is emerging as a “mini-India”. Their growing numbers had prompted the opening of three Indian schools in Tokyo and Yokohama. 

Twinning Program: As of now 7 Indian states and 3 sister cities/regions have partnered with Japanese prefectures and cities through MoUs to cooperate under diverse sectors.

Strategic relations: 

  • Civil nuclear cooperation: Japan will supply nuclear reactors, fuel, and technology to India. India is not a signatory to the non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and is the only non-signatory to receive an exemption from Japan.
  • Quad grouping: Both countries have a rivalry with China and to counter its behavior in the Indo-Pacific region the two countries formed the Quad which includes the USA and Australia too.
  • 2+2 dialogue: Japan is only the second country (after the United States) with which India has such a dialogue format. The India-Japan 2+2 dialogue is an endorsement of the special strategic partnership between New Delhi and Tokyo.
    • This is in addition to existing strategic dialogue formats such as the Annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue, Defense Policy Dialogue, the National Security Advisers’ Dialogue, and a working group to study the possibilities in Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) Based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Augmentation Technology for UGV/robotics.
  • Military exercises
    • The Armies and Air Forces of India and Japan held their first bilateral exercises, ‘Dharma Guardian’ and ‘Shinyuu Maitri’, in 2018.
    • Additionally, Japan participates in the annual India-US Malabar naval exercises on a regular basis. 
    • Recently, Japan also joined the India-US Air Force exercise ‘Cope India’ as an observer for the first time.
    • Implementation of the arrangement for deeper cooperation between the two Navies that was signed last year has resulted in steady progress in Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).

Maritime Domain Awareness

  • Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is the effective understanding of anything associated with the global maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of the country.
  • India has two centers - Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) and Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) located at Gurugram specifically for this purpose under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project.
  • Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA): Negotiations are going on for the agreement through which Japan could gain access to Indian facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India could have access to Japan’s naval facility in Djibouti.
  • The sale of the ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy:  Though an agreement is yet to be concluded, India’s purchase of the aircraft could see enhancement of India’s capability mix in the context of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts, but it will also be a good addition to India’s recent maritime capability acquisitions including the P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and the potential acquisition of the Sea Guardian armed drone.
    • Make in India: Japan has committed to manufacturing 30 percent of the aircraft in India and this could eventually help improve Indian defense manufacturing.


Wide range of interests—including regional cooperation, maritime security, global climate, and UN reforms. Both India and Japan also share several common ideals like democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, in addition to the complementarities that bind their economies.

  • New Delhi is seeking massive investments in its infrastructure sector and Japan is a major investor. Japan’s technological and economic prowess could accelerate India’s development by transforming its infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.
  • India is a big market for Japanese companies: Japan's interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons including India's large and growing market and its resources, especially the human resources.
  • Indo-Pacific and Quad: Sharing convergent interests, both countries are strongly committed to freedom of navigation and overflights and unimpeded commerce in the open sea which is important for the stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region.
  • India’s Act East Policy and Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” converge in NER as a critical region, where, and both countries are keen to extend their cooperation to the larger Indo-Pacific region—including the African continent.
    • Japan has been allowed to invest in India’s North-East, which has been a no-go area for other countries. India and Japan are also teaming up to set up a diesel power plant in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (where New Delhi has not allowed other countries to invest). 
  • Role of USA: The rise of China has been an important factor, while India’s growing closeness with the US has also played a role, as the US and Japan already have a close alliance.

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  • Tokyo wants India in RCEP to more effectively push back against China and is utilizing the 2+2 dialogue to convince India to join RCEP.


  • The trade ties which have remained underdeveloped when compared to India’s trade ties with China. The bilateral trade between New Delhi and Tokyo in 2017-18 stood at a meagre $15.71 billion, whereas the Sino-Indian bilateral trade in 2017 stood at $84.44 billion in spite of the political tensions between India and China. 
  • Defence sector: The two sides have also been unable to collaborate in the defence sector in spite of huge potential.
  • Arms exports: India is one of the biggest arms importers in the world, while Japan, especially under Abe, has been looking at arms exports, though it still remains a very divisive issue within the country. 
  • Balancing between Quad and Brics: India is a member of groups like the BRICS, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. In addition, though New Delhi has not joined the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is a member of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank).So India has to do a balancing act between Quad and Brics.
  • Question mark on Quad: India has long adopted a non-aligned approach as opposed to the stauncher, pro-US foreign policy stances of Japan and Australia. The failure of these nations to come up with a joint statement points to an inherent struggle to reconcile their competing views on how best to counter the rise of China.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) project: there is a great deal of scepticism on the feasibility of the AAGC itself as well as the nature of the projects embedded in it.

Way forward

  • Quad cooperation: While it need not be institutionalised, it should work towards a roadmap with actionable items and show tangible results, such as by stepping up coordination in counter-terrorism, cyber security, and disaster relief.
  • Containing China in India’s neighborhood: the two countries will be cooperating in the development of the East Container Terminal in the Colombo Port in Sri Lanka along with Sri Lanka’s Port Authority (SLPA), which is a different model of investment than the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, which has been leased by China.
  • Defense cooperation: They are also engaged in discussions on the possibilities of India acquiring Japanese technology in the production of submarines and on cooperative research in areas like unmanned Ground Vehicle and Robotics
  • Make in India: India’s purchase of Japan’s indigenously made US-2 amphibian aircraft if successfully executed, could also contribute to India’s ‘Make in India’ program.
  • Cooperation in North-East: Japan’s involvement in infra-structure projects, particularly in the Northeast India, will further deepen and contribute to closer links with Southeast Asian countries. 
  • Infrastructure projects: The smooth implementation of the prestigious high-speed rail project linking Ahmedabad and Mumbai will ensure the credibility of India’s investment climate.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) project: One important objective of the project is to bring about greater integration within the Indo-Pacific region by undertaking several infrastructure projects.
  • Green technology: Being a developing country, pollution is a serious issue in major Indian cities. Japanese green technologies can help India tackle this threat.
  • Stable Indo-Pacific: Indo-Japan should be realistic enough to understand that in any future regional strategic scenario, because of its economic and military strength, China will figure quite prominently so efforts should be done to keep the Indo-Pacific multipolar.

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