Japan and India Increase Cooperation to Counterbalance China
Two serious newspapers – the Times of India and the Asahi Shimbun, in separate reports, have emphasized the burgeoning ties between New Delhi and Tokyo prompted by mutual concern over an assertive China.
Japan is feeling the brunt of the assertiveness as Chinese ships - for over two weeks - have made forays to challenge Japanese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. The Chinese ships claim that they are operating in Chinese territorial waters.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are slated to announce the creation of a bilateral forum on security matters at their November 16 meeting. Noda will propose joint exercises in the Indian Ocean involving the navies of both countries.
Significantly the joint drills will not be limited to the area around Japan, but will also take place in the Indian Ocean, meaning that we have the embryo of a mutual defense pact. Under Japan's Constitution, the Japanese military is relegated to a purely defensive role. If it expands activities to the Indian Ocean, this opens up a broad interpretation of what constitutes self-defense.
To avoid putting pressure on India, Japan insists that it will try to solve its dispute with China in the framework of international law and has proposed multilateral forms and the international Court of Justice as a suitable venue. China has turned down these proposals.
Japanese officials briefed Indian and US officials on the island dispute last week. This was part of a trilateral forum between the three countries that has aroused Chinese suspicion.
In addition to strategic cooperation, the three countries want to offset Chinese economic dominance of Southeast Asia by connecting India with Burma and Thailand and then on to Vietnam - and in this manner, create an East-West corridor to balance China's North-South route.
Japan is expected to take an active role in funding some of the projects. Another area of prospective cooperation is in Afghanistan, in the hope that this can help the country maintain stability and avoid a reversion to Taliban rule.