Outskirts at the center of the stage
Indo-Japanese relations are entering their 70se anniversary in 2022, and it was indeed a long journey of seven decades of milestones and shared visions for the future. Today, the special India-Japan strategic and global partnership remains firmly rooted in history. Common values are its engine to advance shared strategic objectives and progress for the benefit of the Indo-Pacific region.
When India declared independence from British colonial rule and governance on August 15, 1947, Japan was among the first nations to recognize its sovereignty. India, for its part, refused to participate in the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951, arguing against the limitations placed on Japan’s sovereignty and pointing out that the United States had not duly recognized the wishes. of the Japanese people.
Instead, India chose to enter into a bilateral peace treaty with Japan in 1952, under which India waived all claims for redress against Japan. New Delhi also became one of the first Asian nations to establish diplomatic relations with Tokyo on April 28, 1952.
In the same decade, Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi visited India in 1957. Subsequently, Japan began providing overseas development assistance loans to India in 1958 – the first Japanese yen aid loan granted by the Japanese government.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the South Asian subcontinent has remained on the periphery when it comes to the postwar “Asian view” of Japan, particularly in relation to its much deeper engagement with Japan. East and South East Asia. In the middle of the 20th century, South Asia was supposedly “the other Asia” for Japan. A systemic dissection of the Asian continent into its many sub-regions revealed that Japan’s presence in South Asia – whether economic, political or strategic – was far from the impact it has had in other sub-regions. regions.
Despite its dense population (1.97 billion today), which represents 24.9% of the world’s humanity, the widely dispersed poverty of South Asia, limited industrialization and economic policies geared towards interior have imposed limits on Japan’s economic and diplomatic penetration into the region, as William R Nester notes in his 1992 book, Japan and the Third World (Palgrave Macmillan).
Japan’s limited influence in South Asia was also reflected in terms of rare references in books, magazines, academic journals or other media dealing with Japan’s relations in Asia. For example, a Far East Economic Review article on the evolution of the role of Japanese sogo shosha (general trading companies) in Asia did not even mention South Asia.
Meanwhile, South Asia and the South Pacific were two subregions where Japan was not involved in any striking conflicts. In addition, both have remained of lesser geo-economic status.
Japanese post-war foreign policy
Foreign policy making in Japan tends to be quite responsive, responding primarily to external developments and gravity. Since the post-war period, Japan and the countries of South Asia were better defined as distant Asian neighbors, with a conventional view that Japan only came to act under strong “external pressure.” ” (gaiatsu). At the same time, Akihiko Tanaka argued in Japanese Foreign Policy Today: A Reader this gaiatsu has at times played a pivotal role in bringing key Japanese foreign policy initiatives to fruition.
Tokyo’s post-war foreign policy between 1952 and 1973 followed a strategy of separating economics and politics (seikei bunri), which saves him from getting involved in almost all international issues. This phase, however, came to an abrupt end in late 1973 with the quadruple in oil prices by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the oil embargo by the Arab States.
It was then that Japan realized that it was no longer possible to separate economics from politics.
The consequence was a new “global security” (sogo anzen hosho) strategy, which included active diplomatic involvement.
Rising from the ashes of 1945, the miracle of Tokyo’s exponential growth made it an economic superpower. In turn, this enabled Japan to master a neo-mercantilist strategy that lasted from 1973 to 1990. It was during this period that Japan’s foreign economic presence in the Third World (including Asia South) developed rapidly.
Tokyo faced a series of challenges in its quest for diverse sources of markets, raw materials, cheap labor, and energy. The country’s policy towards the Third World became a fundamental strategy by which Tokyo used foreign aid as a diplomatic tool to expand its influence across the Third World, including South Asia.
Emerging confidence in its Asian neighborhood
Interestingly, in February 1989 Thai Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan said, “The global economic war is over, Japan has won.
That said, however, Japanese investments in South Asia were tiny between 1979 and 1986. They accounted for less than 0.1% of Tokyo’s total foreign investment in the world during the period and less than 0.5% of. its total investments in Asia.
Japan’s interest in South Asia, and in particular India, increased very gradually from 1991, following several high-level investment missions. Among them was a tour of officials from the Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) and a first visit by the Minister of International Trade and Industry in 1995.
The decade of the 1980s saw the relationship between the world’s economic powerhouse (Japan) and South Asia (especially India) improve dramatically. The main factors behind this were Japan’s ambition to reappear as an international actor, with then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone’s repeated call for “the internationalization of Japan”.
His successor, Noboru Takeshita, recalled that Japan must revive and broaden the scope of its ties with other nations, and not deal singularly with the West, including the United States. This approach seemed to stem from the frictions that Japan experienced with Washington and Europe on issues relating to trade, tariffs and investment, which were seen as a serious challenge to Japan’s economic growth.
In its search for new markets and partners, South Asia as a region has become a natural competitor, with its enormous size and potential.
Growing commitment to the region
The visits of successive prime ministers of Yasuhiro Nakasone (1982 to 1987) to that of Toshiki Kaifu (1989 to 1991) only reinforced that “peace and stability in Asia is a matter of great concern for Japan”, as Kaifu said in April 1990. He also noted: “The development of this region, inhabited by… one-fifth of all mankind, is in itself one of the major interests of the whole world.
Kaifu further stressed that Japan would seek to deepen its engagement on the issues, without limiting the dialogue to only agenda items on bilateral or Asian issues. This is why Prime Minister Kaifu’s visit to four South Asian countries – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – has become a milestone in the history of Japan-South Asia relations.
Japanese prime ministers had already visited South Asia in 1957 (PM Nobusuke Kishi), 1961 (PM Hayato Ikeda) and 1984 (PM Yasuhiro Nakasone). However, it was through Kaifu’s visit that Tokyo sought to publicize its status as an Asian economic power.
Tokyo’s political interests and approach, until then limited to East and Southeast Asia, increasingly sought to shift to South Asia.
Author: Dr Monika Chansoria
Dr Monika Chansoria is a Principal Investigator at the Japanese Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the JIIA or any other organization with which the author is affiliated. she tweets @MonikaChansoria. Find more articles from Dr Chansoria here to JAPAN Before.