New Delhi The Tokyo Declaration taking India-Japan relations to the next level – a Special Strategic Global Partnership – has lent “new dynamism” to the close ties between the two nations, especially with its emphasis on increased economic and defence cooperation, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe failed to tie up the civil nuclear deal during this visit, say experts.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal termed the visit “largely successful” with important decisions taken in the economic side, especially Japan’s promise of $33.58 billion over the next five years under the India-Japan Investment Promotion Partnership, that would include development of economic corridors, infrastructure, transport system and smart cities.
Japan has also offered financial, technical and operational support to India for the Shinkansen system or the bullet trains.
Sibal termed the agreements in the defence sector as significant, especially Japan’s decision to remove six Indian entities from the ‘foreign end users list’ and the progress in talks for purchase by India of the US-2 amphibian aircraft from Japan as well as the decision to regularize the India-US-Japan Malabar maritime exercise.
However, he said it was disappointing that the civil nuclear deal could not be signed.
Former ambassador G. Parthasarathy said Modi’s Japan visit has “certainly given new dynamism to bilateral relations, which were good in any case”, in the wake of substantive involvement of Japan in India’s economic development and the enhanced military-to-military relations.
Japan’s participation in the trilateral Malabar exercises with the US and India were important and would help work towards creating “stable, balanced power in Asia”, he said.
Former Indian envoy Sheel Kant Sharma said Modi’s visit has “highly successful outcomes and Japan’s response to Modi’s overtures were overwhelmingly positive, though in certain areas work needs to be done”.
Referring to Modi’s swipe at China where he deplored the “expansionist” tendencies of some countries which “encroach” on the seas of others, the former envoy said Modi had made “very delicate reference to problems in Asia”.
He termed the reference to the trilateral Malabar naval exercises as a “very positive arrangement” but added that both sides need to “come out with clear interests”.
Sharma termed as “dynamic and very positive” Japan’s support for India to become a full member in the four international export control regimes: Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group.
China expert Srikanth Kondapalli said the Tokyo Declaration was “explicit” on the political, economic and defence fields and both sides have exhibited substantial cooperation in the defence fields.
Referring to the clause where both countries agree to work towards closer and stronger strategic partnership “for a prosperous future for their two countries and for advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the world, in particular, in the inter-connected Asia, Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions”, he said this was aimed at the direction of countering China.
Another major point in the declaration is the reference to unhindered maritime and air flight access.
Both sides “affirmed their shared commitment to maritime security, freedom of navigation and overflight, civil aviation safety, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law”, the statement says.
This clause, Kondapalli said, was significant in view of the recent quarrel between China and the US following a narrowly-avoided midair incident between a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet near Hainan island. China has set up Air Defence Identification Zones over the South and East China Seas, intercepting overflights.
The clause in the India-Japan statement was meant to emphasize that India concurs with Japan on unhindered maritime freedom and freedom of overflights, which are of “dissonance” with China’s viewpoint, he noted.