Emperor Akihito and Emperor Michiko visited India from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5 to commemorate last year’s 60th anniversary of Japan-India diplomatic relations. India, often described as the world’s most populous democracy, is important to Japan because of its geopolitical position and economic potential.
The Abe administration appears inclined to use Japan’s relationship with India as a means of checking China, which is trying to increase its influence in Asia and with which Japan has a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. But Japan should refrain from using its ties with India merely for political expediency. Instead, it should cultivate cooperative ties with India with a wider perspective and a long-range view.
The Emperor and Empress’s visit to India this time was their first official visit to the country since their visit in 1960, when they were the Crown Prince and Princess.
In his speech at a banquet hosted by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, the Emperor reminisced about his meeting during the 1960 visit with Indian leaders who had struggled for Indian independence. “We had high hopes for building a nation with pacifism, in line with (Mahatma) Gandhi’s thought as the ideal, and that impression remains with us today.”
In May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to strengthen their cooperation in security. Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy are scheduled to conduct their second joint drill by yearend. In pursuing security cooperation, Japan and India should not forget the spirit of pacifism referred to by the Emperor. As Japan and India pursue cooperation on security matters, they should not go out of their way to antagonize other nations.
Japan and India also have agreed to resume talks to conclude a pact that would allow Japanese firms to export nuclear power-generation technologies and equipment to India. Japan cannot be too careful in these talks because India, like its neighbor Pakistan, is not a party to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons despite possessing nuclear weapons. India has border disputes with both Pakistan and China, another nuclear power.
Japan is also pushing talks with India with a view toward exporting the ShinMaywa US-2 search and rescue flying boat used by Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force at a time when the Abe administration is trying to loosen Japan’s traditional ban on weapons exports. Japan also should be careful about the US-2 export since its system for identifying friend or foe (IFF) has military applications.
The economic potential of India, with a population of some 1.26 billion, is great. In recent years, more than 100 Japanese companies have been entering the Indian market every year. The total is now about 1,000. But India’s investment environment is not necessarily ideal because of inadequate infrastructure, bureaucratic red tape and security problems. Japanese firms should not seek short-term profits from the Indian market. Instead, they should strive to carry out sustainable business activities that benefit not only themselves but also their Indian business partners and customers.