Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now in New Delhi to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Indian Republic. His presence speaks volumes about closer diplomatic, security and economic ties and, at least from Tokyo’s perspective, a common agenda on responding to the rise of China. India remains ambivalent, pursuing a shrewd hedging strategy rather than siding with either Beijing or Washington/Tokyo, eager to maximize concessions from all sides.

“The Emperor visited India last month — a huge symbolic event — and now Abe has been invited to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26 — no other Japanese prime minister has been invited to this before — an invitation extended only to close friends and partners,” says Punendra Jain, professor of Asian Studies at Adelaide University in Australia. “This symbolizes their closer and evolving political and strategic relationships. Of course, the elephant in the room is China.”

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