India-Japan ties stronger than ever. Bullet train reflects the depth
Japan has positioned itself as India’s most important strategic partner. Japan’s deteriorating relationship with China is the most obvious reason for this policy, but so is Tokyo’s concern that Washington’s presence in the western Pacific is becoming fatally eroded
India bit the bullet train in the latest round of the New Delhi-Tokyo strategic embrace.
On Thursday, in a ground-breaking ceremony held in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the 508-km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project. While all eyes were on the Rs 1 trillion bullet train project, the annual summit between Mr Modi and Mr Abe gave rise to a number of other path-breaking proposals.
One of them was for Japanese nuclear firms to work with Indian partners to build and develop reactor components, moving away from the practice of simply contracting to purchase entire reactors. The other was to look at co-developing defence equipment. Then there is the formal launch of a joint economic corridor in Africa. All of this comes on top of existing Japanese projects like the various multi-billion dollar industrial corridors and urban transport systems that dot the Indian landscape.
While these will generate commercial benefits for Japan, the latest offers further underline how much what New Delhi and Tokyo are doing is about geopolitics and not just the bottomline. The offering of the crown jewels of Japanese technology and the willingness to break some of postwar Japan’s strongest taboos cannot be explained by the need for sales and profits.
Over the past several years Japan has positioned itself as India’s most important strategic partner. No other country has shown as much determination to change the trajectory of India’s economic growth and sought to lay the basis for India to be a major geopolitical tender in Asia. Japan’s deteriorating relationship with China is the most obvious reason for this policy, but so is Tokyo’s concern that the Washington’s presence in the western Pacific is becoming fatally eroded.
New Delhi on the other hand is the strongest supporter for Mr Abe’s plans to “normalise” Japan’s defence and foreign policy. Bullet trains are only the shiny manifestations of a much larger power play on which the future security of India and Asia depends.