Why Japan is India’s best friend | HT Editorial
New Delhi and Tokyo should absorb each other’s best strategic attributesUpdated: Dec 12, 2019 21:00 IST
Japan has emerged as India’s primary geo-economic partner. Whether it is building industrial corridors, public transport systems, partnering to make strategic infrastructure across the Indian Ocean or simply encouraging Japanese firms to invest in India, no world leader has worked so diligently to help India as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Nonetheless, his upcoming summit meeting in India should be a time of reflection .
Much of what Tokyo has sought to do is to help the Indian leadership to change the national mindset. It was once assumed metro systems were an impossibility in India’s dense cities. Thanks to the Japanese-funded Delhi Metro, today the opposite is true: even tier-two cities feel incomplete without such trains. A similar transformation is behind the bullet train project, though the project is now dependent on the new Maharashtra government’s stance. An even larger programme will be about seeing if India can become an electronics hub, taking advantage of the mass exodus of such firms from China. The ultimate goal would be for India to develop an export-competitive manufacturing base. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor was largely about such a vision. But India needs to do much more in developing an enabling environment for such a base to develop, including in trade diplomacy, soft reforms in taxation and customs, and support for Indian private firms going overseas.
But Japan also has limitations, especially on defence. Despite years of negotiations, no Japanese arms have been exported to India. At a time of geopolitical uncertainty, if each country were to absorb the best strategic attributes of the other, it would be the best guarantee of peace and prosperity in this half of the world.