In a nuanced address to three different forums comprising Indian and Japanese parliamentarians on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked of the responsibility of the two countries to address multiple challenges in the India-Pacific region to chart a new course for Asia this century.
The message is bound to be read in the context of recent tensions between India and China and the perception that New Delhi is being considered by Tokyo and Washington as an important player to neutralise the growing influence of China in the economic and geopolitical spheres of the region.
Addressing the Japan-India Association, the Japan-India Parliamentary Friendship League and the International Friendship Exchange Council, Dr. Singh spoke of Japan in glowing terms as a role model of economic growth and of the high stakes of the world in reinvigorating the Japanese economy.
Though neither New Delhi nor Beijing nor Tokyo is portraying the relations among them as one against the other, developments in the last few weeks have given enough ammunition to Asia observers to view everything through the prism of regional one-upmanship and perceived rivalries.
For instance, on a day Dr. Singh is in Tokyo, People’s Daily, official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, in a strongly worded editorial, counselled that New Delhi’s wisdom lies in dealing with its disputes with Beijing calmly undisturbed by “internal and international provocateurs.”
It lashed out at Japanese politicians, terming them “petty burglars” on China-related issues. It said that before Premier Li Keqiang’s New Delhi visit, the China-India border standoff was hyped up by international media and divergence and contradictions between the two countries were exaggerated as if China-India ties had been strained suddenly.
In his address here, Dr. Singh said that at this moment of flux in the region, India and Japan had the greatest opportunity to chart a new course for Asia in this century. In the presence of the former Japanese Prime Minister, Mori-San, Dr. Singh said, “At the same time, this region faces multiple challenges, unresolved issues and unsettled questions. Historical differences persist despite our growing inter-dependence; prosperity has not fully eliminated disparities within and between states; and there are continuing threats to stability and security.”