Editorial

Touching base: On PM Modi's visit to Japan

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PM Modi’s visit to Japan should clarify the shared reading of a changing world order

Ever since they institutionalised annual summit-level meetings in 2006, India and Japan have held a closely aligned world-view. Prime Minister Narendra Modi now heads to Japan for meetings with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, and they are expected to take stock of all the challenges they face, notably with regard to the U.S. and China. President Donald Trump’s recent actions on trade tariffs, sanctions against Iran and Russia, as well as the U.S.’s exit from several multilateral and security regimes are impacting both countries in different ways. For India, the impact is more direct, as the economy has been hurt by new American tariffs, review of its GSP (trading) status, and restrictions on visas for professionals. Moreover, possible U.S. sanctions over Indian engagement with Iran as well as defence purchases from Russia pose a looming challenge. For Japan too, U.S. trade tariffs are a concern and Washington’s exit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is corralling Southeast Asian countries into a free trade regime under Chinese domination. In addition, the U.S.’s on-again, off-again nuclear negotiations with North Korea are keeping Tokyo on tenterhooks. India and Japan must closely cooperate on how to manage these challenges from the U.S. while maintaining their growing security ties with Washington, as members of the trilateral and quadrilateral formations in the Indo-Pacific. The other common concern is managing an increasingly influential China. Mr. Abe will meet Mr. Modi a day after he returns from a visit to Beijing, the first by a Japanese Prime Minister in seven years. Mr. Modi has re-engaged Beijing through multiple meetings with President Xi Jinping this year. The Prime Ministers are bound to compare notes on the way forward with their common neighbour, especially on building and financing alternatives to China’s Belt and Road projects for countries along the “Asia-Africa growth corridor”.

On the bilateral front, there are several loose ends that Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe will work to tie up. The Shinkansen bullet train project has gathered speed, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency releasing the first tranche of ₹5,500 crore recently. But it could still run into delays over land acquisition issues. India and Japan have stepped up military exchanges, and will begin negotiations on a landmark acquisition and cross-servicing logistics agreement. However, there has been little movement on the pending purchase of ShinMaywa US-2 amphibian aircraft. And while Japanese investment has grown several-fold in India, trade figures are lower than levels five years ago. None of these issues is insurmountable, and the larger concerns of how to navigate uncharted and stormy geopolitical terrain, while maintaining strong positions on the international rules-based order, are likely to dominate Mr. Modi’s visit.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 9:39:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/touching-base/article25339361.ece

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