Rahul Mishra replies: Both India and Japan have mutually beneficial diplomatic and economic interests in the Southeast Asian region. While India has been strengthening its ties with countries in the region, both bilaterally as well as multilaterally, earlier through its ‘Look East’ and now ‘Act East’ policy, Japan’s renewed interest in the region too is clearly evident from its proactive diplomatic engagements under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His recent visit to Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam in January 2017 was very much part of Japan’s ongoing effort at strengthening its presence in the region.
It is worth recollecting that Southeast Asia was Abe’s first foreign destination after he took over for the second time as prime minister in December 2012. During his three-nation tour to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in January 2013, he enunciated the “Five Principles of Japan’s ASEAN Diplomacy” that now serves as the cornerstone of Japan’s approach towards the region. At the end of the same year, in December 2013, Japan and ASEAN signed the Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation as well as the Implementation Plan for the Vision Statement.
Though Japan and India have signed bilateral strategic partnership agreements with countries of the region, as also with ASEAN, any trilateral arrangement among them is yet to emerge. Even at the bilateral level, despite shared interests and similar concerns, India and Japan do not have any combined strategy towards the region.
The December 2015 India and Japan Vision 2025: Special Strategic and Global Partnership, primarily a guide to bilateral relations, does reflect the shared desire of the two countries to play a greater role in the Indo-Pacific region, but then it does not mention any specific mechanism to coordinate their efforts in the region. Nevertheless, both India and Japan consider stability, security and growth of the region vital to their respective long-term interests.
Posted on February 23, 2017
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