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Visit of NIDS Delegation to IDSA

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  • May 24, 2010
    Round Table

    A 16-member delegation from the National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS), Tokyo, led by Major General Seiichi Takeuchi visited the IDSA on May 24 and held discussions on issues of mutual interests and concerns between India and Japan.

    The IDSA team was led by Dr. Thomas Mathew, Deputy Director-General of IDSA and consisted of members of the IDSA’s East Asia cluster. At the outset, Dr. Mathew extended a warm welcome to the NIDS delegation and expressed satisfaction over the growing cooperation between India and Japan in many fronts. He observed that the security interests of India and Japan converge on many fronts, with maritime security including Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) remaining an issue of paramount concern for the two countries. He noted that 90 to 92 per cent of Japan’s imports pass through the Indian Ocean. Similarly, SLOCs are important for India as a large amount of India’s exports and imports pass through the Indian Ocean. He urged greater cooperation between the two countries in the fields of security and economy. He also observed that India believes in peaceful cooperation but at the same time it wants that no country is able to dominate the Asian region. He also made the point that though India wants peace, it is concerned with China’s defence spending and its plans to build a blue water navy and highlighted the fact that Japan has also asked for transparency from China on its defence spending. As regards economic cooperation, he highlighted the fact that Japan has been the largest donor and its development assistance has made visible impacts in India, with the Delhi Metro a symbol of such cooperation. He also noted that Japan’s growing FDI in India is more than that in China and termed it a matter of confidence. He concluded that bilateral relations are satisfactory and observed that he finds the present situation between the two democracies most appropriate to take the relationship forward.

    On behalf of the NIDS, Maj. Gen. Seiichi Takeuchi welcomed Dr. Thomas Mathew’s remarks by observing that “your words are very warm”. He expressed satisfaction over the growing number of Indian students in Japan and academic exchanges taking place between the two countries. He said that the incident of Allondra Rainbow, the Japanese ship that was rescued by the Indian Coast Guard from pirates, set an example for the Japanese to seek defence cooperation with India which has grown over the years. But he also highlighted that this cooperation should not be limited to the naval sphere and should go beyond so as to “deepen this relationship” further. He also expressed satisfaction over regular meetings between the Prime Ministers, Defence Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the two countries. He also suggested that both IDSA and NIDS should pick up more topics for research.

    During the meeting, Air Cmde. Ramesh Phadke presented a briefing on China. He said that China is an important neighbour for both India and Japan. The Rise of China makes it necessary to try and understand China in a better way. He also observed that India’s relationship with China was sound and based on five peaceful principles. But after events in Tibet in 1958 and 1962 border clashes, the relationship remained frozen. He also appraised the NIDS delegation about India’s official position and said that China continues to be in illegal possession of some Indian territories especially in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. He said that both countries signed two treaties during the Prime Ministership of Narasimha Rao, but after 13 rounds of negotiations on border issues, there has not been enough progress. He also highlighted the fact that India is not inclined to embark on an arms race. The un-demarcated border, however, poses concerns. He also reminded the delegation of China’s intention to increase its sphere of influence in the South China Sea and opined that “we fear that the development can cause concern for Japan and India.” He also touched upon other areas such as China’s military modernization and its cyber warfare capabilities, which are causing concern among the international community and suggested that both India and Japan need to understand China better.

    Dr. Ashok Behuria presented a briefing on developments in South Asia. According to him, South Asia is passing through a critical phase at present. In the last few years, almost all the states in the region have reverted to democracy. This positive development, however, coincided with the emergence of an asymmetric threat, particularly from non-states actors. When Maldives and Bhutan adopted democracy, India encouraged that step. However, transition to democracy has not been very peaceful in the context of South Asian states. In this context, examples of Bangladesh and Nepal can be cited in particular. In Bangladesh, the current Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina is struggling to sustain democracy. The last few years have also witnessed dramatic changes in Indo-Bangladesh relations. In Nepal, the political reconciliation process with the Maoists is in turmoil. How to bring this revolutionary group into the mainstream has been an issue of concern so far. Recently, in early May, the Maoists staged a mass scale demonstration which caught the attention of international community. Being a close neighbour, India has been following the developments in Nepal closely. A similarity can be drawn between Nepal and Sri Lanka, as the island country is also facing a critical situation as far as reconciliation of the Tamil ethnic minority is concerned.

    While discussing recent developments in Afghanistan, Dr. Behuria stated that so far the Af-Pak strategy of the US has failed to achieve the desired goal. It has been opined that a regional and international consensus is required to deal with Afghanistan. But due to the rivalry between India and Pakistan, such a consensus remains elusive. At present, reconciliation between the Afghanistan government and Taliban is posing a serious challenge. Both the US administration and the international community consider Pakistan as the link between the Afghan government and the Taliban in war-torn Afghanistan. But so far, Pakistan has not delivered much on this front. The reconciliation process in Afghanistan has been further affected by Taliban’s refusal to abide by the existing law of the country and its insistence on introducing Islamic Sharia law instead.

    Pakistan has problems of its own. At present, it is suffering from Islamic radicalization. Over the years, Pakistan has always tried to make a distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban, good Jihadis and bad Jihadis. The Taliban militants involved in anti-India operations are treated by Pakistan as good Taliban. Its lack of sincerity in fighting terrorism head-on can be clearly seen in its deliberate failure to capture the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. This has not only slowed down the peace process between India and Pakistan, but also hampered meaningful progress in bilateral as well as regional economic cooperation. China-Pakistan nuclear missile cooperation has also been an issue of great concern to India. Over the years, Pakistan has been alleging India of harbouring a hegemonic approach towards South Asia. But it cannot overlook the fact that India has been very accommodative towards its neighbours. In fact, despite its rivalry with Pakistan, India offered the latter the status of ‘Most-Favoured Nation’. But so far, it has not been reciprocated by Pakistan. At a time when South Asia is attracting considerable international attention, Pakistan may have to change its attitude towards India and other South Asian neighbours under international pressure. A positive attitude on Pakistan’s part can go a long way in bringing peace and prosperity to the region.

    Report prepared by Shamshad Ahmad Khan and Pranamita Baruah