by Claude Arpi – Auroville, India
The friendship between India and Japan has a long history rooted in spiritual affinity
and strong cultural and civilizational ties. The modern nation states have carried on the
positive legacy of the old association which has been strengthened by shared values of
belief in democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law. Over the years, the two
countries have built upon these values and created a partnership based on both principle
and pragmatism. Today, India is the largest democracy in Asia and Japan the most
India’s earliest documented direct contact with Japan was with the Todaiji Temple in
Nara, where the consecration or eye-opening of the towering statue of lord Buddha was
performed by an Indian monk, Bodhisena, in 752 AD. Among other Indians closely
associated with Japan were the Hindu leader Swami Vivekananda, Nobel laureate
Rabindranath Tagore, enterpreneur JRD Tata, freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra
Bose and Judge Radha Binod Pal. The Japan-India Association was set up 110 years ago
in 1903, and is today the oldest international friendship body in Japan.
Throughout the various phases of history since civilizational contacts between India
and Japan began some 1400 years ago, the two countries have never been adversaries.
Bilateral ties have been singularly free of any kind of dispute – ideological, cultural or
territorial. The relationship is unique and one of mutual respect manifested in generous
gestures and sentiments, and of standing by each other at times of need. Post the Second
World War, India did not attend the San Francisco Conference, but decided to conclude a
separate peace treaty with Japan in 1952 after its sovereignty was fully restored, marking a
defining moment in the bilateral relations and setting the tone for the future. The sole
dissenting voice of Judge Radha Binod Pal at the War Crimes Tribunal struck a deep chord
among the Japanese public that continues to reverberate to this day.
In the first decade after diplomatic ties were established, relations between the two
countries were upbeat. Several high level exchanges took place, including Japanese
Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi’s visit to India in 1957, Prime Minister Nehru’s return visit to
Tokyo the same year (with a gift of two elephants) and President Rajendra Prasad’s visit in
1958. The visit of their Highnesses, the then Japanese Crown Prince Akihito and Crown
Princess Michiko in 1960 took the relations to a new level.
The momentum of bilateral ties, however, was not quite sustained as per
expectations in the following decades. This is evidenced by the fact that after Prime
Minister Hayato Ikeda’s visit to India in 1961, the next Prime Ministerial visit was by
Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1984. When Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Tokyo in 1988, it
was after a gap of 30 years since the last high-level visit from India. But a transformational
development in the economic history of India was Suzuki Motor Corporation’s pathbreaking
investment in India in the early 1980s that revolutionized the automobile sector,
bringing in advanced technology and management ethics to India. Japanese Overseas
Development Assistance (ODA) also continued to flow helping to supplement the work of
the Indian government and helping to plug the gaps in economic development. A test of
the reliability of Japan as a friend was witnessed in 1991, when Japan was among the few
countries that bailed India out of the balance of payment crisis.
The beginning of the 21st Century witnessed a dramatic transformation in bilateral
ties. Guided by the strategic vision of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the leadership of the two
countries, cutting across party lines, recognised the merit of substantive bilateral
engagement. Recognition of the mutual advantage in enhancing and widening the ambit of
the bilateral relationship has driven India-Japan ties in the past decade and a half. During
Prime Minister Mori’s path-breaking visit to India in 2000, the Japan-India Global
Partnership in the 21st Century was launched providing the much-needed impetus for the
trajectory of relations to soar to new heights.
The Global Partnership formed the foundation for the strengthening ties in diverse
fields, including identifying strategic convergences. The joint statement signed by Prime
Ministers Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe in 2006 added a new dimension to factor in
new challenges as they emerged, and the relationship was upgraded to a Global and
Strategic Partnership with the provision of annual Prime Ministerial Summits. India is the
only country with which Japan has such annual summit meetings alternating between Delhi
Thanks to the elevation of relations and the annual summit mechanism, there has
been unprecedented progress in the bilateral economic and strategic engagement in recent
years resulting in cooperation in a vast swathe of fields including defence and security, and
the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2011.
In the economic sphere, the complementarities between the two countries are
particularly striking. (i) Japan’s ageing population (23% above 65 years) and India’s
youthful dynamism (over 50% below 25 years); (ii) India’s rich natural and human
resources and Japan’s advanced technology; (iii) India’s prowess in services and Japan’s
excellence in manufacturing; and (iv) Japan’s surplus capital for investments and India’s
large and growing markets thanks to the burgeoning middle class.
Japanese ODA, for long the backbone of the bilateral relationship, still continues to
provide long-term loans for India’s infrastructural development. If soon New Delhi will boast
of having the largest metro network in the world, it will be due to Japanese assistance
which helped to conceptualise and execute the prestigious Delhi Metro Project. The
Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor with eight
new industrial townships, the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC) are all mega
projects on the anvil which will transform India in the next decade.
PM Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Japan from 27-30 May 2013 for the 7th Annual
Summit and held talks with PM Abe. Both the leaders extensively discussed bilateral,
regional and global issues of common interest which enhanced and strengthened the
Strategic and Global Partnership between the two countries. A Joint Statement titled,
“Strengthening the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India beyond the
60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations” was signed.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were on a week-long visit to India from 30
November – 6 December 2013. Their official engagements in Delhi included visits to Raj
Ghat, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India International Centre, Lodhi Gardens; calls by
Vice-President, Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha. President Shri
Pranab Mukherjee hosted a banquet in their honour. In Chennai, Their Majesties visited
Kalakshetra Foundation, Guindy National Park and Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu.
Governor of Tamil Nadu hosted a lunch in their honour.
Under the Parliamentary exchanges programme between India and Japan, the
Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF), in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian
Industry (CII), has been organizing the visit of Members of Parliament since 2004. Under
this exchange, so far, 10 Parliamentary delegations have visited Japan between 2004 and
2013. The India-Japan Forum of Parliamentarians (IJFP) was established by FICCI in
2005. Under this programme, two Parliamentary delegations have visited Japan so far
between 2005 and 2011. The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs sent a goodwill delegation
of Parliamentarians to Japan from 26 January – 2 February 2011. Smt. Meira Kumar,
Speaker, Lok Sabha, accompanied by a delegation of MPs visited Japan from 2-6 October
2011 at the joint invitation of the leaders of the Japanese Diet.
Economic and Commercial Cooperation:
In FY 2012-13, Japan-India bilateral trade reached $18.61 billion, marginally higher
than $18.43 billion in the previous FY. The share of the India-Japan bilateral trade has
been hovering around 1 per cent of Japan’s total foreign trade, while it was in the range of
2.2 to 2.5 per cent of India’s total trade in the last couple of years.
India’s primary exports to Japan have been petroleum products, iron ore, gems and
jewelry, marine products, oil meals, ferroalloys, inorganic/organic chemicals, etc. India’s
primary imports from Japan are machinery, transport equipment, iron and steel, electronic
goods, organic chemicals, machine tools, etc.
Japanese FDI into India grew exponentially from US$ 139 million in 2004 to all time
high of $5551 million in 2008 due to mega deals particularly acquisition of Ranbaxy by
Daichi Sankyo. Subsequent years have seen decreasing trend in Japanese FDI to India in
line with overall FDI to India. However, in 2012, Japan’s FDI into India increased by 19.8%
over 2011 to reach $2786 million, although it accounted for only 2.3% of Japan’s overall
FDI outflow in 2012. Japanese FDI into India has mainly been in automobile, electrical
equipment, telecommunications, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.
Japanese companies have made an investment of $12.66 billion in India between
April 2000 and June 2012. This accounted for 7% of total FDI inflow into India and made
Japan the 4th largest investor in India. Japanese automakers are moving to bolster Indian
production bases. Japanese heavy electrical machinery manufacturers and trading houses
are also eyeing demand stemming from India’s efforts to improve its underdeveloped power
Japan has been extending bilateral loan and grant assistance to India since 1958.
Japan is the largest bilateral donor to India. Japanese ODA supports India’s efforts for
accelerated economic development particularly in priority areas like power, transportation,
environmental projects and projects related to basic human needs.
S&T and Cultural Cooperation:
The Science & Technology Agreement between the two countries was signed on
29th November 1985. It is implemented through India-Japan Joint Committee (IJJC) on
Cooperation in S&T which looks into major policy issues; reviews the progress and
proposes measures for enhancing the cooperation. The S&T cooperation between the two
countries took a new direction during the visit of Prime Minister Mr. Junichiro Koizumi to
India in April 2005. The first meeting of India-Japan Science and Technology Initiative was
held in Tokyo on 16-17 October 2006. This was followed by Consultations between
Ministers in charge of Science and Technology of the two countries from 18 to 20 October,
2006. As per the recommendations of this new initiative, two separate agreements with
JST and JSPS were signed in 2006.
A cultural agreement was signed between India and Japan on 29 October 1956,
which came into effect on 24 May 1957. In 1951, India established a scholarship system for
young Japanese scholars to study in India. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi attended the April
1988 opening ceremony of the Festival of India. The year 2012 marked the 60th
anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Japan. India
Cultural Centre in Tokyo was formally inaugurated during the visit of ICCR President on 25
September 2009. The Centre offers classes on Yoga, Tabla, Bharatanatyam, Odissi,
Sambalpuri, Bollywood dances and Hindi and Bengali languages.
The arrival of Indians in Japan for business and commercial interests began in the
1870s at the two major open ports of Yokohama and Kobe. More Indians entered Japan
during World War I when Japanese products were sought to fill gaps in demand that wartorn
Europe could not meet. Following the great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, most of the
Indians in Yokohama relocated to the Kansai region (Osaka-Kobe) and the city hosted the
largest migrant Indian population in Japan. Yokohama authorities offered special incentives
to the Indian community after World War II to revive their old base in Kanto. The old Indian
community in Japan focused on trading in textiles, commodities and electronics. With close
linkages to India as well as connections in Hong Kong and Shanghai, they became major
players in trading activities across Asia. A newer segment of the community is engaged in
gems and jewelry. The Indian community established the Indian Merchants Association in
Yokohama (IMAY) in 1929. In recent years, there has been a change in the composition of
the Indian community with the arrival of a large number of professionals. These include IT
professionals and engineers working for Indian and Japanese firms as well as
professionals in management, finance, education, and S&T research who are engaged with
multinational as well as Indian and Japanese organisations. The Nishikasai area in Tokyo
is emerging as a “mini-India”. The community is engaged in a range of cultural and social
activities. This maintains their links with the motherland and also promotes contacts with
their Japanese neighbors. Their growing numbers has prompted the opening of two Indian
schools in Tokyo and one in Yokohama. The community is actively engaged in events
organized by the Embassy. The Indian community lives harmoniously with its neighbors
and has developed relations with local governments to become valuable members of the
January 2014 (“First published by NitiCentral”)