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Chapter: 12th Political Science : Chapter 9 : India and the World

India-Japan Relations

The relations between India and Japan can be traced back to the 6th century when Buddhism reached Japan.

India-Japan Relations


The relations between India and Japan can be traced back to the 6th century when Buddhism reached Japan. Historical records indicate that scholars from Japan visited Nalanda University in India and one of the most famous travellers was Tenjiku Tokubei. Tenjiku, is the Japanese name for India, meaning “the heavenly abode”. The earliest political exchange was established between Japan and the Portuguese colonies in India, particularly Goa.

The Japan- India Association was set up in 1903, post which the direct political exchanges began in the Meiji era (1868-1912). Since then, the two countries have exchanged cultural, social, economic and political ties.


Post Indian Independence

The diplomatic relations between the two countries began with the signing of Japan’s Peace Treaty with India in 1952, after the end of World War II. India was one of the first countries to extend diplomatic ties, with the invitation to the Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951. The relations were further strengthened by the mutual visits of Japanese Prime Minister Nobuke Kishi and Jawaharlal Nehru. India became the first receipt of Japan’s yen loan and gradually emerged as India’s largest aid donor. Many Indian political and economic thinkers praised Japanese economic rebuilding as success after the war.

The relations between the two countries suffered a setback during the cold war years, as Japan aligned with the United States while India chose to adhere to Non-alignment policy. Further, the relations were hampered when Japan took a neutral stand during the Sino-Indian border war of 1962. While Japan’s economic engagements with East and South-East Asian nations deepened during the 1970s and 1980s, India was left outside the gamut of the definitions of Asia. Japan also regarded nuclear tests by India as a threat to its Non-Proliferation objective.

The relations started to improve with the visit of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to India in 2000. There are dialogue mechanisms in diverse fields such as economy, commerce, financial services, health, road transport, shipping, education etc. to name a few sectors.


Economic Relations

Sony, Yamaha, Honda and Toyota have become household names in India, with the setting up of their manufacturing facilities in the country. Suzuki’s partnership with the Indian automobile company - Maruti Suzuki is one of the largest car manufacturers. Japan’s support for India’s efforts in economic development, in priority areas like power, transportation, environmental projects and projects related to basic human needs have been significant.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s visit to India in August 2000 provided the momentum to strengthen the Japan-India relationship. Mr. Mori and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided the establishment of “Global Partnership between Japan and India”. Since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to India in April 2005, Japan-India annual summit meetings have been held in respective capitals. When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan in December 2006, Japan-India relationship was elevated to the “Global and Strategic Partnership”.

Security Cooperation

During Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Japan in October 2008, two leaders issued “the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India”.

Japan signed the Declaration on Security Cooperation with India in October 2008, only the third country with which to have such a security relationship after the USAand Australia. This event sent a positive message to the world community that Japan and India were keen on strengthening their bilateral ties beyond cheque book diplomacy. The rise of China also serves as a significant reason for the realignment of partnerships in the region. Besides increasing the number of bilateral visits by the top defence and military officials as a part of their ‘strategic and global partnership’, both are engaged in initiatives on maritime security, counter terrorism, counter-proliferation, disaster management and energy security.

In September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an official visit to Japan and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In December 2015, Prime Minister Abe paid an official visit to India and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They announced “Japan and India Vision 2025 Special Strategic and Global Partnership Working Together for Peace and Prosperity of the Indo-Pacific Region and the World” a joint statement that would serve as a guide for the “new era in Japan-India relations.”

In November 2016, Prime Minister Modi paid an official visit to Japan and had a summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe. Prime Minister Abe stated that this summit would lead the prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific region as a result of coordinating the “Free and Open India and Pacific Strategy” and the “Act East” policy.

Japan expects India for improving the business environment, including the easing of regulations and the stabilization of the system. India established the “Japan Plus” office in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in October 2014 as a “one-stop” location for resolving problems faced by Japanese companies. Japan and India agreed to set up 11 candidates of Japanese industrial townships around DMIC and CBIC areas in April 2015. Prime Minister Abe requested India’s early decision on introducing special incentive packages in Japanese industrial townships in December 2015 and November 2016.

India decided to introduce the Shinkansen system in December 2015, when Prime Minister Abe visited India. The Japan’s Shinkansen system is the highest class of High-Speed Railway systems around the world in terms of its safety and accuracy. Japan and India confirmed that the general consultant would start its work in December 2016 with the construction work to begin in 2018, and the railway operation would commence in 2023.

India has been the largest recipient of Japanese ODA loan in the past decades. Delhi Metro is one of the most successful examples of Japanese cooperation through the utilization of ODA.

India’s primary exports to Japan have been petroleum products, chemicals, elements, compounds, non-metallic mineral ware, fish and fish preparations, metalliferous ores and scrap, clothing and accessories, iron and steel products, textile yarn, fabrics and machinery 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 has mainly been in automobile, electrical equipment, telecommunications, chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.

In terms of human resource development in the manufacturing sector in India, Japan announced its cooperation of training 30,000 Indian people over next 10 years in the Japan-India Institute for Manufacturing (JIM), providing Japanese style manufacturing skills and practices, in an effort to enhance India’s manufacturing industry base and contribute to “Make in India” and “Skill India” Initiatives. JIM and the Japanese Endowed Courses (JEC) in engineering colleges will be designated by Japanese companies in India, and this is a good example of cooperation between the public and private sectors. In summer 2017, the first four JIMs started in the States of Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, and the first JEC was established in the State of Andhra Pradesh. Since then, four more JIMs and one JEC have started. Those institutes are also expected to give more Indian students the ambition to study the Japanese language.


Cultural Relations

The year 2012 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and India. Various cultural events took place both in Japan and in India to promote mutual understanding between the two countries, under the theme of “Resurgent Japan, Vibrant India: New Perspectives, New Exchanges.”

During the visit of our Prime Minister to Japan in November 2016, the two Prime Ministers agreed to mark the year 2017 as the Year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges to further enhance people-to-people exchanges between Japan and India.

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