The 6th India-Japan Indo-Pacific Forum, attended virtually by External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and his Japanese counterpart Toshumitsu Motegi, showcased the deepening collaboration between the two nations. Both emphasizing the Indo-Pacific as a strategic area, they addressed challenges like terrorism, climate change, and China’s expansionism. Key initiatives were discussed, including the QUAD, Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, Clean Energy Partnership, and Semiconductor Supply Chain Partnership. Dr. Jaishankar highlighted these ventures as crucial for a reliable global economy, emphasizing their significance in various domains. The ministers also acknowledged the pivotal role of people-to-people exchanges, symbolized by the Year of India-Japan Tourism Exchanges. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Kishida, during the G20 Leaders’ Video Summit, passionately expressed Japan’s commitment to human dignity, climate action, and multilateral reforms, signifying alignment with India’s vision on global challenges. The forum reaffirms the nations’ commitment to a strategic partnership for peace, prosperity, and inclusivity in the Indo-Pacific. This virtual conclave epitomized their unwavering shared vision even in the digital realm.
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar participated in the 6th India-Japan Indo-Pacific Forum held virtually with his counterpart Foreign Minister of Japan Toshumitsu Motegi, apart from various other stakeholders including eminent scholars and senior officials from both countries. This forum was started in 2017, the same year QUAD 2.0 came to fruition, and has been held annually without fail, reflecting the seriousness with which both countries approach their interests as well as concerns in the Indo-Pacific region.
Both India and Japan hold the Indo-Pacific as their most important and key strategic area of interest. The region gains salience not only because of being an ‘engine of global growth’, comprising around 65% of the world population while accounting for 63% of the world GDP, 50% of the world’s maritime trade, about one-third of the world’s bulk cargo and two-thirds of world oil shipments passing through the region. The region assumes special significance owing to various traditional and non-traditional threats that the region faces including terrorism, piracy, natural disasters, climate change, and an aggressive and expansionist China with hegemonic designs.
To address these challenges and ensure a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific (FOIP) based on rules-based order, Japan and India have been collaborating and coordinating closely via various multilateral and bilateral fora. One of these mechanisms is the Indi-Japan Indo-Pacific Forum, initiated in 2017 as a track 1.5 dialogue between India and Japan. This forum intends to provide a platform for leaders, policymakers, experts, and other stakeholders to dwell upon wide-ranging areas covering domains like security, geopolitics, trade, investment, connectivity, development, energy, environment, culture, and people-to-people ties.
Speaking about the India-Japan partnership, India’s EAM Dr S Jaishankar highlighted the broadening and deepening of the relationship between the two countries in past few years. The 6th edition of the Forum reflected on many key partnerships and initiatives undertaken by both the countries, both individually and together. The most notable plurilateral partnership among India and Japan, along with the US and Australia, is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD). QUAD is vocal about ensuring FOIP in the Indo-Pacific region through non-coercive measures. The QUAD, in this regard, has launched various working groups on critical and emerging technologies, vaccine partnerships, climate change, and maritime security.
The trilateral initiative between India, Japan, and Australia – Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, launched in September 2020, aims to secure and diversify the supply chains of essential and critical goods and services in the Indo-Pacific region, especially as the necessity to de-risk the supply chains arose after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent trade tensions. This initiative intends to promote cooperation among the participating and like-minded countries while at the same time identifying and addressing the vulnerabilities and risks in the supply chains.
The discussions between the two Foreign Ministers also covered the bilateral initiative Clean Energy Partnership between India and Japan started in October 2020 to boost cooperation in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, green hydrogen, and other low-carbon technologies. The partnership also includes setting up a joint credit mechanism to enable the transfer of clean energy technologies and the mobilization of funds for green projects.
Another bilateral initiative, the Semiconductor Supply Chain Partnership started in July 2021, aims to strengthen collaboration in the semiconductor industry of both countries in order to boost the digital economy and national security of both India and Japan. Under this initiative, Japanese technology and investments will facilitate the development and production of semiconductors in India. This aims to help create a resilient and diversified semiconductor supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEC) was also featured during the discussions between the leaders in the 6th edition of the Forum. Launched in November 2021, it is a multilateral initiative between India, Japan, the USA, and ASEAN to foster economic integration and connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region. The IPEC emphasises four pillars of cooperation viz. trade, digital, infrastructure, and people-to-people exchanges. It further supports the implementation of ASEAN’s guiding document for engagement with the Indo-Pacific region – ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).
Dr Jaishankar termed these initiatives as crucial in creating a reliable and resilient global economy. Areas such as ICT, infrastructure development, digitization, space, food processing, energy, science and technology, healthcare, and R&D cooperation were termed particularly noteworthy. Defence and security also received a renewed attention by both countries with increasing frequency of defence exchanges. A new milestone was achieved this January with the bilateral fighter aircraft exercise ‘Veer Guardian.’ Both leaders expressed their hope for increasing the scope for defence equipment and technology cooperation.
Both countries are currently working on a shared commitment to realise the Yen 5 trillion goals of investment over the next five years. Japan is already heavily invested in India’s growth story. It is actively involved in various flagship programmes of India including Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Smart Cities, High Speed Rail project, among others. The cooperation between the two countries is getting ever stronger with an increasingly assertive China posing a challenge to both countries. The strategic doctrines of Japan – both the National Security Strategy 2022 and the National Defence Strategy 2022 – clearly expresses Japan’s intention to deepen bilateral and multilateral defence exchanges with India.
Japan is already a trusted partner of India and is the only country that has been allowed to invest and develop India’s sensitive Northeast region to boost its infrastructure and connectivity. Japan has also been allowed by India to carry out projects in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are in close proximity to the strategic chokepoint Strait of Malacca. A reflection of true Global Strategic Partners, India and Japan have been jointly developing infrastructure projects across Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Africa with a view not only to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but also to invest in the development of these regions and support the local community.
In the realm of virtual deliberations of 6th India-Japan Indo-Pacific Forum, the ministers fervently recognized the pivotal importance of people-to-people exchanges as well. With heightened enthusiasm, they spotlighted the ongoing grand celebration of the year 2023, designated as the Year of India-Japan Tourism Exchanges, with a poignant theme, ‘Connecting Himalayas with Mount Fuji.’ In the virtual space, they engaged in exploratory discussions, seeking innovative avenues to facilitate the smooth movement of skilled human resources from India to Japan. Top of Form
In this context on November 22, during the G20 Leaders’ Video Summit hosted by India, Prime Minister Kishida passionately addressed pivotal issues including Japan’s commitment to a world centred on “human dignity.” He commended Indian Prime Minister Modi’s leadership and welcomed the African Union as a permanent G20 member. Kishida emphasized the urgency of tackling climate change, urging commitments to achieve net zero by 2050. He underscored the necessity of multilateral system reforms, proposing strengthened functions for the United Nations. Japan pledged support for innovative guarantee mechanisms to enhance lending capacity and advocated for transparent and fair development finance. Kishida also highlighted Japan’s commitment to promoting international governance for AI through the Hiroshima AI Process and fostering women-led development. These ideas and reflections underscore Japan’s readiness to forge ahead, aligning seamlessly with India’s shared vision on significant global issues.
The 6th edition of India-Japan Indo-Pacific Forum is thus a testimony of an ever-strengthening close partnership between India and Japan. The forum concluded by reaffirming the commitment by both countries to further boost their strategic and global partnership and to work together with like-minded countries for peace, prosperity, stability and inclusivity in an open and free Indo-Pacific. In essence, this virtual conclave served as a compelling manifestation of the profound shared vision and unwavering commitment of India and Japan to carve out a future marked by prosperity and unparalleled cooperation, even in the digital realm.Dr. Maheep is a leading expert on India’s Foreign Policy. He has been teaching and conducting research in International Relations and Global Politics for over a decade.
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