Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Japanese PM Seeks to Encourage Indian Aggressiveness for Own Ends
By Li Chen
Global Times
Published: 2017/8/28 20:03:39

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he would visit India from September 13 to 15. Although this visit was planned a while ago, the fact that it comes at a time when China and India are dealing with a border conflict means it is sure to have some ugly international repercussions. Abe has publicly stated that he merely seeks to strengthen Japanese-Indian cooperation, but all is not as it seems to be. Abe's hidden intention is to "support" India in its standoff with China in order to cause China to shift its focus from the South China Sea to the border with India, and therefore relieve pressure on Japan.

In recent years, China's rise has put increasing pressure on Japan's maritime defense. The country has urgently needed to find a close ally in another major power apart from the US. India's border conflicts with China render it the perfect choice to supplement Japan's alliance with the US.

With his visit to India, Abe is seeking to kill several birds with one stone.

First, this visit is an attempt to put on a show for the US.

Japan has remained an important ally of the US in the Asia-Pacific since the end of WWII. This role became especially important after Obama's "rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific," with the two countries often working closely together on issues regarding the East and South China Seas. Now, with Trump in office, the rebalance to Asia-Pacific has taken shape. Currently, tension concerning the Korean Peninsula has increased and Northeast Asia stands on a tight rope as the US and North Korea carry out a war of words.

Having the US' attention firmly focused on the Asia-Pacific region is exactly what Japan needs, so it has continued to stress US-Japan coordination in the region to contain North Korea and keep a close eye on China. In this way, the US-Japanese alliance is strengthened and the US' support and trust is continually renewed.

Second, hawkish forces in India are losing momentum right now, so Japan wants to bring it in as an ally before it changes direction.

A stronger and more prominent China has put greater pressure on Japan and India, both of whom have territorial disputes with the country. In recent years, India, who used to claim it was the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, has stopped pretending to be neutral. This year's Exercise Malabar, a trilateral naval exercise involving the US, Japan and India, and its recent standoff with China is the best evidence of this.

However, the voice of those who push for peace in India has been growing. These voices have spoken out against India's intrusion into Doklam as they have seen that there is only one way the conflict between the Dragon and the Elephant can end. Abe has decided to head to India to "cheer" it on in exchange for its support on the East and South China Sea issue.

Third, Japan will use this visit as an excuse to strengthen its maritime defense capabilities.

Maritime resources are an important pillar for a country's development, especially one like Japan, which has few land resources. Now the Indian Ocean has become a new land of opportunity for the US and Japan. Japan has announced that it will invest $500 million in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region to support the development of countries, and the Japanese parliament has approved the "Freedom Corridor" which stretches from the Asia-Pacific to Africa and no doubt includes the Indian Ocean.

According to Asahi Shimbun, Abe is visiting India to "affirm enhanced cooperation on defense and maritime security with India." He hopes to strengthen Japan's combat capability at sea and permeate into the Indian Ocean region by touting China as a threat. Through this, terrible instability in the Asia-Pacific is sold to voters back in Japan so that right-wing elements gain more support and their political power becomes more secure. Additionally, people's focus on Japan's domestic issues end up getting shifted overseas, while maritime ties with India become stronger.

After Abe announced his visit to India, Indian media spun this as Japan taking India's side concerning in the latter's standoff with China. Japan hopes to take advantage of this to make India an ally that it can use to check China along with the US.

At this juncture, India needs to recognize Japan's intentions. If India chooses instead to listen to the seductive voice that Japan presents it, then this will only lead to trouble.

The author is a PhD candidate of the Department of History at Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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