Japan and India have shared a long enduring strategic and economic partnership which got further elevated to a ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ four years ago.
Ever since Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corporation’s historic investment in India in the early 1980s, which transformed the automobile sector, ties between the two countries have grown from strength to strength.
Japan, which is the largest bilateral donor for India, has been extending bilateral loans and grant assistance since 1958. In 2016, it announced a Country Assistance Policy providing ODA to build India’s critical infrastructure, and to address social and environmental causes.
Many of the on-going landmark infrastructure projects, be it the Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor with twelve new industrial townships, or the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC), are being undertaken with Japanese assistance. Bilateral trade ties between India and Japan got a big strategic push in 2011 when they signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The CEPA envisages abolition of tariffs on over 94 per cent of items traded over a period of 10 years. The CEPA also covers services, movement of natural persons, investments, IPR, customs procedures and other trade related issues.
India’s exports to Japan in 2017-18 were pegged at $4.73 billion and imports were $10.97 billion. With the Commerce Ministry trying to ensure that the Indian industry gets to use the CEPA better by spreading awareness and sorting out technical issues, bilateral trade is expected to increase further.
A number of institutional dialogue mechanisms have been established between the two including a 2+2 Dialogue at the Foreign and Defence Secretaries level. In the 21st Century political ties between Japan and India have been robust. The Joint Statement signed by then Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe in 2006 factored in the new challenges, and bilateral relationship was upgraded to a Global and Strategic Partnership with the provision of annual Prime Ministerial Summits.
Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko travelled to India in 2013 and visited Delhi and Chennai giving a further boost to diplomatic ties. Abe was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in January 2014.
The BJP-led government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has also been contributing in strengthening ties. During the 9th Annual Summit in Japan in August-September 2014, Abe and Modi, apart from further upgrading bilateral relations, also agreed to establish the ‘India-Japan Investment Promotion Partnership’.
Abe, during his India visit in December 2015, signed 16 agreements/MoUs/ MoCs/ LoIs. India also announced “visa on arrival” scheme for all Japanese travellers, including for business purposes, from March 1, 2016.
During Modi’s recent visit to Japan this October, both countries signed six agreements, including on a high speed rail project and naval cooperation.