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Japan and India: The Twin Pillars of Asian Security

Paper No. 5636                                       Dated 24-Jan-2014

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

China’s emergence as Asia’s most prominent ‘regional spoiler state’ and its strategic trajectories betraying its ambitions to emerge as Asia’s most predominant power has left Japan and India to shoulder the challenges of operating as the twin pillars of Asian security.

Argued for nearly a decade in my Papers has been the strategic reality that China alone cannot exclusively grab the Asian strategic space and that Asian strategic space has to be shared by China with Japan and India. China down the years has demonstrated that it has no intention to allow this and that on the contrary China has increasingly indulged in escalation of its territorial disputes with Japan and India thereby strategically down-size them.

Asian security and stability in 2014 stands greatly endangered by China’s  military provocations and military brinkmanship extending from the India-Tibet Himalayan borders in South Asia to South China Sea in South East Asia and finally to conflict escalation at Japan’s doorsteps in the East China Sea (Senkaku Islands).

With China not emerging as the leading stakeholder in Asian security and stability, and contrarily emerging as the major challenge to Asian security, Japan and India now have to strategically operate as the twin pillars of Asian security and stability.

Indicators exist that strategic realities have dawned on both Japan and India that they not only have to add substance to the Japan-India Strategic & Global Partnership 2006 but also hasten the process of their respective defence build-ups and strive for creation of an indigenous Asian ‘balance of power regime’ incorporating other Asian nations threatened by China’s military waywardness.

Japan-India Strategic & Global Partnership 2006 comes into detailed focus with the forthcoming historic visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day 2014 Parade and celebrations which was preceded by an equally historic visit of Their Imperial Majesties, The Emperor and Empress of Japan.

Related to these two significant events in the Japan-India relations extensive media analyses have appeared in the Indian media highlighting the imperatives of a continued and reinforcing Japan-India Strategic Partnership in a comprehensive sense.

In this Paper therefore I would not like to indulge in a repetitive analysis but focus on how well-equipped Japan and India are strategically and militarily to shoulder effectively the onerous challenge of emerging as the twin pillars of Asian security and stability in the face of unremitting conflict escalation and military brinkmanship by China.

China, it needs to be recalled has engaged in a massive build-up of its conventional military machine, nuclear weapons arsenal and its armoury of its nuclear ICBMs. China also has been engaged in an extensive build-up and expansion of its naval power including nuclear-powered and SLBMs equipped submarines. All in all China has amassed disproportionate military power, unrelated to its threat perceptions and now also a strategic concern for leading global powers like the United States and Russia.

Japan has exhibited a strategic will not to appease China in the face of grave and threatening military brinkmanship of China in the overall context of strategically downsizing Japan. Conflict escalation over the Senkaku Islands and ADIZs are just the opening Chinese moves in its overall strategy of ensuring China’s dominance of the Western Pacific ad converting North East Asia into China’s exclusive strategic backyard.

Japan has stiffly stood upto China recently both militarily and politically. Japan has refused to be cowed down in the face of the growing Chinese threat Militarily, Japan anticipating China’s not so benign strategic designs have been engaged in building its conventional military punch and deterrence. Japan has realigned its force deployments from its Cold War northern-bias deployments towards South and South West deployments. It has earmarked $ 240 billion for the period 2014-2019 for expansion of its submarine fleets, fighter aircraft and amphibious warfare capabilities to meet the China Threat.

More significantly, Japan in view of changed security environment has enunciated its National Security Strategy, established a National Security Bureau, all geared towards integrated national security planning and operations.

Politically also Japan has been engaged in recent times to widen its diplomatic contacts and initiatives in relation to its perceived threats from China. In a strategically significant move Japan in 2013 hosted a 2+2 Meet of Japanese and Russian Foreign and Defence Ministers to explore strategic cooperation between Japan and Russia. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the first year of his second term as Prime Minister has visited all ten nations of ASEAN in a diplomatic overdrive to garner greater political support for Japan’s political and strategic postures in relation to China.

Prime Minister Abe’s overtures to India earlier and now in his second term as he visits India next week is geared towards adding more substantial contours to the already functioning Japan-India Strategic Partnership.

India’s record and demonstrated performance in contrast to Japan to confront China’s military provocations and brinkmanship leaves much to be desired if it has to effectively safeguard its own security leaving aside the challenge of shouldering the responsibility of being the second pillar of Asian security alongside Japan.

In terms of strategic will to face upto China’s repeated provocations and military intrusions into Indian Territory along the India- Tibet border, India has failed significantly. Sadly in the last ten years India has all along been engaged in a ‘China Appeasement’ policy and political timidity arising presumably from a lack of realistic grasp of strategic issues and overly relying on and misreading China’s protestations of sincere friendship for India. China’s actions on India’s borders do not match the talk.

Regrettably, Indian policy establishment circles even shrink and shy away from mentioning the possibility of a “Live” China Threat to India’s national security and interests.

India has consistently shirked from enunciating its National Security Strategy.. After a decade or so India’s nuclear doctrine continues as a Draft Doctrine. All this indicates how much India invests in its national security architecture.

In terms of military preparedness to cope with the China Threat the Indian Armed Forces due to bungling Ministry of Defence  prevailing over a Defence Minister who values his personal integrity more, have delayed materialisation of decades-long due inductions of modern weapons and equipment. Defence infrastructure along the Himalayan borders is years behind completion dates.

India’s cutting edge combat air-power in terms of deficiency of 126 combat aircraft being fulfilled by the deal with France for Rafael fighter aircraft is in jeopardy, again because of the above attitudes.

In terms of political initiatives to off-set the China Threat to India and to Asian security as a whole, India’s political leadership has not gone into any personal over-drive to offset China’s provocative postures. It was illuminating to read how China has reacted with a propaganda offensive to decrying the political initiatives by Japanese Prime Minister in Asian capitals.

The much hyped US-India Strategic Partnership of the last decade implicit in whose evolution was to provide some sort of political if not military deterrence against a destabilising military rising China has failed to take off

Reverting back to the main theme of Japan and India being twin pillars of Asian security and stability what needs to be sated is that it is not a mere concept but a pressing strategic imperative for both Japan and India. Both Japan and India as leading powers of Asia are being incessantly being subjected to Chinese military provocations and brinkmanship. While Japan has openly recognised the China Threat, it is India that also has to recognise the same.

India can no longer indulge in complacency in shirking away from exercising its strategic will in relation to the China Threat, nor it can it afford to let its war preparedness to downslide.

Finally, India needs to learn a lot from Japan in terms of how to effectively emerge as a strong and reinforced second pillar of Asian security alongside Japan to offset China’s military provocations and brinkmanship. The Japanese Prime Minister declared in Washington some time back that Japan is determined to keep itself as Tier-I power in Asia and the world. India has yet to delineate ‘red lines’ which China should not cross in terms of impinging India’s security.

China is engaged in strategic diminution of both Japan and India as peer competitors to establish its unquestioned primacy in Asian security environment. In response Japan is finally shedding the US-imposed mantle of pacifism. Similarly India needs to shed its strategic naivety and strategic timidity in facing China’s military provocations and brinkmanship.

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