Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Gandhinagar on Thursday that India can become the factory of the world, and pledged Japanese help in doing so. This meshes well with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme which has been languishing so far, and Japan is indeed offering the maximum help of any country to actualise the Indian dream of jobs, technological transformation and modernity. But what is Japan’s stake in doing this?
Tokyo is buffeted by many factors today, including a rising China that aggressively pushes territorial claims on it, as it does on India as well. In addition China has empowered a North Korea currently shooting missiles over Japan and threatening to ‘sink’ it, besides conducting powerful nuclear tests. Japan had for long relied on its security relationship with the US, but the latter is currently in a phase of turning inward, besides loudly demanding that allies take responsibility for their own security. These trends have led Tokyo to realise it must exercise more initiative in its neighbourhood as well as in shaping the strategic environment in Asia, Africa and the Indo-Pacific region; and Abe is a strong proponent of this.
Japan’s strategic goals can, therefore, partly be realised by assisting in the rise of India, a benign power that would be a bulwark against a unipolar Asia dominated by China, besides being a place to invest its surplus funds. It’s now up to New Delhi to seize the day, leveraging rapid rise of Chinese factory wages which facilitates a transfer of industry to India. But in order to utilise the leg up that Tokyo is offering it New Delhi has to bite the bullet of genuine reform, shedding its traditional mindset of government control and micro-management punctuated by expansive populist gestures.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.