India’s all-time friend

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India’s all-time friend

India’s relationship with Japan rightly forms the bedrock of our ‘Look East’ policy

India’s ties with Japan have been one of the bright spots in Indian diplomacy. Japanese companies have helped India develop its industrial sector ever since the Indira Gandhi Government made a crack in the door for foreign investment in the early 1980’s. Today, India is not just a vital market for Suzuki, it is the most important market. Similarly, for Honda, India is a crucial profit-generating market. Hundreds of Japanese firms invested in India’s fledgling industrial capacity, have grown with India, and have made their fair share of money as well, but Japanese companies believed in India well before European and American companies did. Japanese assistance was a key factor in the development of the Delhi metro, built on the back of low-interest loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which has invested in other urban infrastructure projects across India. It is JICA that will provide much of the financing for the planned Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor that will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Ministers Abe and Modi tomorrow. Undoubtedly, this 500-kilometre stretch of track will use the latest Japanese bullet trains. Japanese cooperation with India, however, has moved beyond just commercial, financial and industrial collaboration and has moved to the area of defence. In his last act as Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley visited Japan for defence talks. Japan has been a participant in India’s ‘Malabar Naval’ exercises and will continue to take part going forward. The island nation which, like India, has to also deal with an increasingly assertive China and the Middle Kingdom’s often dubious territorial claims, is willing to share its immense expertise of anti-submarine warfare with India. In fact, India, whose own anti-submarine capabilities are below par, should learn from Japan. With Prime Ministers Abe and Modi sharing a great personal rapport, the latter should also use the former’s rapport with the current White House to further India-US-Japan collaboration like was seen at this year’s Malabar Naval exercise when aircraft carriers (although technically Japan calls her ship a ‘helicopter destroyer’) from all three nations steamed in parallel down the Indian Ocean.

However, in one aspect India can do better. That is in remembering the three Bengali gentlemen who laid the foundations for today’s mutually beneficial relationship. They are Rash Behari Bose, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, both of whom were great freedom fighters and the third, a judge, Radha Binod Pal, the only Indian to sit on a war crimes Tribunal. The story of Binod Pal is forgotten by most in India, although the man is a revered figure in Japan with several memorials to him in the country. This because Justice Pal found the War Crimes Tribunal for Japan as a form of victor’s justice and argued that the US had in effect precipitated war with Japan. He never denied that Imperial Japan committed the atrocities it was accused of, but he did not buy into the allied reimagination of the conflict and even said that the nuclear attacks should be considered war crimes although the US supressed his 1200-page dissent until it completed its occupation of Japan. The spirit of Binod Pal forms the bedrock of Indo-Japanese relationship, and the building on top is a very nice one indeed, but the construction has not ended.

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