Global geopolitics are shifting East far from the traditional Anglo-American hub of power. The U.S. pivot towards Asia has already set the stage for accentuated power rivalries in the Asia-Pacific between the United States and China and other prominent powers in the region like Japan, Australia and India. The only option that the region ought to exercise is the revival of the “Broader Asia” strategy, once advocated by the newly elected Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Abe proposed a ‘Quadrilateral’ linking of Japan, Australia and India with the United States.
In an address to the Indian Parliament in 2007, Abe suggested that the Pacific and the Indian Oceans are “now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity. A ‘Broader Asia’ that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form. Our two countries have the ability — and the responsibility — to ensure that it broadens yet further and to nurture and enrich these seas to become seas of clearest transparence.”
This propsal is valid today due to China’s sovereign claims over the South China Sea and other territorial disputes with India and the South East Asian nations. In fact, the economic progress achieved by the countries of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, particularly by China, and due in part to the gradual decline of the US and the fall of Western Europe, appears to have turned the economic and political tides decisively after two hundred years. But the rising imperialist assertions accompanied by the awesome military might of China is a cause of concern not only for India but for the entire region.
In the specific context of India-Japan relations, the ‘Broader Asia’ approach conceived by Abe imparts a strategic dimension to the dynamic coupling of the Pacific Ocean with that of the Indian Ocean. Seeking the confluence of the two seas-the Pacific and the India Oceans supports Hillary Clinton’s idea of the “Indo-Pacific” region. Shinzo Abe advocated a value-based framework of bi-lateral relations, which conforms to the spirit of freedom, democracy, and the respect for basic human rights. It promotes the strategic interests, between India and Japan to pursue their respective national interests so that they may survive even during adverse times. The Japanese diplomacy is now promoting various concepts in a host of different areas so that a region called ‘the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity’ will be formed along the outer rim of the Eurasian continent.
Obviously, the Strategic Global Partnership of Japan and India is pivotal for such pursuits to be successful. With this bold vision of Shinzo Abe, set out in his brief first term, Japanese diplomacy was stalled because it scared many in Japan who had invested heavily in their trade relations with China, and that also worried his successor Yasuo Fukuda, who quickly retreated from Abe’s goals lest it might provoke China should Japan’s assertion of democracy appear as an important factor in Asian diplomacy.
For India, Mr. Abe’s new inning is likely to create a more favourable environment not only for economic and scientific cooperation but also for the crucial civilian nuclear and defence cooperation regarding energy and national security. India and Japan are natural partners in Asia because their ties have deep roots which reflect their increasingly shared vision of a rising Asia and a strong commitment to democratic values. As Asia’s most advanced economy, Japan can help India’s overall economic development and India can offer Japan, both a market of over a billion and the world’s largest pool of manpower. Even as India prepares for a tighter embrace with Japan as a valued partner, it should, at the same time, never dilute its on-going efforts to improve relations with China.
Against this scenario, India-Japan bi-lateral cooperation may, in all likelihood, result not only towards “Broader Asia” of Shinzo Abe- as an arc of freedom and prosperity in the East- but also as a strong regional bulwark against China, not with a view to harm but only to restrain it (China) from undue and irresponsible misadventures. This is very necessary for the sake of peace and security not only for the Asia-Pacific region but also for the whole world in the 21st century which is being characterised as Asia’s for the taking.