A Confluence of Two Strategies: The Japan-India Security Partnership in the Indo-Pacific

Dhruva Jaishankar
Dhruva Jaishankar Former Brookings Expert, Director, US Initiative - Observer Research Foundation, Non-Resident Fellow - Lowy Institute

April 23, 2018

Where India-Japan relations can widen

  • Further utilising Japanese official development assistance for strategic purposes – in Northeast India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in third countries in the Indian Ocean littoral in cooperation with India
  • Deepening military interoperability beyond the navies, specifically between expeditionary marine forces and between the air forces

Where differences and complications could remain

  • Danger in placing military sales and joint defence production at the centre of the relationship
  • Low priority that India and Japan place on each other’s regional security concerns, namely Pakistan and North Korea
  • Continued resistance in Japanese politics and public opinion to overt militarisation and resource constraints on the part of India
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), smiles during a news conference after Japan's lower house election, at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Japan October 22, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon - RC16A76A3030

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

The primary driver of Indo-Japan ties is the shared concern about the implications of China’s rise. Japan’s reframing of its security roles and “normalization” of its national security strategy and India’s rising defence and maritime profile in the Indo-Pacific region present opportunities to both governments. Tokyo has become an indispensable partner in the region’s security architecture as per New Delhi’s calculations. The confluence of these two strategies shows great promise.

However, certain limitations including the danger of overemphasising defence trade and joint production in this partnership in addition to the structural constraint of India remaining “outside of the United States’ Asian alliance structure.”

There are two important avenues of cooperation – first, the utilisation of Japan’s official development assistance to invest in strategic infrastructure and, second, deepening of cooperation between the ground and air forces of the two countries.

This chapter appeared in a book titled “India and Japan: Assessing the Strategic Partnership“, edited by Rajesh Basrur and Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, published by Palgrave Pivot. The book is available for order here.