THOUGH India had little contact over the centuries with both China and Japan, it nevertheless had some high regard for China because of cultural-mostly Buddhist-association. During medieval times Chinese scholars like Hsuan Tsang and Fa Hian had visited Nalanda and had written glowingly about India’s great centre of learning and China as a civilization commanded respect. One can forgive Maoists in their early years for referring to India as a “running dog of Anglo-American Imperialism” because that was the language Maoists were familiar with. It was only after the 1962 war and the ugly behaviour of China in subsequent years that India was compelled to think of Sino-Indian relations in a new light, and Beijing lost credibility.
Because of its newly gained economic power China has been behaving exactly, if not worse than what it attributed to Anglo-American imperialism, exhibiting a pettiness mixed with arrogance unbecoming a civilised nation. It has evidently mistaken India as a soft power that can be bullied into submission and one is afraid our own governments have been partly responsible for encouraging that mind-set.
It is time India showed its teeth. In has to react to Chinese impudence in ample measure. China’s approach to the Kashmir issue has been vicious and rude. Beijing refers to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as “northern part of Pakistan” while referring to Jammu & Kashmir as ‘India-controlled Kashmir’, clearly indicating its preferences. The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi issues visas to Jammu & Kashmir citizens on a paper stapled to their passports. And, even as recently as October 25 it has refused to change its mind. It is unrepentant. What is worse, China has denied a visa to Lt Gen BS Jaiswal, GoC-in-Chief, Northern Command, because he has been serving in Kashmir. That is an insult. India must reciprocate. It must have second thoughts over its recognition of Tibet as an integral part of China, insisting that Tibet’s sovereignty deserves a second look, considering that earlier Indian governments may have been misled and India has reason to think that it had erred in the past.
Incidentally, one understands that Tibet was once under Kashmir’s suzerainty and the ruler of Kashmir held the little to Tibetadhiraj. It is time one digs a little more into our own past. India, however, has never had any reason to have a quarrel with Japan, though, following the nuclear tests India conducted in Pokhran in May 1998, Japan, like some other countries, suspended all political exchanges with India and even cut economic assistance to it, for a period of three years. But that was on a matter of principle and not because of any gut hatred per se towards India.
Japan even made a turnaround in August 2000, following a 5-day visit by the then Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshiro Mori, to India. India’s own Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in turn visited Japan in December 2001 and since then there has been a continuous exchange of visits by leaders of the two countries. Japan, it is important to remember, is currently India’s third largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) and Japanese companies have made cumulative investments in India of around $ 2.6 billion in India since 1991. According to the 2007 annual survey conducted by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, India ranks as the most promising overseas investment destination for Japanese companies in the long run. Indeed, in October 2008 Japan even signed an agreement with India under which it would provide the latter a low-interest loan worth $ 4.5 billion to finance a railway project. Japanese corporate presence has since acquired rising visibility in India, as is evident from investments by such firms as Honda, Toyota and Nisan, not to speak of Suzuki and notable acquisitions as Matsushita Electric, Daiichi Sankhyo and DoCoMo.
The two-way trade between 2010-2011 is of the order of $ 20 billion while, in terms of Japanese overseas development assistance, India is the largest recipient of all countries, a fact little known. Expected to be implemented are two flagship infrastructure projects such as the Deli-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), both modelled on the famed Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka Corridor aimed at hastening ecomomic development. And yet, things have been moving slowly. It may be remembered that Dr Manmohan Singh had paid an official visit to Japan in 2006 when he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe affirmed that India and Japan are natural partners with a mutual stake in each other’s progress and prosperity. Prime Minister Singh again visited Japan in October 2008 when they signed the ‘Joint Statement Advancement of the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India and Joint Statement on Security Cooperation. The Security Accord is a momentous one and a significant political achievement, since Tokyo has such an agreement with only one other country, Australia. It helps to work towards building power equilibrium in Asia. India and Japan have also close military ties and they have shared interests in maintaining the security of sea lanes in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean, where Chinese intrusion is deeply resented. Japan is heavily dependent on energy supplies from the Middle East and the safety of sea lanes of communication (SLOC) threatened by an outside power. One expects Dr Manmohan Singh’s just concluded visit to Japan to further strengthen mutual security cooperation.
According to informed sources, the political mood in Japan towards India presently is remarkably friendly, considering that a Japan-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement has been finalised. A Japanese negotiator, Takeshi Matsunaga has been quoted as saying that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) provides for “a high level of liberalisation” of tariff by both sides and places them on an equal footing. Another Japanese industrialist, Kenichi Yoshida, a Director of Soft Bridge Solutions has been quoted as saying that Indian engineers were becoming the backbone of Japan’s IT industry and that “it is important for Japanese industry to work together with India”. There is cooperation already at the security level and there have been combined exercises on anti-piracy and search and rescue operations between the two countries’ coast guards. These are all happy signs of further cooperation in a wide range of fields and foretells well for the future. That should send a message to latter-day imperialist powers not to take neighbours for granted.