Following on the heels of a major meeting of President Wu of China and Prime Minister Singh of India, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made an important visit to New Delhi. Many suitors are vying for India's attention. While China's trade with India has skyrocketed 79% in the past year to $14 billion, the US and Japan are offering many incentives to India. Every major power wants to take India to the dance.
Asia Times has an editorial by Aruni Mukherjee "India beckons Land of the Rising Sun". He argues:
"[Japan] has made a conscious effort to boost the poor infrastructure in India, to make it easier for its own companies to invest in the country. Already, India is Japan's largest overseas aid receiver, and on March 31 it announced another $1.3 billion as a "soft loan" for eight projects, varying from the Delhi Metro to building flyovers in Kolkata to irrigation projects in Rajasthan.
Although India-Japan joint ventures, such as Hero-Honda, Maruti-Suzuki and Toyota-Kirloskar, have been successful, actual inflow of direct investment from Japan to India is abysmally low.
While Delhi contemplates 'the mother of all free-trade agreements' with China, a far better option for an FTA is Japan."
Japan is in talks with India regarding military cooperation, a free trade zone and further "soft loan" development projects that total over $4 billion. While these offers are available without India choosing to take Sec. Rice up on the US offer of defense assistance to India [See DEL here], the packages from both countries are quite complementary. It is conceivable that this plan was a part of the US-Japanese Sec. of Defense and Sec. of State talks back in March [See DEL here]. The International Herald Tribune (owned by the NYTs) writes:
"Japan, a long-term U.S. ally, is also seen to be cooperating with Washington in a new initiative to build closer ties with India in response to China's growing influence."
India's long-term strategic interests are far more closely aligned with Tokyo's than Beijing's. Mr. Mukherjee argues:
"In fact, where Chindia [China-India] falls short, Japindia [Japan-India] could work in politics. The two countries share similar democratic ideals and have similar aspirations in the world. Japan is a member of the Group of Four (G4), along with India, and they are actively backing one another's bid for a permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. China is opposed to the inclusion of both."
Economics is always very important, but national security matters and long-term nationalistic interests and shared values are of greater strength than trade alone. Japan's political, economic and military moves towards a greater partnership with India make sense for both nations.
It will also have the consequence of further constricting Chinese regional hegemonic aspirations, which is in India's, the US's and Japan's interests.