India Japan

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Diplomatic talks between Indian and Japanese top officials, aiming to significantly improve the cooperation of the two Asian countries continued on September 1 in Japan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Japan on August 30, for five days, and he already had an official meeting in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.

Their common statement after the meeting strongly confirmed the existing strategic partnership of India and Japan, and the importance of “defense relations between Japan and India”1 and emphasized their common decision to improve and consolidate the economic and strategic relations. On September 2, Times of India reported that Modi also said that “we intend to give a new thrust and direction to our defence cooperation, including collaboration in defence technology and equipment, given our shared interest in peace and stability and maritime security. We have also decided to expand our cooperation in advanced technology, science and technology”.

The two important Asian countries already have a common approach – definitely based on major common interests – toward the future, the Indian Prime Minister said:  “The 21st  century belongs to Asia … but how the 21st century will be depends on how strong and progressive India-Japan ties are”2. At least two major priorities can easily be identified in the recent official talks in Tokyo: First of all, the will of the both parties to increase their economic cooperation. Such a desire is present in a statement of Prime Minister Abe, who declared that Japan “will double its direct investment in India over the next five years”3 (from 2 billion US dollars in 2013 to at least 4 billion), and their attempt to reach a comprehensive nuclear energy pact in the future.

Secondly, the military dimension of the bilateral relations is also going be clearly strengthened in the future, as India plans, for example, to buy from Japan some amphibious airplanes for the Indian Navy.

China’s ‘big shadow’ – which means both quickly increasing ambitions and quickly increasing strategic capabilities – in the Asia-Pacific region is the main catalyst in speeding up the pace of the strategic talks and cooperation of India and Japan, and of India’s decision to increase its presence in the maritime security of Asia, and in the decision of Prime Minister Abe to change some of the Constitutional constraints of Japan.

Some comments on Indian naval power

India had, for several years, only one aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, code name R22 (former British HMS Hermes, commissioned in 1957 and transferred to Indian Navy in 1987)4. The fact that China bought, in 1998, from Ukraine, the Soviet-built aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov (Chinese Liaoning class5), combined with the Chinese plans to build new indigenous aircraft carriers (based on the design of this older Soviet-built platform, but improved with catapults for launching heavier airplanes) deeply changed the balance of power in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, and also put in a better light China’s new maritime ambitions.

Confronted with China’s increased seapower, India answered on November 16, 2013, when the Indian Navy officially received another aircraft carrier, the massive (44,570 tons) INS Vikramaditya, code name R33 (formerly Admiral Gorshkov), bought from Russia, whick kept the ship in the Northern Russian city of Severodvinsk. The ship is designed to carry twenty-four Mig-29 K fighter jets, and 10 Kamov helicopters. According to open sources, it will be fitted with the newest available electronic sensors and with advanced missiles. The ship will be fully operational in 2017, and until then the INS Viraat will continue to serve in the Indian Navy.

The Indian Navy is also replacing the old Soviet TU-142 M airplanes with new American-built Boeing P8I stationed (four additional planes plus the eight already contracted) at INS Dega Airfield6, and is going to use new advanced jet trainer aircraft Hawk for the training of the increasing number of Naval pilots.

In order to get better global communications capabilities, the Indian Navy launched in 2013 a special communication satellite for its sole use, which covers the entire area of strategic interests, and makes the Indian Navy more combat effective, and offers more global capabilities.

The strategic dimension of the Indian Navy is strongly underlined by the decision to operate a nuclear-powered submarine (Akula type INS Chakra, leased from the Russian Navy) and India’s decision to build in the foreseeable future three indigenous nuclear-powered submarines, to reinforce capabilities already represented by the first ship of the this type, INS Arihant, which is to be fully operational at the end of 20157 (in Sanskrit, Arihant means ‘slayer of enemies’).

India also operates nine Russian-made Kilo class submarines (the tenth, INS Sindhurakshak, sank following an internal explosion in Mumbay harbor) and four German-made SSK type, and plans to lease or to buy two Russian-made Amur Class submarines. Indian Navy also plans to buy six submarines with air independent propulsion systems (AIP – Indian Navy’s Project 75-I) and to build six Scorpene submarines (under license by DCNS of France)8.

The ambitious Indian plan to improve its blue-water capabilities is also visible in the construction (by Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers) of the new – and very modern – anti-submarine warfare corvette (ASW), INS Kamorta9 , which has been commissioned in the presence of India’s defence minister Raksha Mantri Shri Arun Jaitely on August 23, 2014.

India already is the world’s third largest national economy, in terms of purchasing power10, and a country with major and increasing strategic end economic interests, both in the Indian Ocean region, and at global level.  It is important to properly understand both the pace and major goals, and the significance of Indian efforts aiming to build a larger and larger network of bilateral and multi-lateral economic and security arrangements, in order to gain an increasingly important regional and global role

With capabilities reinforced by strong partnerships (including that with Japan), India can be a very important player in the maritime security of Asia, not only in coastal defense missions, but also transforming its already important Navy in a more and more potent blue-water geostrategic asset. It is an asset which, together with the very modern and large Japanese Navy, might play a major role in the balancing, deterring, and ‘containing’ the increasingly assertive and ambitious China.

1. KIYOSHI TAKENAKA, “Japan and India agree to boost strategic ties at summit”, NewsDaily, September 1, 2014, accessed at http://newsdaily.com/2014/09/01/japan-and-india-agree-to-boost-strategic-ties-at-summit/

2. Ibidem

3. “Japan aims to double India investment in 5 years”, Reuters Tokyo, September 1, 2014, accessed at the Internet address  http://newagebd.net/44327/japan-aims-to-double-india-investment-in-5-years/#sthash.1ggcUPYD.dpbs

4. “Indian Navy”, August 29, 2014, accessed at the Internet address http://www.indiannavy.nic.in/naval-fleet/ships?page=0%2C1

5. SHAHRYAR PASANDIDEH, “Aircraft Carrier Model Shows China’s Naval Ambitions”, The Diplomat, June 24, 2014, accessed at the Internet address http://thediplomat.com/2014/06/aircraft-carrier-model-shows-chinas-naval-ambitions/

6. VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI, “Indian Navy Wants To Fast-Track Purchase of Russian Subs”, in DefenseNews, August 2, 2014, accessed at the Internet address http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140802/DEFREG03/308020016/Indian-Navy-Wants-Fast-Track-Purchase-Russian-Subs

7. ANKIT PANDA, “India’s Indigenous Nuclear Submarine, AGNI V-ICBM set to launch in 2015”, The Diplomat, February 11, 2014, accessed at the Internet address http://thediplomat.com/2014/02/indias-indigenous-nuclear-submarine-agni-v-icbm-set-to-launch-in-2015/

8. VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI, op. cit.

9. “Frontline warship INS Kamorta comissioned”, Times of India, August 23, 2014, accessed at the Internet address http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Frontline-warship-INS-Kamorta-commissioned/articleshow/40778412.cms

10. “Coming economic collapse”, MapsOfIndia, September 1, 2014 , accessed at http://www.mapsofindia.com/india-economy.html

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