Japan’s New National Security Strategy: India Factor

02 Jan, 2014    ·   4231

Shamshad A Khan on the primacy accorded to ties with India in Japan’s official strategic doctrines

Japan, in its new strategic doctrines for the next decade, has identified India among the countries that are ‘primary drivers’ of change in the global ‘balance of power’. The two strategic documents (National Security Strategy and National Defense Guidelines 2014) adopted under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe identify a number of areas in which Japan would like to strengthen cooperation with India in the near future. Despite the fact that India and Japan signed a strategic partnership agreement way back in 2006 and the successive bilateral statements urged the need to enhance the ‘strategic’ partnership, India did not find primacy in Japan’s official strategic doctrines, including the National Defense Programme Guidelines (NDPG) adopted by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government.

The 2010 NDPG did mention India, but for a different reason. It identified India for enhancing cooperation in securing ‘maritime navigation’. To ‘complement’ Japan-US security arrangements, NDPG had identified new regional powers including Australia, Republic of Korea, and ASEAN countries. The official document listed these countries with whom Tokyo wanted to ‘enhance security cooperation’. But India’s reference was missing in the defence policy doctrine. It was clear that Tokyo wanted not to affront Beijing by mentioning India among the group of countries with whom it wanted to strengthen security cooperation. Beijing has also voiced its concerns about these moves.

The new defense guidelines as well as the first ever National Security Strategy (NSS) adopted by the Abe government on 17 December 2013 is a departure from the previous stance. It attaches importance to India for its security and diplomatic policies. It may be mentioned that after regaining power in December 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government suspended the defence guidelines adopted by the previous DPJ government. Abe had stated that the existing guidelines do not reflect the changing security realities and his government will announce new guidelines after an assessment of the regional security situation.

 Japan has recently created a National Security Council (NSC) headed by the prime minister to formulate diplomatic and security policies. The National Security Strategy doctrine has been adopted by the new NSC and will remain effective for the next ten years. It identifies challenges faced by Japan in both security and diplomatic areas and reflects the changing strategic thought. 

 The revised defense guidelines adopted on 17 September 2013 recognises India’s ascendance among the security players. It notes that “as a result of change in the balance of power due to the development of countries such as China and India……multipolarisation of the international community is progressing.” As regards security cooperation with India, it is stated that “Japan will strengthen its relationship with India in a broad range of fields, including maritime security, through joint training and exercises as well as joint implementation of international peace cooperation activities.” Japan’s enunciation that it will strengthen its relationship with India in a ‘broad range of fields’ is reflective of the fact that it does not want to limit its security cooperation in the maritime field only, as envisioned in the defense guidelines adopted by the previous DPJ government. More importantly, the NSS document clubs India with the countries with whom Japan wants to strengthen its ‘cooperative relations’. The strategic doctrine stipulates that Japan will strengthen its ‘cooperative relations’ with countries including India, with which it ‘shares universal values and strategic interests.’  The other countries mentioned in the documents are: Australia, South Korea and ASEAN countries. It further notes that ‘India is becoming increasingly influential’ among the international community. It recognises that India because of its ‘geographic location’ remains “important for Japan’ and to secure its maritime interests it will strengthen cooperation with India.

By boldly positioning India in its security and diplomatic strategy, Japan has sent a clear signal that New Delhi remains important not only for its maritime security but for its overall security. India also accords greater importance to Japan in its diplomatic and security strategy. The shift in Japanese strategic thinking will help cement ties further. However, it may also create some unease for New Delhi, which so far has maintained ambiguity over certain issues that impact Japanese security such as developments in the East China Sea.  When Tokyo says that both India and Japan share ‘universal values and strategic interests’, it also expects a unified response on various issues impacting Japanese security. Some Japanese strategic thinkers have expressed surprise at New Delhi’s studied silence over China’s recently announced ADIZ.

 Beijing views Tokyo’s security partnership with New Delhi as a mechanism to ‘encircle’ China. The new strategic doctrine, which gives lots of importance to India for its diplomatic and security policies, may deepen Chinese doubts further. China, reacting to the adoption of the new NSS document, has stated that Japan is ‘hyping’ the ‘China threat theory’ and has “ulterior political motives’. This suggests that China has not taken the new Japanese strategy very lightly.