Indo-Japanese relations hedge against China’s rise with their first ever military exercise


  • India and Japan’s defence ministers finalised on holding the first ever military exercise between the two nations.
  • While countering China’s regional territorial ambitions, the move also hedges against the United States failing to contain China’s expansion.
  • The two nations will also be initiating a project in robotics and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs),
A transition of power is unfolding within the Asian continent and the growing relations between India and Japan are evidence of that. It’s not that India and Japan haven’t conducted strategic exercises before, but now they’ve collaboratively taken up a new initiative to embark on their first-ever joint military exercise that will happen later this year.

While, on the surface, it may look like the move comes to counter the rise of China, but it’s also because of United States shifting its regional policy to ‘rebalance Asia’. It doesn’t take away from the fact that territorial nationalism in Asia has definitely served as a catalyst to intensify relations between the two nations.

A lot of the credit goes to the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, for revising Article 9 of its constitution earlier this year. The revision allows Japan’s military forces to operate more along the lines of a conventional army.

Addressing China

Both countries are grimly aware of China’s military budget shooting up, which is a cause of concern to India because of Arunachal Pradesh and to Japan because of Shenkaku Island. China’s territorial hunger is even more evident because of the recent incursions into Demchok, Ladakh, Chumar and Depsang.

Looking at the numbers alone, while in 2010 China already accounted for 28% of Asia’s military spending, it skyrocketed to 38% in 2014. It has been increasing ever since.

It’s a major concern because China’s DF-21d anti-ship ballistic missile can go as far as to target parts of the Arabian Sea and most of the Bay of Bengal aside from the entirety of the South China Sea.

That being said, the military exercise between the two countries can be seen as a multilateral hedge in case the United States fails to control China’s rising influence in, not only regional but also international institutions.

It’s about more than the military

During the dialogue between India’s defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, more than the military exercise were on the agenda.

The two countries also initiated a project in robotics and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), which also a first for bilateral relations between the two nations. The project will involve the Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency from Japan and the Defence Research and Development Organization from India’s side.

The issue of the US-2 ShinMaywa amphibious aircraft was also discussed. Though nothing concrete was decided on that front, efforts made by both countries in pushing it forward were noted.

The strategic alliance between India and Japan actually goes back as far as the days of Subhas Chandra Bose when Japanese sponsorship was the lynchpin that helped form the Azad Hind Fauj, more commonly known as the Indian National Army (INA).

Even with Pokhran-II inviting sanctions from Japan that lasted for three whole years, the bilateral ties between the countries are so complementary to each other, that they always resurge after a point.

One of the reasons being the shared values towards democracy, open society, human rights, pluralism, and the rule of law.

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