June 12, 2024

General Studies Paper 2

Context: Recently Japan unveiled “Japan’s New Plan for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) and exchanged views about deepening the “Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership”.

Japan’s New Plan for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

  • Need of FOIP:
    • Japan’s FOIP underlines that given the current geopolitical landscape with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the Indian Line of Actual Control and the Taiwan Straits, there is a need to give a fresh push and momentum to this concept of “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”.
  • Key highlights of FOIP:
    • The New Plan for the FOIP lays stress on the need to uphold the rules-based order and respect each other’s territorial sovereignty.
  • Role of India & other groupings:
    • Japan’s FOIP policy believes that a key for stability and prosperity in the international community is the dynamism that is created by combining two continents – Asia and Africa& two oceans – the Pacific and Indian.
    • The fact that Japan under the FOIP should work alongside other like-minded countries in the region has been mentioned, with India being billed as an ‘indispensable’ partner.
    • It also underlines the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) centrality and unity for the stability and prosperity of every country and the region as a whole.
  • Four pillars of cooperation:
    • There is a realisation that Japan needs to do much more in the region, and towards this, ‘four pillars of cooperation’ under the new FOIP have been outlined:
      • Principles for peace and rules for prosperity;
      • Addressing challenges in an Indo-Pacific way;
      • Multi-layered connectivity; and
      • Extending efforts for security and safe use of the “sea” to the “air”.

Elaborating on FOIP’s Four pillars of cooperation

  • Principles for peace and rules for prosperity:
    • In the first pillar, it has been pointed out that vulnerable countries usually suffer the most if there is an erosion in the rule of law.
    • Therefore, Japan wants to engage in economic development programmes such as promoting the implementation of the G-20 Principles for “Quality Infrastructure Investment”.
  • Addressing challenges in an Indo-Pacific way:
    • Under the second pillar, Japan envisages the expansion of cooperation for the FOIP by incorporating realistic and practical projectsin a wide range of areas, such as climate change, food security, global health and cybersecurity.
    • Japan has been working for long on connectivity projects bilaterally with many countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Multi-layered connectivity:
    • Under the third pillar, the three areas identified for introducing more such projects are Southeast Asia, South Asia and the South Pacific/Pacific Island countries.
      • Japan has made a new commitment of $100 million towards the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund;
      • It will promote the Bay of Bengal-Northeast India industrial value chain concept in cooperation with India and Bangladesh, and
      • The new Palau International Airport Terminal project(an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean) supported by Japan has also taken off.
    • Its major connectivity initiatives involve the following:
      • East-West Economic Corridor, Southern Economic Corridor ( in South West Asia)North East Connectivity Improvement Project (in India)Bengal Bay Industrial Growth Zone, Mombasa/Northern Corridor,
    • Security and safe use of the “sea” to the “air”:
      • Under the fourth pillar, Japan will help in strengthening the capabilities of maritime law enforcement agencies in other countries.
      • Towards these objectives, Japan will
        • Implement the “strategic use of Official Development Assistance (ODAs)”,
        • Revise the Development Cooperation Charter and Set forth guidelines for ODA for the next 10 years, and
        • Introduce an “offer-type” cooperation and a new framework for “private capital mobilization-type” grant aid.
      • Japan also announced that it would “mobilize” a total of more than $75 billion in public and private funds in the Indo-Pacific region by 2030in infrastructure development.

Challenges before the Indo-Pacific

  • Geopolitical:
    • Japan’s new policy focuses on the numerous challenges facing the Indo-Pacific such as the Ukraine war, food security, and cyberspace in addition to issues such as ensuring the freedom of the seas, and connectivity among others.
    • It identifies piracy, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD),natural disasters and attempts to change the status quo as prominent challenges to the region.
  • Non-uniformity on international order: 
    • Another challenge highlighted is the lack of a united stand on “what the international order should be” the differing position of countries on the Russia-Ukraine war has brought this issue to the fore.
  • Growing Chinese belligerence:
    • In the past, Japan’ s PM had stated that “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow”, which shows Japan’s concern about growing Chinese belligerence in the region.

Impact on India & way ahead

  • Japan’s investment plans in India:
    • At the46th joint meeting of the India-Japan Business Cooperation Committee, Japanese ambassador to India said, “A Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) worldwide survey has shown that India tops the list for future investment targets for mid- and long-term investment”.
    • Japan’s PM, in his recent visit, announced plans to invest 5 trillion yen in India over five years.
    • Japan is the fifth-largest investor in India, with around 1,450 Japanese companies already operating in the country today.
  • Cooperation & skill development:
    • With Memorandums of Cooperation signed by the two countries on the Technical Intern Training Programme (TITP)as well as Specified Skilled Worker (SSW), they are also cooperating in the areas of skill development and the movement of skilled workers.
  • Focus on Northeast India:
    • Besides ASEAN, South Asia, especially Northeast India, has been the second area where Japan’s policy focuses predominantly.
  • Resolve to lead:
    • As Japan and India assume the Presidencies of the G7 and the G20 respectively, both countries have resolved to renew the pledge and do their utmost to lead the Indo-Pacific region and the world.
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