India and Japan: a confluence of interests


By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Tokyo this week for what may well be his most important foreign visit in his second term in office. The visit’s importance derives as much from the particular economic interests of India and Japan, as both economies seek to boost growth, trade and investment, as it does from the realisation that they must work together to temper China’s ‘new assertiveness’ in its neighbourhood.

Confluence of the two seas
After a gap of nearly six years, there may once again be a meeting of minds between Prime Minister Singh and his host, Japan’s bold ‘new’ leader Shinzo Abe, who, during his first term in office in 2006–07, took the initiative to seek a ‘new relationship’ with India.

On a visit in August 2007, he told the Indian Parliament that Japan had ‘rediscovered’ India ‘as a partner that shares the same values and interests and also as a friend that will work alongside us to enrich the seas of freedom and prosperity, which will be open and transparent to all’.

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The power of five for China and India

Manmohan Singh meets Xi Jinping Photo Office of the India Prime Minister

There is something about the number five in Sino-Indian relations, writes IISS Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy Sanjaya Baru, in a new piece looking back at the recent BRICS summit in South Africa. There, Asia’s two giants had a chance to improve their relations when the Chinese and Indian leaders met on the sidelines.

The two countries’ relationship has long been defined in terms of the five-element ‘Pancha Sheela’, involving mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence.

‘Now China’s new leaders have enunciated a new Pancha Sheela’, writes Baru, ‘with President Xi Jinping offering a “five-point proposal” for Sino-Indian relations. The updated principles would maintain strategic communication and healthy bilateral relations; harness each other’s strengths and expand cooperation in infrastructure, investment, and other areas; deepen cultural ties and increase mutual understanding and friendship; expand coordination and collaboration in multilateral affairs to safeguard developing countries’ legitimate interests and address global challenges; and accommodate each other’s core concerns and reconcile bilateral disagreements amicably.’

Baru says India would be happy to embrace these principles, but the fifth point is tricky, because it leaves China’s ‘core concerns’ undefined. Traditionally, these were Tibet and Taiwan, but Chinese officials have recently referred to their claims on the South China Sea as a ‘core interest’ as well. And this has opened up a Pandora’s box.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his own five principles for the Sino-Indian relationship.

Read the full story at Project Syndicate

Decoding Manmohan Singh’s red lines

Manmohan Singh meeting soldiers on National Army Day, 15 January. Photo: Office of the India Prime Minister

Manmohan Singh meeting soldiers on National Army Day, 15 January.

By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy

Many eyebrows were raised in Delhi and around the world when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that ‘it cannot be business as usual’ with Pakistan after the recent incident on the Line of Control (LoC). Because these remarks came after the National Security Adviser briefed opposition leaders about the government’s approach to the issue, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha took credit for the prime minister’s tough stance, while welcoming it. However, it has since become clear that Singh was adopting a more nuanced approach, not the sledgehammer response that the Bharatiya Janata Party and hotheads in the media were seeking.

The many expressions of surprise, accompanied by gratuitous remarks about Singh’s ‘uncharacteristic’ toughness, ignore the fact that on vital national-security and foreign-policy issues, the prime minister has always drawn red lines and stuck to them. These red lines have been drawn both with respect to political parties and ministerial colleagues at home and foreign governments. When it comes to foreign policy, Singh has jealously guarded prime ministerial turf and defended the national interest.

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What new Japanese PM Abe means for India

Shinzo Abe and Manmohan Singh

By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy

‘The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity’. With those words Shinzo Abe, now re-elected prime minister of Japan, launched into an historic address to the Indian Parliament in August 2007. A ‘broader Asia’, he said … ‘is now beginning to take on a distinct form. Our two countries have the ability – and the responsibility – to ensure that it broadens yet further and to nurture and enrich these seas to become seas of clearest transparence.’

To an audience that had not yet absorbed the full import of the historic shift that Abe was seeking in Japan’s relations with India, he added: ‘This is the message I wish to deliver directly today to the one billion people of India. That is why I stand before you now in the Central Hall of the highest chamber, to speak with you, the people’s representatives of India.’

Shinzo Abe is not just another prime minister in a country where prime ministers come by the dozen. He has pedigree and has acquired courage and a vision. And over the weekend he has also won a massive and historic verdict in favour of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

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Warm glow of Australia-India civil nuclear deal

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and Indian prime minister Dr Monhama Singh

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh

By Suvi Dogra, Research and Liaison Officer, Geo-economics and Strategy Programme

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s first state visit to India last week resulted in an agreement to launch a nuclear-energy pact and a renewed commitment to bilateral trade, along with plans for other areas of increased cooperation. While there may be some challenges ahead, the agreements signify something of a watershed in the two countries’ relationship.

Nuclear issues
A key outcome of Gillard’s 15-17 October visit was that she and her Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, agreed to launch negotiations for an Agreement on Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation. Closer cooperation on nuclear energy under this agreement would also make provisions to allow Australia to export uranium to India – a significant development for both their trade and foreign policy relationship.

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The economist as saviour

Indian PM Manmohan Singh. Photo World Economic Forum/Eric Miller

Sanjaya Baru, the director of the IISS’s geo-economics and strategy programme, has a new opinion piece in the Hindu, in which he ruminates on the economic philosophy of his former boss, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Of course, this is much more than idle theory, as Singh stewards a nation of 1.2 billion people with an economy fast approaching US$2 trillion a year.

India has witnessed phenomenal economic growth in the past decade. Its GDP reached 1 trillion in dollar terms in 2007-08, and has nearly doubled since. Looking at this and his government’s policies, many consider Singh a ‘neo-liberal’.

Yet, Baru argues, that is to totally misconstrue the Indian premier’s position.

‘The clue to Dr. Singh’s thinking on economic policy’, he says, ‘lies in the lasting intellectual impact of Keynes and his disciples on him.’ The crucial point, argues Baru, is that Keynes himself was a liberal who preferred what his biographer Robert Skidelsky later termed ‘the middle way’. ‘Manmohan Singh too is a liberal, centrist Keynesian walking the “middle way”,’ Baru insists.

Singh’s second term in office has seen a decline in investment rates ‘largely on account of the government’s own acts of omission and commission. Quite understandably, therefore, the focus has again shifted to stimulating investment.’

Nevertheless, Baru concludes: ‘India remains one of the world’s faster growing economies and there is no reason why it should not become the fastest growing one before Dr. Singh’s term is over.’

Read the Hindu: ‘The economist as saviour’


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