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Japan's PM Race and what it means for India (2 September 2020)

Japan's PM Race and what it means for India (2 September 2020)

Why in News:

Japan’s chief government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, moved a step closer to becoming the next premier when the ruling party decided on Tuesday on a slimmed-down leadership vote that favours the long-time lieutenant of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.


Suga has also won the backing of the largest faction of the Liberal Democratic Party, the media reported, making him a strong front-runner to replace Abe, who announced on Friday he was stepping down for health reasons. Suga, 71, would be widely expected to stay the policy course set out by Abe, including the “Abenomics” strategy aimed at reviving the economy and keeping it afloat amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.


A self-made politician, Suga was chosen by Abe in 2012 for the pivotal role of chief cabinet secretary, acting as top government spokesman, coordinating policies and riding herd on bureaucrats.Suga’s most likely rivals for the top spot will be former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba and ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida.

Summary of the Debate

India-Japan Relation Significance

  • The foundation for “Global Partnership between Japan and India” was laid in 2001.
  • Japan has been the largest donor to India. It is the fourth-largest foreign investor in India.
  • Shinzo Abe was the first Japanese PM to be Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in 2014.
  • During the Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit to Japan for the 13th Annual Summit in October 2018, 57 Japanese companies announced to make investments in India worth US$ 2.5 billion and 15 Indian companies announced to make investments in Japan.
  • The bilateral trade between India and Japan for Fiscal Year 2019-20 was US$ 11.87 billion. India’s exports from Japan amounted to US$ 3.94 billion while India’s import from Japan amounted to US$ 7.93 billion.
  • India and Japan stand to gain much from cooperation in automobile, pharma, chemical, electronics, textile and food processing.
  • Japan is investing in high-speed railways and industrial townships housing clusters of Japanese companies.
  • Both the countries organize a series of bilateral and multilateral exercises namely, MALABAR and JIMEX.
  • During the India-China border-stand-offs, including the ongoing one since May 2020, Japan has stood with India.
  • Both the countries formed the Act East Forum, the Forum is engaged in projects in the Northeast.
  • India and Japan announced the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) summit in India in May 2017.


  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that is maintained by semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries.
  • The forum was initiated as a dialogue in 2007 by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, with the support of Vice President Dick Cheney of the US, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.
  • The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of anunprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.


  • India-Japan economic cooperation has not performed its full potential yet.
  • Over, 80,000 Japanese companies are functioning in China as compared to just about 1300 companies in India.
  • As far as security ties are concerned Indo-Japanese relationship has remained below potential. Japan has not offeredmilitary hardware or technology to India.
  • India’s trade deficit with Japan increasing from $3.1 billion before the CEPA was inked in 2011 to $5.2 billion thereafter.
  • Japan has conveyed to India that a blanket ban on visas is going to hurt economic engagement with India including work on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train which has a 2023 deadline afterIndia temporarily suspended e-visa facility for some countries including Japan in March 2020.


Way forward:

  • Shinzo Abe had announced the shifting of Japanese companies from China and he has also provided some subsidies as well for the companies to shift, but many of these companies are going to Vietnam, Indonesia and other areas. So, India need to work on a long-term basis in order to attract the Japanese companies.
  • The partnership between India and Japan is not simply bilateral but also regional, multilateral and it is only going to grow in the coming years.
  • Both the countries have to move beyond dialogues and meetings to engage in some concrete efforts to cooperate in the region.
  • India and Japan need to strengthen their military cooperation and hopes to pursue a strategic partnership for ensuring regional peace and stability.

Important points made by the Guests

Vishnu Prakash, Former Ambassador 

  • In terms of Japan, their biggest fear is instability because Japan has seen a period of revolving doors and their buzzword is to prevent instability and have continuity because Japan is facing problems at the moment including economic issues and the Pandemic issues.
  • India- Japan relations have been on a strong upward trajectory since the visit of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in August, 2000, and in 2005, India introduced annual bilateral summits, both the countries have 2+2 dialogue, Japan is largest partner of India in terms of ODA (Official Development Assistance), infrastructure development, on the defence side, on the political side.
  • Japanese corporates are particularly interested in the growing Indian economy and growing Indian market. Japan and India are two countries which have perceived an unequivocal security threat from China and that is one of the reasons which has kind of welded the relationship even closer.

Harsh V. Pant, Head, Strategic Studies, ORF   

  • Shinzo Abe has been able to shake up Japanese domestic economic policy as well as foreign policy in different ways. Japan is not known for aggressive posturing on foreign policy or domestic, it is known for gradual incrementalism in its policy evaluation.
  • There is now a greater consensus on Mr. Abe legacy, there is a consensus around his economic policy. In the recent times, the dividends have not been that strong, but on foreign policy or security policy there is greater consensus.
  • Some of the more interesting stuff which is not often talked about like entry of women into the corporate sector-Womenomics. For a conservative society like Japan, he has been able to shake up the demographic profile in terms of who enters the corporate sector and who does not.
  • In his speech to the Indian Parliament on the conference of the two seas set the agenda for the larger Indo-Pacific vision and that times even India were not buying it, many in the region were not buying it.
  • Shinzo Abe has been able in increasing consensus within his own party as well as in Japan primarily because of what China is doing and a section of Japan wants to revive Japan as a normal state, as a state wit a credible military force, projection.

Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, Center For East Asian Studies,JNU

  • In the last one-decade PM Shinzo Abe had made many of his policies like the global partnership with India in 21st century, the Indo-Pacific idea, where he has mentioned about rule of law, free and open Indo-Pacific or other ideas.
  • These has become a part of consensus within the Japanese political system in the parliamentary politics of Japan. So, whoever is the successor, he is likely to continue this consensus approach that has emerged and approach has debated for nearly a decade since 2007 and has been ironed out and proposed, for example; PM Shinzo Abe addressed the Indian Parliament and he mentioned about ‘Arc of Freedom and Prosperity’.
  • Now, these have become the mainstream ideas within Japan and willingly India has also accepted. At that time India’s position was that it needs an arc of peace and stability. But today with India joining the Quad, the Indo-Pacific idea and intensifying the India-Japan kind of strategic partnership in the fields of maritime, economic, technological, space, BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) systems, in all these four areas this has become a main consensus point.
  • Most of the policy as well as institutions that have come about in the India Japan interactions, for instance; India has the summit level meetings with only Russia and Japan for the last two decades and there is a lot of consensus that has been built up as part of the 2+2 dilogue process between the defence Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.
  • In the last two decades of discussions many issues have been thrashed out, but pace has to be increased, for instance; Ahmedabad to Mumbai high speed railway, it is taking slightly a slower pace, likewise the DMIC (Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor) which the Japanese want to pace up with nearly $ 90 billion of funding for this.


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