India–Japan Relations IAS Target

India-Japan Relations

22 Jul 2020

Category : International Relations

Topic: India-Japan Relations

India–Japan relations have traditionally been strong. The people of India and Japan have engaged in cultural exchanges, primarily as a result of Buddhism, which spread indirectly from India to Japan, via China and Korea. The people of India and Japan are guided by common cultural traditions including the heritage of Buddhism and share a strong commitment to the ideals of democracy, tolerance, pluralism and open societies. India and Japan, two of the largest and oldest democracies in Asia, having a high degree of congruence of political, economic and strategic interests, view each other as partners that have responsibility for, and are capable of, responding to global and regional challenges. India is the largest recipient of Japanese official development assistance (ODA). In 2013, bilateral trade between India and Japan stood at US$16.31 billion and is expected to reach US$50 billion by fiscal year 2019–20.
The British occupiers of India and Japan were enemies during World War II, but political relations between the two nations have remained warm since India's independence. Japanese companies, have manufacturing facilities in India. With the growth of the Indian economy, India is a big market for Japanese firms. The most prominent Japanese company to have an investment in India is automobiles multinational Suzuki, which is in partnership with Indian automobiles company Maruti Suzuki, the largest car manufacturer in the Indian market, and a subsidiary of the Japanese company.
Japan has helped finance many infrastructure projects in India, most notably the Delhi Metro system. In 2007, the Japanese Self-defence Forces and the Indian Navy took part in a joint naval exercise Malabar 2007 in the Indian Ocean, which also involved the naval forces of Australia, Singapore and the United States. 2007 was declared "India-Japan Friendship Year." The friendship between Japan and India is often referred as "Japanese-Indian Brotherhood", India-Japan share Special relationship over the years

India-Japan relationship in History

Though Hinduism is a little-practiced religion in Japan, it has still had a significant, but indirect role in the formation of Japanese culture. This is mostly because many Buddhist beliefs and traditions spread to Japan from China via Korean peninsula in the 6th Century.

One indication of this is the Japanese "Seven Gods of Fortune", of which four originated as Hindu deities:
Indian God in Japan Indian God
Benzaitensama Sarasvati
Bishamon Vaisravaṇa or Kubera
Daikokuten Mahakal/Shiva
Kichijoten Lakshmi

Other examples of Hindu influence on Japan include the belief of "six schools" or "six doctrines" as well as use of Yoga and pagodas. Many of the facets of Hindu culture which have influenced Japan have also influenced Chinese culture. People have written books on the worship of Hindu gods in Japan. Even today, it is claimed Japan encourages a deeper study of Hindu gods.

Indian's Independence Movement

Japan's emergence as a power in the early 20th century was positively viewed in India and symbolized what was seen as the beginning of an Asian resurgence. Historical documents show a friendship between Japanese thinker Okakura Tenshin and Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore. Many Indian independence movement activists escaped from British rule and stayed in Japan. The leader of the Indian Independence Movement, Rash Behari Bose created India–Japan relations.

India-Japan relations during 2nd world war

Since India was under British rule when World War II broke out, it was deemed to have entered the war on the side of the Allies. Over 2 million Indians participated in the war; many served in combat against the Japanese who conquered Burma and reached the Indian border. Some 67,000 Indian soldiers were captured by the Japanese when Singapore surrendered in 1942, many of whom later became part of the Indian National Army (INA).

India-Japan relations after 2nd world war and Independence

Post the Second World War, India did not attend the San Francisco Conference, but decided to conclude a separate peace treaty with Japan in 1952 after its sovereignty was fully restored. While India and Japan enjoy good relationship after independence but relationship was not so warm because Japan was in western bloc led by USA and India follow independent policy and member of NAM. Japan has been extending bilateral loan and grant assistance to India since 1958, and is the largest bilateral donor for India. A test of the reliability of Japan as a friend was witnessed in 1991, when Japan was among the few countries that unconditionally bailed India out of the balance of payment crisis.

Political Relations

In the first decade after diplomatic ties were established, several high level exchanges took place, including Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi’s visit to India in 1957, Prime Minister Nehru’s return visit to Tokyo the same year (with a gift of two elephants) and President Rajendra Prasad’s visit in 1958. Shri P. V. Narasimha Rao (1992) floated Look-East policy for strengthening relationship with countries of East Asia and South-east Asia, in which Japan was also important player. since then relationship grown in all sphere and we enjoy global and strategic partnership with Japan with the provision of annual Prime Ministerial Summits. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi visited Japan from 30 August – September 3,2014 for the 9th Annual Summit Meeting with PM Abe. During the visit, the two sides upgraded the relationship to a ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’.

India-Japan: Economic and Commercial Cooperation

The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that came into force in August 2011 is the most comprehensive of all such agreements concluded by India.
CEPA cover trade in:
  • Goods and Services,
  • Movement of Natural Persons,
  • Investments & Intellectual Property Rights,
  • Custom Procedures and other trade related issues.
Cumulatively, since 2000 the investments to India have been around US$ 27.28billion (Japan ranks third now among the major investors), which is also highest as a single country investment source. Economic relations between India and Japan have vast potential for growth, given the complementarities that exist between the two Asian economies. Japan's interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons including India's large and growing market and its resources, especially the human resources.

Bilateral trade 15.71 billion $ 2017-18
Export from Japan to India 10.97 billion $
Import from Japan to India 4.74 billion $

Both sides also agreed to establish the ‘India-Japan Investment Promotion Partnership’. PM Abe pledged to realize public and private investments worth JPY 3.5 trillion and doubling of the number of Japanese companies in India over the next five years. A dedicated task force having representatives of both countries for phased transfer of technology for success of Make in India. In a special gesture, India also announced “visa on arrival” scheme for all Japanese travelers, including for business purposes, from March 1, 2016. Partnership agreement between the City of Varanasi and the city of Kyoto signed in August 2014.

India-Japan development cooperation

Both countries also signed agreements/MoUs/ MoCs were signed/exchanged in a wide range of areas, including cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, manufacturing skill transfer programme, outer space, marine, earth and atmospheric science and technology, agriculture and food related industry, transport and urban development, textiles, cultural exchange and sports. India and Japan also concluded MoUs or agreements in panoply of areas ranging from connectivity, investments, civil aviation, Japanese language training, disaster risk management, science and technology, and sports. Japan’s also announced for joining the International Solar Alliance (ISA)

India-Japan strategic partnership

  • Currency Swap Agreement
  • India-Japan Digital Partnership
  • Implementing Arrangement for deeper cooperation between Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force and Indian Navy.
  • Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy
  • Japan and India are part of many international forum like G-20, G-4, East-asia summit, QUAD etc
  • Japan supported India's bid on other international plateforms like NSG, UNSC reforms, terrorism convention etc

Institutional Dialogue Mechanisms b/w India and Japan

The two countries have several institutional dialogue mechanisms, which are held regularly, at senior official and functional levels to exchange views on bilateral issues as well as regional and international cooperation.

Foreign Office Consultation
At the level of Foreign Secretary / Vice Foreign Minister 2+2 Dialogue
At the level of Foreign and Defense Secretaries. Similarly, there are dialogue mechanisms in diverse fields such as economy, commercial, financial services, health, road transport, shipping, education etc. to name a few sectors.

Connectivity Projects

  • The Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail
    (The Government of Japan has also offered 20 seats per year for master degree course from the universities of Japan, for serving Indian Railways officials. A new High-Speed Rail Training Institute is being built at the National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR) campus in Vadodara)
  • The Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC),
  • The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor with twelve new industrial townships,
  • The Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC)
    All mega projects on the anvil which will transform India in the next decade. Japan also support India in Modernisation and expansion of conventional railway system in India.

India-Japan for nurturing start-up

India-Japan Digital Partnership (IJDP) and Start-up Hub
  • A “India-Japan Digital Partnership” (I-JDP) was launched in October 2018, focusing more on “Digital ICT Technologies”. This also incorporates setting up “Start-up Hub” between India and Japan.
  • Startup-India (under Invest India) and Japan Innovation Network (JIN) have signed a MoU on innovation collaboration with a focus on SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) connecting two start-up eco-systems in June 2018. Invest India also launched online portal for the Start-up hub.

Cooperation in Skill Development

India is huge youth population and japan has expertise in providing quality skill and training. And Japan also promise to promise to provide training to Indian in various field.
  • India and Japan signed a MoC on TITP (Technical Intern Training Program) in October 2017 with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) as the implementing body for TITP.
  • Japan India Institutes of Manufacturing’ (JIM) to train future shop floor leaders in Japanese style manufacturing processes and 2 Japanese Endowed Courses’ (JEC) in selected engineering colleges for training middle management engineers in the manufacturing sector, have started in India in 2017-2018.

Science & Technology and Cultural Cooperation

India-Japan S&T cooperation was formalized through an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in 1985. Bilateral S&T cooperation began in 1993 with the establishment of the India-Japan Science Council (IJSC).

Both countries signed several Institutional Agreements/ MoUs in the areas of:

  • Life Sciences,
  • Material Sciences,
  • High Energy physics,
  • Information and Communication Technology,
  • Biotechnology,
  • Healthcare,
  • Methane Hydrate,
  • Robotics,
  • Alternative Sources of Energy,
  • Earth Sciences,
  • Peaceful uses of Outer Space have been signed between the Science Agencies of both countries. MOU between JAXA and ISRO concerning Cooperation in the Field of Outer Space

Recent initiatives include establishment of three India-Japan Joint Laboratories in the area of Information and Communication Technology (“Internet of Thing, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics”).
  • Initiation of DST-JSPS Fellowship Programme for the young researchers;
  • Setting up the DBT-AIST Advanced International Laboratory for Advanced Biomedicine (DAILAB)
  • Six SISTERs (Satellite International Institutes for Special Training Education and Research) for drug development and therapeutic diseases in India.

Cultural relations b/w India and Japan

  • A cultural agreement was signed between India and Japan on 29 October 1956.
  • In 1951, India established a scholarship system for young Japanese scholars to study in India.
  • The Vivekananda Cultural Centre in Tokyo offers classes on Yoga, Tabla, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Sambalpuri, Bollywood dances and Hindi and Bengali languages.
  • In September 2017, India and Japan signed a MoC for the expansion of Japanese Language Education in India.

Indian Diaspora and People to People Contact

The arrival of Indians in Japan for business and commercial interests began in the 1870s. More Indians entered Japan during World War I when Japanese products were sought to fill gaps in demand that war-torn Europe could not meet. The old Indian community in Japan focused on trading in textiles, commodities and electronics. With close linkages to India as well as connections in Hong Kong and Shanghai, they became major players in trading activities across Asia. A newer segment of the community is engaged in gems and jewelry.
In recent years, there has been a change in the composition of the Indian community with the arrival of a large number of professionals, including IT professionals and engineers working for Indian and Japanese firms as well as professionals in management, finance, education, and S&T research. The Nishikasai area in Tokyo is emerging as a “mini-India”. Their growing numbers had prompted the opening of three Indian schools in Tokyo and Yokohama. Around 35000 Indians live in Japan.

Twinning Program

There are growing links between Indian states and Japanese prefectures. As of now 7 Indian states and 3 sister cities/regions have partnered with Japanese prefectures and cities through MoUs to cooperate under diverse sectors.

Challenges between India and Japan

  • Today, India-Japan trade languishes at around $15 billion, fraction of trade b/w Japan-China trade that amount more than $300 billion.
  • Both countries have border and hegemonic issues with China. So common enemy of both cause India-Japan relationship to flourish rather than growing comprehensively.
  • Security aspect where Indo-Japanese relationship has remained below potential, and that Japan less importance on this front to India
  • Japan, while highlighting its own security concerns in the East and South China Seas, is seen to play down the multiple threats that India faces from China.
  • Japan and India not on the same page in WTO, RCEP and both countries interests are contrast to each other

Possible opportunities of cooperation b/w India and japan

  • A technologically deficient India has much to gain from a relationship with a country like Japan
  • Steps to increase bilateral trade. India should focus reforms which attract FDI from Japan. At the same time focusing on reduce trade deficit of India.
  • India took many steps to improve business environment and improve ranking in Ease of doing business report tell success story but more need to be done on land reform, labour reform and other regulatory aspects
  • The vision of QUAD should be clear not focusing to counter China only
  • There is scope in many areas for the improving trade and fourth industrial revolution can be a landmark in this regard.
  • Protectionism steps taken by western countries and Trump talk of trade war, but in this environment defying global protectionism trend, Japan has entered into agreements with EU, viz.
  • EU – Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EJEPA), and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This shows that in the growing era of protectionism Japan can be hope for India.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor is joint project of India and Japan against China's OBOR where both countries can help for achieiving SDG (2015-30) against china policy of debt-trap

Japan special place in India's foreign policy

  • Japan funds in the $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, which will see the setting up of new cities, industrial parks, ports and airports.
  • Japan also providing loan for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train service at very low cost.
  • Japan in under 3 for investment into India after Mauritius and Singapore.
  • In Dedicated Freight Corridor, a project of close to Rs 50,000 crore of which Japanese assistance has been of about Rs 38,000 crore.
  • Japan also pledged to support in the infrastructure development in North-East India
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India has been approved by the Cabinet. The collaboration with JAMSTEC will enhance capability in the field of atmospheric and climate research, ocean technology observation, hazard mitigation and provide much needed exposure and hands-on experience to Indian scientists. The advancement of academic research in the field of Earth Sciences for the benefit of the peace and human welfare is the prime objective of the MOU.

India-Japan: Defence relationship

  • Rising China in the Indo-Pacific is providing greater momentum to the India-Japan partnership.
  • Two-plus-two ministerial dialogue with the ministers of defence and foreign affairs of the two countries.
  • The sale of ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft to India.
  • Various aspects of Japan-India defence cooperation, including some joint exercises, defence equipment cooperation and some senior-level exchanges.
  • One area that requires immediate attention is strategic infrastructure, an area in which China has performed very well through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Giving fillip to this agenda, India and Japan announced the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)
  • India and Japan have a common interest in standing up to China, the specific disputes they have with China are bilateral and territorial. So expansionist China also reason for both countries to deepen their relationship.
  • India and Japan are members of QUAD

Defence Exercise b/w India and Japan

Army Dharma Guardian
Navy Malabar
Air force SHINYUU Maitri-18

India-Japan Civil Nuclear Deal

India has signed a historic civilian nuclear deal with Japan during the annual bilateral summit held recently in Tokyo.
Background The nuclear deal had been under negotiation for six years and was firmed up during the 2015 visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India when the principles of the agreement were frozen. Japan has 13 civil nuclear agreements with countries such as France and the U.S.
Key facts
  • India is the first non-member of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) to have signed such a deal with Japan.
  • The deal will help India access Japan’s nuclear market.
  • The deal includes the option that Japan can give a year’s notice before terminating it in case India breaks the nuclear testing moratorium that it had extended to the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008.
  • The deal is significant as it will help guarantee Japan’s continued support to India’s civil nuclear programme. The deal will bring Japan into the Indian nuclear market where France and Russia already have a strong presence.

  • The pact has been a source of contention because India is neither a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) nor of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
  • Opposition in Japan argued that the accord will damage the credibility of the NPT system and help India acquire nuclear technology and materials.
  • Japan-India civil nuclear deal has “nullification clause”.
  • Under this clause states that an Indian action in violation could be viewed as a serious departure from the prevailing situation and Japan might exercise its right to terminate nuclear cooperation.
  • Under the agreement, Japanese firms may supply nuclear materials, equipment and technologies to India for “peaceful and non-explosive purposes.”


  • Perceived as the league of like-minded democracies converging across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Quad, comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia, is symbiotically linked with the geopolitically ascending region, the Indo-Pacific.
  • The nations have committed to the idea of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, against China's unilateral action and expansionistic attitude and bullying small nations.
  • Japan is the most important partner in Indo-Pacific region. India also has its economic and energy interest in the region
  • Both countries have a rivalry with China and to counter its behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region the two countries formed the Quad.

Asia-Africa growth corridor

It is an attempt to create a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” by rediscovering ancient sea-routes and creating new sea corridors that will link the African continent with India and countries in South-Asia and South-East Asia. Japan’s contribution to the project will be its state-of-the-art technology and ability to build quality infrastructure, while India will bring in its expertise of working in Africa. Unlike China’s OBOR project Asia Africa Growth Corridor is conceived as a more open and inclusive programme that will be based on more consultations and keep people as the centre piece rather than just trade and economic ties.
How India and Japan can work together in Asia-africa growth corridor
  • Japan’s ageing population and India’s youthful dynamism
  • India’s rich natural and human resources and Japan’s advanced technology
  • India’s prowess in services and Japan’s excellence in manufacturing and surplus capital for investments

In a world where protectionism is becoming the new normal and tit-for-tat escalation is on the rise, Japan carves out a different path. As a reluctant globalist turned free trade champion, it is evident that Japan’s trade policy agenda will be an important tool to provide economic stability, growth and development in the foreseeable future. At a critical juncture when India is leaping to further greatness coinciding with the 75th anniversary of her Independence in 2022, Japan and India have so many potential areas to tap jointly.
Japan now follows eight other nations, including the US, France and Russia, in entering into a pact with India. It signals a wider acceptance of India’s status as a responsible actor. Overall, given the economic, nonproliferation, and regional power balance issues examined above, it is clear that full-fledged Japan-India civil nuclear cooperation is fundamentally a development to be welcomed. The question remains regarding whether India is likely to conduct further testing of nuclear weapons and how such tests would impact the bilateral agreement.