chapter  5
26 Pages

Northeast Asia: India’s peer relationship with Japan

Japan holds the key to any major expansion of India’s strategic influence in the Asia Pacific. Until recently, the two countries all but ignored each other, reflecting an almost complete separation of political and strategic dynamics between South and North East Asia. Now, both are being drawn closer by a shared concern over China. How far can this relationship develop and how much will Japan be willing to recognise a role for India in the western Pacific?

The strategic history of Asia has often been more one of disjunction than of regional interaction, particularly so between South Asia and maritime Northeast Asia. Although this strategic separation is breaking down it is likely to continue to severely constrain India’s strategic role in the Asia Pacific for the foreseeable future. There are several reasons behind this disjunction. First, Northeast Asians have traditionally viewed ‘Asia’ foremost in terms of East Asia. While Indians have often considered themselves part of a broader Asia, they have nevertheless felt a strong cultural divide between themselves and the Sinic world which predominates in East Asia. A second major factor is China. Historically, the size and power of China has served to strategically divide Asia rather than unite it, although this perception is now changing. Third is the Cold War, in which India adopted ideological and strategic alignments very different from Japan and most other states in East Asia. As a result of these factors, during most of the second half of the twentieth century there was little political or economic interaction between South Asia and maritime Northeast Asia: each region was largely preoccupied with local conflicts, and China was perceived in each region in very different terms.