NEW DELHI: Japan is a very “under-rated low-key player” but it’s the world’s third biggest economy and its self-defence forces are very “sophisticated”, Dr Rupakjyoti Borah, Associate Professor, Sharda University tells StratNews Global Associate Editor, Amitabh P. Revi, Japan is “too important to be missed” and “it’s high time”, America, Japan and India along with Australia come together against a belligerent China. Japan, he points out, has an “important stake in maintaining sea lanes from the Indo-Pacific to Australia and the Persian Gulf are open and safe.” On Australia being possibly invited to the Malabar naval exercises, the former senior fellow at Tokyo’s Japan Forum for Strategic Studies insists “it’s an idea whose time has come”. Dr Borah is currently finalising his third book, ‘The Strategic Relations between India, Japan, the U.S: When Three Is Not A Crowd.’
On defence cooperation, the author of the book, ‘The Elephant and the Samurai: Why Japan Can Trust India’ says Tokyo has made a “leap of faith” from just coast guard exercises in 2012 to joint drills with all three armed forces, 2+2 foreign and defence ministerial meetings in November 2019 and movement to finalising the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), for defence logistical support. India could also utilise Japan’s presence in Djibouti, the former visiting fellow to Cambridge University, National University of Singapore, Australian National University and Japan Institute of International Affairs says, pointing to third-country collaboration in the East container terminal in Colombo which “is a different mode of investment from that of China’s in Sri Lanka altogether.” He acknowledges though that “prohibitive costs, bureaucratic paperwork on both sides” and Japanese domestic compulsions have affected potential defence deals. Dr Borah also addresses the issue of the relatively low $18 billion trade between Japan and India and what New Delhi can do to it being a “blind spot beyond Myanmar” and make Tokyo “put its money where its mouth is.” The northeast of India, Dr Borah says should be focussed on as a “bridge” between the two countries. He concludes by pointing out that India should take advantage of the $2.2 billion package Japan has earmarked to help its manufacturers shift supply chains out of China by providing the right environment.