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Japan and India tag-team to contain China

Japan and India tag-team to contain China

Could an alliance between Japan and India counter more aggressive Chinese ambitions?

Japan and India don’t necessarily have the warmest relationship with their neighbor, China.

China hasn’t exactly lessened tensions by enforcing a no-fly zone over Japanese islands. And its rapidly expanding military efforts haven’t brought comfort to India’s government, especially with a long history of border tensions.

Since it has become apparent that the Obama Administration is unreliable in handling complex international policy dynamics, what can Japan and India do?

Go the tradition route: Form a strategic regional alliance.

China downplays Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s visit to India

China on Monday downplayed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India as a bilateral issue, even as the state-media termed the trip as a failure for not succeeding in pinning down Beijing.

“The visit you mentioned is an issue between India and Japan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing while responding to a question on Abe’s just-concluded visit to India. The visit evoked considerable media attention in view of the China-Japan diplomatic stand off over the disputed islands in East China Sea.

Now what could Japan, whose military efforts have been minimal in the post-WWII era, possibly do for India that would help address its island-based concerns?

The details are still being worked out, but it looks like India is about to become the first country since World War II to buy military aircraft from Japan. This is big news not just for Japan, which is experiencing a revival under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but also for India as it tries to keep pace with a rapidly developing Chinese military.

India intends to buy 15 ShinMaywa Industries amphibious aircraft at a cost of about $110 million each, Reuters reports. “The plane has a range of over 4,500 km (2,800 miles), which will give it reach far into Southeast Asia from the base where the aircraft are likely to be located, in the Andaman and Nicobar island chain that is near the western tip of Indonesia.” India established itself as the world’s biggest arms importer last year.

What does India get out of it? A little independence from the United States, for starters. One of the contributing factors in this new drive was our government’s handling of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who did not receive immunity from criminal prosecution on charges of visa fraud related to her foreign maid (something that only raises eyebrows when our politicos have maid issues). The Indians were outraged, to the point that bulldozers removed security barriers outside the US embassy in Delhi.

In The Hindu, Brahma Chellaney makes a strong case for India to be proactive in building up its own military:

The blossoming of ties with the United States has become an important diplomatic asset for India in recent years. Yet, the heady glow of the much-ballyhooed strategic partnership helped obscure prickly issues that arose much before the Devyani Khobragade episode. In truth, the Obama administration’s reluctance to accommodate Indian interests on major issues, coupled with the fundamental challenge of managing an asymmetrical relationship, has created fault lines that are testing the resilience of the partnership.

….Let’s be clear: India can never emerge as a major international power in a true sense, or acquire a military edge regionally, if it remains dependent on imports to meet even its basic defence needs. The capacity to defend oneself with one’s own resources is the first test a nation must pass on the way to becoming a great power.

Japan has just told China to cut its military spending. Could a well-armed India be its insurance policy against more aggressive Chinese ambitions?

That, my friends, is today’s “Smart Power.”

This week in Canto Talk, I had a chance to question military history expert Barry Jacobsen about the history of India, including these developments.

Current Politics Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Silvio Canto Jr on BlogTalkRadio

(Image Credit: BBC YouTube).


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am I remembering wrong? didn’t they have a “pact” between them in WW2 times for chinese aggression?

    GrumpyOne in reply to dmacleo. | February 2, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    India was a part of the British Empire during World War II so no, pact between India and Japan was unlikely…

      Chem_Geek in reply to GrumpyOne. | February 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Well, Bose led an insurrection against the British amongst the Indian Army who had been captured at Singapore; they were on the Japanese’ side afterwards.

      “Hatred of the Raj was such that, although many Indians despised the Japanese and resented Japanese treatment of sepoy prisoners in Burma, INA teams had surprising success encouraging desertions. Only when the war was clearly lost for Japan did the INA’s Bahadur (“Victorious”) commando/propaganda teams no longer find friendly audiences when they slipped into Indian positions to deliver their messages.”

Subotai Bahadur | February 2, 2014 at 8:49 pm

I will note two things where India and Japan have the ability to enhance each others security. India, which is an open nuclear power already, just decided a few weeks ago to go ahead with the production and deployment of the AGNI IV mobile IRBM.

January 29, 2014: On January 20th India successfully tested its new Agni IV IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile). This test was in combat configuration with the missile launched from its 8×8 transporter/launcher vehicle. The Agni IV is a 17 ton, two-stage, solid fuel missile that was first tested in 2011. It has a maximum range of 4,000 kilometers and a payload of one ton. During tests it has landed with a hundred meters of its aiming point, which is satisfactory for the nuclear weapon the missile is designed to deliver. Because of the success of this test the Agni IV is expected to enter mass production later in 2014.

Unlike the initial plan to use it to deter Pakistan, the changing geopolitical situation is such that now it is viewed in India as a deterrent against China, which it can reach.

India is also working on the AGNI V, which is an ICBM with a 10,000 km. range. This is a major step. The Japanese are capable of sending a 2200 lb. probe to a comet, landing, taking a sample, and returning the sample to earth using their own technology and boosters. They have done it [Hayabusa I space probe]. An ICBM is literal child’s play compared to that. You think a mutually advantageous partnership might be possible?

If South Korea [nuclear processing capabilities, and long range cruise missiles], Taiwan [long range cruise missiles, and I strongly suspect nuclear warheads, plus financing and basing rights], and the Philippines [basing rights] can get together with Japan and India; there is a rational basis for a defensive alliance that replaces the American strategic umbrella that no longer exists.

There are difficulties and roadblocks. Japan is just now overcoming the hatred engendered by WW-II. The US would rather abandon all these countries to China rather than let them defend themselves. China would defecate enough bricks to a Great Wall v2.0.

But the necessities of national survival do make strange bedfellows.

Subotai Bahadur

Japan & India might as well affirm a mutual defense alliance. God knows either one cannot count on the USA to help them out as long as we have a communist “community organizer” in charge. Or whatever he claims to be.



Japan is next to useless in any self-defense pact, especially against China. Much of Japans production base is located in China, and I sincerely doubt any Japanese look upon their Emperor as a ‘god’ like they did 70+ years ago. The Japanese population will not blindly follow their leaders. What military presence can Japan project against China? Not much. Technical knowledge? Japan has an abundance, but what is going to happen the first time a few cruise missiles strike Tokyo? My thoughts are instant peace talks – and since when are wars won with peace talks, excluding Vietnam of course.

India has their own problems; first with Islam – the Muslims that live within their borders and in Pakistan/Bangladesh, so they’re hobbled also.

China itself has problems with Islam, but like Russia, they’ve learned affective ways to make Muslims peaceful and complaint. The problem is that China has shown signs of being a very robust society, with wide shoulders. They could easily shrug off any military intervention by both Japan/India and still prosper. Their military infrastructure is growing monthly, much faster than India or Japan are able to do.

Other than saber rattling, I find it hard to believe that these three countries would come to blows with each other. I find it much easier to imagine a strategic attack upon the Middle East to grab the oil reserves of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel. In the years ahead hydrocarbons will become the prize, since our entire culture is dependent upon them. Spratly Islands & Senkaku Islands = small change. Why take a slice of bread when you need the loaf?

    Of course your comments might be ‘spot on’, but I believe you’ve misstated one issue,

    “The problem is that China has shown signs of being a very robust society, with wide shoulders.”

    and that slip brings your other points up for sharper analysis.

    Latest trends seem to show China peaked over a year or two ago, and while their run was spectacular the subsequent economic tumble has become time-consuming and distracting. What it all means I can’t say, but “robust” seems a trifle too optimistic given their current situation.

The US neglect of India – probably because it was considered in the British Sphere of Influence after WWII – led to closer ties between India and the Soviets, and contributed to the movement to form the “Nonaligned movement” as well. It was a grave mistake. Then when we opened relations with Red China as a counterpoint to the Soviet Union, it further complicated dealing with New Delhi. Our close relationship with Pakistan didn’t help, either.

But India is the perfect regional partner for the US and Japan. It is located between several potential problem nations, is a democracy, and a growing economy. If China’s attention must be partly diverted to the west, it slows down its ambitions in the Pacific and perhaps even the buildup of its Navy (since resources would be needed for the Indian Front).

There has been a growing alliance of most of the countries along the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and Sea of Japan to pool forces because of China. The Russians, always willing to help countries that aren’t China, have been selling fighter aircraft and other military hardware. There is also joint development of other defense postures among these China bordering nations.

Phillep Harding | February 3, 2014 at 3:22 pm

If those to become close allies, a militant resurgance in both countries could roll right over Red China, which has a serious problem with internal corruption.

The rest of the world barely existed to Imperial China, and has gained very little ground in the years since.

“Suboptimization” could have been coined solely to describe how the different segments of China’s economy and government operate.

Chinese forces are extraordinarily weak. They cannot project power outside of missiles because their army is primarily geared for fighting their own people. the reason why missiles are their choice of weapons against their enemies is because they are capable of being commanded for a very small contingent of loyal and highly trained officers. Because of that, they will never develop a long range capability of projecting power.

All you need to do to win is cut off their oil supplies and China will whither on the vine until it collapses

    David R. Graham in reply to imfine. | February 4, 2014 at 2:30 am

    Concur. Numbers never are the salient factor in war. Not even firepower. Supply always is. A competent commander does not attack an enemy’s troops, he attacks an enemy’s communications. China’s communications are lethally exposed — sea lanes. She knows that. And she — as everyone — knows a chump when she sees one. Thus her buffaloing of the effect corps of intellectual snobs in the White House.

David R. Graham | February 4, 2014 at 2:40 am

Important post. Thank you! USA is natural ally of India and, since WWII, Japan. Also Russia and, since before and after WWII, Germany. When foreign and domestic policy not based on fiction obtains, this will happen and China will be subdued by land invasion for liberation through her backdoor, Tibet. From India. USA will have to participate in that. In 20th Century, the only Army who was allowed to defeat PLA was India’s. MacArthur had PLA on the ropes but was pulled back from delivering KO for political reasons (denied collapsing bridges over the Yalu River by Dean Rusk at State Department; McCarthy was right overall). This will get fixed.

David R. Graham | February 4, 2014 at 2:44 am

J. K. Galbraith poisoned USA/India relations with his arrogance and physical stature. A very bad man throughout. In that regard JFK did USA a disservice. India successfully defended herself against the PLA even though at the time India was socialist. Contemplate the significance of that.

China is triggering what it most fears: The rearmament of Japan, this time with nuclear weapons.
China just can’t help themselves.