December 20, 2015

An Alignment in US Interests

IF there is any confirmation required that the Modi government is fully aligned with the United States’ strategy in Asia, it has come with the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India. During the visit, various agreements were signed which established close military and security ties with Japan. This is what the United States has wanted India to do as Japan and India are the two pillars in its Asia-Pacific strategy. It is under the urging of the United States that the trilateral security alliance was forged during Modi’s visit to Japan in September 2014. Two defence agreements were signed during Abe’s visit for joint defence production and to protect the sharing of military information between the two countries. Further, it was announced that Japan would become a regular member of the Malabar naval exercises. So far, these joint exercises were bilateral between India and the United States, with Japan only participating two or three times. Now it will become a trilateral naval exercise. It is on the basis of this close military and strategic relationship that Japan has agreed in principle for a nuclear cooperation agreement with India. This agreement is also important for the United States since the US companies like Westinghouse and General Electric can supply nuclear reactors to India only if the Japanese companies like Toshiba and Hitachi which have major stakes in the American companies have the clearance of the Japanese government to supply key equipment for these reactors. This nuclear cooperation agreement has to be approved by the Japanese parliament. There is strong opposition to such an agreement among the Japanese people. The Fukushima nuclear disaster which affected the lives of lakhs of people is still fresh in their minds. The Japanese people also are against nuclear weapons after what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They do not want nuclear cooperation to be advanced with countries which have nuclear weapons like India. But Shinzo Abe’s rightwing government is going for remilitarisation and is changing the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution which prohibits military action abroad. The sale of military equipment to India will signal the departure from the pacifist policy pursued so far. The Modi government is following the same policy of importing nuclear reactors on a large-scale like the previous Manmohan Singh government. The installation of American nuclear reactors in Mithi Virdi in Gujarat and in Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh will not only involve huge expense but they pose a risk to the environment and the safety of the people. The same applies to the Jaitapur project where French reactors are to be installed. Just as the Joint Vision Statement on Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean signed during President Obama’s visit to India in January this year, so also the India and Japan Vision Statement talks of a strategic and global partnership and mirrors the US interests in the India-Pacific region. This is the unfolding of the alignment with the United States, Japan and India in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan has been a traditional investor in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors in India. Expanding economic relations between Asia’s two major countries is therefore, natural and necessary. But this should not entail a strategic relationship which confines India to one bloc in Asia. The military-security alignment of the US, Japan and India is to serve the American plan to contain China. This cannot be in the interests of India. Japan, under Shinzo Abe, is adopting an ultra nationalist posture vis-à-vis China. It is short-sighted of the Modi government to fall in line with the American game. (December 16, 2015)