Against widely held perception about the possible China-Pakistan economic cooperation versus the Japan-India cooperation, not confrontation but convergence is on the way to transform the views among these nations to extend economic relationship in promoting prosperity and reducing poverty in Asia. It would be a civilisational intercourse among these ancient nations to act together and ease mutual differences. The feeling of “Asian Oneness” would totally convert the geo-strategic and geo-economics of the vast Asian continent.
Yes together India and Japan have been countering the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but it is not overwhelming effort for obvious reasons. In one or the other way, they have stakes in the BRI and they are not opposing with tooth and nail and they are keep opening their options to joining the project at some later stage appropriate to them.
Japan wants transparency, openness, international standards, and values to be observed strictly in the BRI and until now Japan has been over all satisfied with Chinese assurances and pledges. Japan would likely to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund (SRF) soon. India is one the pioneer members of AIIB and Chinese offer of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor to connect South Asia with China’s BRI, although the work on this corridor is slow but not impossible. India has to open its doors to connectivity, which it simply cannot slam the corridor against ground realities emerging in the world especially in Asia. It is likely that India would accommodate the BRI.
Together India and Japan have no concrete alternatives to offer the physical infrastructural development and road connectivity in Asia, Africa, and Europe and also there could not be alternative economic corridors as such. India and Japan are not themselves physically connected with each other. They have to connect the vast Asian continent before they are connected with each other. Asian infrastructure is lacking modern technology and innovation with the exception of few countries and trillion of dollars are required to boost the existing infrastructure.
If India lacks funds, Japan is highly indebted economy in the world and also in Asia, carrying a substantial debt roughly 233% of GDP on its shoulders. Japan currently has such a high level of debt that it is doubtful that the country can ever repay the full amount, hoping that it will not turn into an “Asian Greece”. The country is not in a position to take a bold step for offering infrastructural developments like that of China.
For Abenomics, BRI even opens a big road to development. There are many statements of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the subject and his intention of joining the BRI. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is an old project prior to the launched of the BRI and the US$ 10 billion Mumbai-Ahmadabad Shinkansen (Bullet train) project is later invention. These projects are not countering the BRI. India and Japan can collaborate but the BRI is too big to be countered by them and that is why they are keep opening the options to join the BRI at some point sooner or later.
Japan is not opposing the CPEC. Japanese officials appreciate the idea of CPEC to modernise Pakistan’s economy and to speedily develop industrial zones. Mitsubishi corporation has taken keen interest in CPEC projects. At Davos, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met with Japanese business delegations who were interested in to do more business and investment in Pakistan. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) were among them.
Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, during his January visit to Pakistan conveyed his country’s interest in the CPEC and when he visited Beijing recently and told Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, about Japan’s intention in joining the BRI. Not only the Pakistan-Japan ties are back on the track recently, the China-Japan ties have also been flourishing and there is optimism is on the BRI.
Japan is upset of Trump’s decision to withdraw from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) last January. The new option is the BRI. So more things were bridged and views were converged on BRI and CPEC between Pakistan, Japan, and China.
If India continues with its style of opposition of the CPEC, it would just be isolated in the region because except India, no other country is opposing the BRI or CPEC. Even the Indian Occupied Kashmir wants to be the part of the CPEC. Japan wants to revive ties with China and would soon become an integral part of the AIIB, SRF, BRI, and CPEC to alleviate Japanese economy and to rebuild strong ties with China and take part in infrastructural development in Asia.
The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Center at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.