Forget bullet train, real thrust of India-Japan relationship is on defence, China

China, Sep 13: It is utterly misleading to assume that the sum and substance of Shinzo Abe’s visit to India for the 12th Indo-Japan Summit is a ‘bullet train’. Funded by soft loan from Japan, the multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project connecting Ahmedabad to Mumbai has expectedly garnered most of the spotlight. It is one of those high-on-hype schemes that attract easy media attention. That isn’t to say that India has no use for Japan’s shinkansen technology but we need not worry right now about a project that will fructify in 2022-3 (few will bet on the deadline, given India’s track record in implementing infrastructural projects). More pressing issues demand immediate attention. Abe’s visit to India for the 12th Indo-Japan annual summit comes at a particularly interesting time. Both nations are grappling with the trajectory of China’s rise and struggling to keep pace with a geopolitical order thrown into turmoil over doubts about America’s role as a global security guarantor. And as if the world needed a dash of more uncertainty, the tinpot from North Korea has decided that this is the right time to test a hydrogen bomb and threaten Donald Trump. These rapid variables have forced India and Japan to snuggle closer, and both nations appear on the cusp of a major upgradation in bilateral ties. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe wasn’t bluffing when he called both nations as “natural partners” in 2015. The intervening two years have only pushed the two democracies closer. China’s powerplay is, of course, a huge factor but it’s not the only issue that is driving India and Japan’s bonhomie. In terms of personal bond between Modi and Abe, their leadership style, synergy in domestic compulsions, commonality of national interests, shared strategic vision, greater military cooperation, expansion of development partnership, respect for rules-based international order in foreign policy and in the urge to provide an alternative development model for Asia and Africa (Asia Africa Growth Corridor), both countries have more in common with each other than with anyone else. (Agencies)