India- Japan relations

March 15, 2018


In theory, it’s hard to find two nations that make a better economic fit than fast-growing, populous India and rich, demographically challenged Japan. India needs technical expertise and investments to develop its infrastructure, while Japan has capital to spare and know-how to share. 


They have a common strategic objective in countering Chinese hegemony in Asia, a goal that can be best met in collaboration. And they enjoy a rare historic amity, being geographically and culturally close, but not too close and, therefore, free of contentious issues such as border disputes.


Historical legacy:

  • The people of India and Japan have engaged in cultural exchanges, primarily as a result of Buddhism, which spread indirectly from India to Japan, via China and Korea.

  • Though Hinduism is a little-practiced religion in Japan, it has still had a significant, but indirect role in the formation of Japanese culture. 

    • One indication of this is the Japanese "Seven Gods of Fortune", of which four originated as Hindu deities: Benzaitensama (Sarasvati), Bishamon (Vaiśravaṇa or Kubera), Daikokuten (Mahākāla/Shiva), and Kichijōten (Lakshmi)

  • The people of India and Japan are guided by common cultural traditions including the heritage of Buddhism, and share a strong commitment to the ideals of democracy, tolerance, pluralism and open societies.

  • India and Japan, two of the largest and oldest democracies in Asia, having a high degree of congruence of political, economic and strategic interests, view each other as partners that have responsibility for, and are capable of, responding to global and regional challenges. 

A timeline of relations:

  • In the 16th century, Japan established political contact with Portuguese colonies in India. The Japanese initially assumed that the Portuguese were from India and that Christianity was a new "Indian faith". This was because of Indian city of Goa being a central base for the Portuguese East India Company and due to a significant portion of the crew on Portuguese ships being Indian Christians.

  • During the anti-Christian persecutions in 1596, many Japanese Christians fled to the Portuguese colony of Goa in India. By the early 17th century, there was a community of Japanese traders in Goa in addition to Japanese slaves brought by Portuguese ships from Japan.

  • Relations between the two nations have continued since then, but direct political exchange began only in the Meiji era (1868–1912), when Japan embarked on the process of modernisation.[17] Japan-India Association was founded in 1903.

  • The British occupiers of India and Japan were enemies during World War II, but political relations between the two nations have remained warm since India's independence.

  • Subhas Chandra Bose, who led the Azad Hind, a nationalist movement which aimed to end the British raj through military means, used Japanese sponsorship to form the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA). 


Relations after 1947:

  • After Indian independence, cultural exchange occurred during the mid-late 20th century through Asian cinema, with Indian cinema and Japanese cinema both experiencing a "golden age" during the 1950s and 1960s. Indian films by Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt were influential in Japan, while Japanese films by Akira Kurosawa, Yasujirō Ozu and Takashi Shimizu have likewise been influential in India.

  • 2000: In August 2000, the Japanese Prime Minister visited India and Japan and India agreed to establish "Japan-India Global Partnership in the 21st Century."

  • 2001: Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Japan in December, 2001, where both Prime Ministers issued "Japan-India Joint Declaration."

  • 2005: In April, 2005, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited India and signed Joint Statement "Japan-India Partnership in the New Asian Era: Strategic Orientation of Japan-India Global Partnership."

  • 2014: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Japan.

  • September 2017: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India.

Economic relations:

  • Japan is India’s fourth largest source of foreign direct investment.

  • India and Japan signed an agreement in December 2015 to build a bullet train line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad using Japan's Shinkansen technology.

  • The agreement between India and Japan and the Indian Bullet Train that will be built will cost Japan £12bn and a 0.1% interest rate loan. With the help from Japan, both countries hope this will strengthen their economic ties and suspend China's influence in Asia.

  • There are now 1,369 Japanese companies and over 4,800 Japanese corporate offices active in India. Japanese investment in India totalled $4.7 billion in 2016-17, up from $2.6 billion the previous year. Japan currently ranks as the third largest investor in India.

  • A recent development that bodes well for the future is the collaboration between Japan’s Panasonic and India’s Tata Elxsi to develop smart solutions and products for Panasonic customers in India and the neighbouring region. 

  • The other is the use of India as a manufacturing base for markets in Africa, a trend that is interesting to Japan’s business strategists. Existing examples include Hitachi Construction Machinery’s joint venture with Tata whose Kharagpur plant is a hub for exports to developing countries, as well as auto major Nissan, which exports the India-made Datsun ‘GO+’ to South Africa.

Military relations:

  • India and Japan have shared interests in maintaining the security of sea-lanes in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean, and in co-operation for fighting international crime, terrorism, piracy and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

  • In July 2014, the Indian Navy participated in Exercise Malabar with the Japanese and US navies, reflecting shared perspectives on Indo-Pacific maritime security.

Cultural relations:

  • The two nations announced 2007, the 50th anniversary year of Indo-Japan Cultural Agreement, as the Indo-Japan Friendship and Tourism-Promotion Year, holding cultural events in both the countries.

  • Tamil movies are very popular in Japan and Rajnikanth is one of the most popular Indian star in the country.

  • The Indian yogi and pacifist Dhalsim is one of the most popular characters in the Japanese video game series Street Fighter.


Nuclear deal 2016:

  • In November 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a three-day visit to Japan signed a deal with his counterpart Shinzo Abe on nuclear energy.

  • The deal took six years to negotiate, delayed in part by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

  • This is the first time that Japan signed such deal with a non-signatory of Non-Proliferation Treaty. 


  • In August 2017, the two countries announced the establishment of the Japan-India Coordination Forum (JICF) for Development of North-Eastern Region, described by India as "a coordination forum to identify priority development areas of cooperation for development" of northeast India.

  • The forum will focus on strategic projects aimed at improving connectivity, roads, electric infrastructure, food processing, disaster management, and promoting organic farming and tourism in northeast India.

  • The development of the northeast was a "priority" for India and its Act East Policy, and that Japan placed a "special emphasis on cooperation in North East for its geographical importance connecting India to South-East Asia and historical ties".

The friendship between Japan and India is often referred as "Japanese-Indian Brotherhood" (जापानी भारतीय भाईचारा) and the potential for future is immense.





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