“No place for force in the Indo-Pacific”

Satoshi Suzuki has served as Japan’s Ambassador to India since October 2019. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, he joined the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 1984. Since then, Suzuki has served his country in various capacities both in Japan and abroad. He was also Deputy Minister of Foreign Policy in 2017.

In an interview with Ashok Tuteja, Suzuki spoke about takeaways from the recent India-Japan annual summit and the impact of the Ukraine crisis on the Indo-Pacific, among other issues.

Excerpts:

Q. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was in India in March for the 14th India-Japan Summit. What are the main takeaways from the summit?

A: We witnessed Prime Minister Kishida’s very successful official visit to India on March 19. This was Mr. Kishida’s first bilateral visit abroad since taking office last October, demonstrating the importance he attaches to the partnership with India. Furthermore, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and India, which makes the summit all the more special. The visit provided an excellent opportunity to review bilateral cooperation in broad areas, chart the future course of our special strategic and global partnership, and reaffirm our strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific without coercion. .

One of the key takeaways from the summit was the announcement by our two leaders to set a target of 5 trillion yen (3.4 trillion rupees) in public and private investment and financing from Japan to India over the next five years. Besides the joint statement signed by Mr. Kishida and Mr. Modi, which contains details on bilateral cooperation, the two sides also signed and announced seven JICA loan agreements and amendments to the JICA Implementation Agreement. Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and its Annex, as well as documents on issues of contemporary needs such as industrial competitiveness, clean energy, urban development, decentralized management of domestic wastewater and development connectivity and resilience in the North East.

As for political and security cooperation, the cooperation protocol in the field of cybersecurity was signed on this occasion to promote collaboration in areas such as information sharing, capacity building as well as research and development. . In addition, the Prime Ministers agreed to jointly address common economic security issues, including building safe and secure telecommunications networks and diversifying and improving supply chains. These results are good examples of the depth and comprehensiveness of our bilateral relations.

Q. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had great chemistry with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. What is the equation between Mr. Modi and Mr. Kishida?

A: Even before assuming his duties as Prime Minister, Mr. Kishida had already had many positive interactions with Prime Minister Modi in his various previous positions, including as Foreign Minister. After his inauguration as Prime Minister, he also had a brief chat with Mr Modi in Glasgow on the sidelines of COP26 last October, in addition to a few virtual calls.

The summit was a great opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest to the person and to foster personal connections. Additionally, the two leaders had a one-on-one dinner at Hyderabad House. They built a relationship through cordial talks that lasted well beyond the scheduled time, which both leaders greatly appreciated.

Q. What do you think of the Ukrainian crisis and India’s response?

A: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shakes the foundations of the international order against which a firm stand is necessary. Japan is also deeply concerned about the reference to the possible use of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, we are deeply shocked by the killing of innocent civilians as a result of acts by Russian forces and vehemently condemn the violation of international humanitarian law.

Japan is in constant talks with India on this important issue. During the recent summit, the two leaders stressed the need for all countries to seek peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law without resorting to the threat or use of force or any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo. . They also expressed their grave concern over the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and underlined that the world order was built on the United Nations Charter, international law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. The two leaders reiterated their call for an immediate cessation of violence and noted that there was no other option than the path of dialogue and diplomacy for the resolution of the conflict.

Q. What is the impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the Indo-Pacific and its implication for Quad cooperation?

A: As the world witnesses the Ukraine crisis, it has never been clearer that any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force, like this time, should not be tolerated in the Indo-Pacific region. This view was shared by Quad leaders during their March 3 virtual meeting. Moreover, it is precisely because of this situation that it is essential to promote efforts towards the realization of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

With this sense of mission, Japan will host a Quad Summit in Tokyo in the coming months. The leaders of four countries are expected to review their positive initiatives, including those in the areas of vaccines, climate change, critical and emerging technologies as well as many others to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. of the.

Q. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in India recently to mend fences with India amid the eastern Ladakh military stalemate. What is Japan’s view on China’s activities in the neighborhood?

A: As I mentioned, our principled view is that we will not accept any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo and this view prevails all over the world. In Japan’s immediate vicinity in the East China Sea, Chinese Coast Guard vessels continue to intrude into Japan’s territorial sea around the Senkaku Islands, and the Chinese military has expanded and intensified its military activities in the sea ​​and air space. Issues concerning the South China Sea are also important for Japan, as they are crucial for the peace and stability of the region. It is also because Japan depends on shipping for most of its resources and energy. Not only on the seas but all over the world, together with India, Japan is committed to promoting a free, open and rules-based order, respecting international law and not letting coercion bring it down.

Q. In response to the increasingly fluid situation in the Indo-Pacific, how do you think India and Japan can deepen their defense and security cooperation?

A: Defense and security cooperation between our two countries has blossomed in recent years as our strategic convergence grows. The 2+2 meeting of our Foreign and Defense Ministers, the first of which took place in November 2019, demonstrates deep and far-reaching cooperation in this area. One such example is various bilateral and multilateral exercises that India and Japan have conducted, including the “Dharma Guardian”, “Shinyu Maitri” and “Malabar”. Another important recent development is the operationalization of the Reciprocal Supply and Services Agreement (RPSS). During Dharma Guardian 2021 in March this year, the Indian Navy, as part of the logistics agreement for the RPSS, provided fuel to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force planes that were carrying the Japan Ground contingent Self-Defense Force, thus demonstrating the strengthened joint relations. between our two countries. Japan and India are also exploring opportunities for collaboration in defense equipment and technology. In order to further advance comprehensive security cooperation, we are working to organize the second 2+2 meeting as soon as possible.

Q. Please also elaborate on the infrastructure projects undertaken by Japan in the North Eastern states of India?

A: Japan is implementing a wide range of projects to help improve connectivity and resilience in the Northeast region, not only in the development of hard infrastructure, such as improving connectivity of the road network, electricity, water supply and waste water, but also in sensitive areas. of cooperation such as interpersonal exchanges and the teaching of the Japanese language. Japan also implements social and environmental sustainability projects, such as forest management and community empowerment. As a good example of our cooperation in the field of physical infrastructure, Japan’s support for the construction of the Dhubri-Phulbari Bridge will completely change the lives of people in the Northeast. It will be the longest river bridge in India and is expected to reduce travel time across the river from over 8 hours to less than 30 minutes. Additionally, the bridge will create a corridor stretching from Bhutan, through Assam and Meghalaya, to Bangladesh.

Japan pays particular attention to cooperation in the NER, as the region is located where Japan’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and India’s “Act East policy” converge and the region is important in terms of connectivity with South Asia and Southeast Asia. and BIMSTEC countries.

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