Asia- Africa Growth Corridor: A Strategic Riposte of both India and Japan

Prof. Narottam Gaan
May 5, 2019

 

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The end of the cold war heralded a shift in strategic paradigm of American foreign policy. The fulcrum of its foreign policy was mostly communist centric. The disintegration of former Soviet Union took away the wind from the global strategic sail of America. With the challenge from former Soviet Union reduced to mere history, America perceived the emergence of China in Asia as a great power in ascendancy, in view of its galloping economic growth and military buildup. The sudden change in the global configuration of power with Russia, engaged with its domestic political and economic reconstruction, Obama administration in the White house changed the marionette of American global strategic outlook towards Asia christening it as “Pivot to Aisa” to contain the ambitious China in its own backyard. Subsequent events show China’s ambitious strategic moves such as its unilateral claim of suzerainty over South China Sea to the great discomfiture and protestations of nations of Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Belt and Road Forum (BRF), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor etc. The events impinged on America to make its military stay in this region an almost certainty. America has build coalition or alliance of nations such as India, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand and other South East Asian nations to hamstring Chinese global design. Trans-Pacific Agreement (TPA) was signed by America with IOR countries as a two pronged approach- one is to keep together with it to counter Chinese moves and the other is to strengthen IOR countries economically and have its influence on them. America followed a strategy of coupling economic, trade and commercial transactions with retention of its influence on IOR countries. With Trump in the White House in America reneged on its commitment to TPA and decided to withdraw from it enjoining upon these states to stand on their own.

A Strategic Riposte

Taking a leaf from the doctrine of neo-realism, the concept of self-help and self assertiveness, Prime Minister Modi and Japan’s counterpart Abe designeda new strategic vision of forming Asia- Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) in 2016 in Tokyo. After one year in 2017, AAGC was given a concrete shape in the 52nd Annual meeting of the African Development Bank (ADB) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat with a view of promoting industrial corridors and industrial networks in Asia and Africa. In the absence of American economic heavyweight in form of economic packages and concessions to IOR; increasing economic involvement of Chinese in trade, commerce and infrastructural development; and Japan’s earlier lukewarm investment in Africa, the collaboration between India and Japan in Asia and Africa is a strategic riposte to Chinese growing engagement. This can most specifically be seen in the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) which was held in Beijing on 14-15th, May 2017.

Chinese Strategic Pincer Movement

China’s Belt and Road Forum (BRF), Pak-China Economic Corridor, suzerainty over South China sea and spiraling Chinese involvement in Africa should be looked not only as economic centric but also as invidious military-strategic and security concerns. Emergence of India and Japan as two great powers in Asia and US as their major partner can be a formidable challenge to Chinese ascendancy to the global center stage in competition with America and Russia. China’s BRF and its engagement in Africa can be a pincer that will keep both Japan and India within its grip without allowing them the strategic space to maneuver.

Rendezvous of Japan and India’s Strategic Interests

Sensing the strategic moves of China, Japan earlier evinced greater interest in investments in Africa, has reduced its Official Developmental Assistance (ODA) in the face of rapidly expansion of Chinese investment in Africa. In the changing global landscape of strategic outlook, Japan renewed its earlier policy of investment with Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure Initiative (EPQI) which focuses on quality infrastructural development in comparison to Chinese substandard infrastructural investment.

Marking a perceptible divagation from the earlier policy of limiting investment to some selected areas, the present government under Modi envisaged a new development partnership, a model of demand driven cooperation without attachment of any conditions spreading to the entire continent of Africa. The earlier hierarchical policy of donor-recipient relationship was replaced by a continental policy of equal partnership with all resonating Modi’s much pronounced “development is only with friendship with all”.

In the strategic front when the global community is stressing on restructuring and democratization of United Nations, Japan and India are keenly seeking permanent seat in the Security Council with veto power. This necessitates the overwhelming support of the African countries. India is also in need of support from the African countries in multilateral forums such as forums related to climate change, and trade regimes including UN reform. Courting equal partnership with African countries in a liberal and democratic scenario such as involvement of India and Africa in IOR as a part of its maritime security strategy can be a rebuff to Chinese growing dominance in military terms in this region. India and Japan’s engagement goes beyond development and equal partnership in Africa to also involve security as a significant issue. Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) and its involvement in United Nations Peace Keeping Operations (UNPKO) will strengthen the collaboration with African countries to counter piracy in South Sudan.

Meant for Each Other

Echoing the Vedic message of “Basudheiva kutumbakam” (The world is like one family), India under Modi believes in formation of a network of interconnectedness and interrelationship with all the nations and people around the world with the bond of friendship, equal partnership and peaceful coexistence and collaboration. India never believes in dominance and strongly abhors the return of the cold war into the present era. In consonance with this Vedic spirit, India believes in a multilateral world where not dominance but dialogue among all is the salient feature. To rebuild a new world on these ideas, India views Japan as a special global partner as both share a common cultural and civilizational heritage. With Japan’s support and support from India’s leadership in the global arena, India and Japan can be a harbinger of peace and security in the world for rebuilding a new world.

Japan, In its Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure Initiative(EPQI) views India as a key player in Japan’s regional and global outreach. Japan believes, its strategic sheen can be shined by the light of India’s presence, collaboration and partnership.

Conclusion

Though the global politics has been signaling a transformation and traverse towards a new world based on collaboration, cooperation and partnership with all nations and people, and in dialogue with all cultures and civilizations, the underpinnings of realism and neo-realism are largely imprinted in the reformulation of the national interests of nations. When new power equations and configuration of powers are taking place in subservience to the Westphalia doctrine of territorial sovereignty, the collaboration between Japan and India on many issues in global politics, more particularly in Asia-Africa, will speak many things in coming decades while weaving a common strategic outlook at present.

*** The author is Head of Department of Political Science and Human Rights at Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (Central University), Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India ***