India became independent on August 15, 194 while China on April 1, 1950. Sino-Indian relations have since witnessed ups and downs from bonhomie, hindi-chinee bhai bhai (Indian-Chinese brotherhood) to being at daggers drawn. The last coffin in the relations is India’s cartographic aggression of amending maps to show Chinese territories as Indian.
Genesis of boundary dispute
McMahon Line: Upon independence, British legacy was a boundary dispute with China in the east in the form of McMahon Line “by treaty, custom or both’, exacerbated by India’s claim of disputed Kashmir state’s accession on October 26, 1947 (historian Alastair Lamb doubts authenticity of the `instrument of accession’).
India’s prime minister pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru was adamant that `India’s boundaries with China were clear and not a matter off further argument’(Notes, Memoranda and Agreement Signed between the Government of India and China, White Paper II, 1957 (new Delhi, Ministry of external Affairs, government of India, 1959), p. 49, 52-57). China shrugged off India’s point of view.
Both countries accused each other of border violations. India alleged People’s Liberation Army often trespassed Hoti, Damzen, Shipki Pass, Lapthal and Sangcha Malla by 1954. To create a nation-wide furor, Nehru told Indian parliament on August 25, 1959 that a Chinese detachment encroached into Indian Territory of Longiu in the Subansiri frontier Division at a place south of Migyitunand opened fire. Inlate1950s,
The 1962 War
Nehru and Zhou En Lai met in New Delhi from April 19 to 25 1960 to defuse the situation. But, it was in vain. The boundary dispute led to October 1962 War. In the short war, China occupied Aksai Chin, an uninhabited area of Ladakh in disputed Kashmir state, close to Azad Kashi area. After occupying Aksai Chin, China built its Highway219 to connect to its eastern province of Xinjiang.
Why Sino-Indian bonhomie ended
The 1962 War was upshot of Indi’s Forward Policy, propounded by Indian’s General BM Kaul, and reluctantly followed by Nehru. According to this policy, India provocatively deployed troops and established b order outposts along India-China boundary. To justify deployment, India alleged China had built seven roads inside the Indian territory of Ladakh, several roads being close to India’s border in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, six in Sikkim and Bhutan borders, and eight in the North East Frontier Agency. It was further alleged that China had established seven new posts in Ladakh, 14 in the Central Sector of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, 12 across Sikkim and Chumb Valley, and three across NEFA.
Contours of Disputed border
Sino-Indian boundary is divided into three sectors, eastern western and the middle. The border dispute relates only to the western and eastern sectors. Western sector covers 4000 kilometers. Half of this boundary separates disputed Kashmir from China’s north-western province, province Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region. In the undefined northern part of the frontier, India claims an area equivalent in size to Switzerland under China is actually part of Indian Territory of Ladakh. Besides, Indian claims a Chinese controlled territory that was debatably ceded to China by Pakistan in the northern sector. Furthermore, Shakasgam Valley was claimed by India but later happened to be shown as Chinese territory in China Pakistan Boundary Agreement of 1963.
China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh
China claims an Indian controlled area three times bigger, including most of Arunachal Pradesh. China never ratified McMahon Line.
Since inclusion of Tibet in China, Arunachal Pradesh is a buffer between Tibet an India’s north-eastern region. Arunachal Pradesh used to be defined by India as North Eastern Frontier Agency during 1980 to 1954. It was converted into a state in 1955.
The McMahon Line was drawn in 1914 under Simla Accord initiated by plenipotentiaries of the British India, Tibet, and pre-Communist China. The People’s Republic of China never ratified the agreement as it regarded Tibet as inalienable part of Chinese territory.
China disputes Indian claim that Tawang region is a part of Indian Territory, showed as such in McMahon Line. China says Taiwan had historically been a part of Tibet. By corollary it is a part of China.
The Sino-Indian dispute began from Taiwan region. In view of India’s hardline position, China began to claim whole state of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.
The myth of McMahon Line
Indian leader’s pugnacious statements about dual-front war have once again brought the McMahon Line into limelight. In its boundary dispute with China, India stresses sacrosanctity of the so-called McMahon Line. Let us look at this mythical Line. As in the Western Sector, the boundary between India and Tibet in the Eastern Sector from Bhutan to Burma also was not delimited. However, in 1873, the British drew an administrative line short of the Tibetan foothills, called the inner line. This line was not an international boundary. The British then drew another line, the’ Outer Line’. This line encompassed the external territorial frontier along the foothills, where they rose abruptly from plains for the steep climb to Tibetan plateau.
The British did not extend their authority to Assam Himalaya (North Eastern Frontier Agency), though they considered it strategically important. The McMahon Line followed the crest of Himalayas. But, it did not create a real water-shed boundary line. Circumscribing several rivers, including Brahmaputra (Tsangpo), the line moved along the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, getting broken along ridges, before entering the Brahmaputra Valley. Following signing of the Lhasa Convention as a result of Young Husband Mission in 1904, China realised precariousness of her suzerainty in Tibet. The British also felt that, after occupation of Lhasa by Manchu government in 1910, Chinese incursions into the tribal areas would pose threat to Assam (India). Lord Minto, the then Viceroy of India, therefore, proposed that the so-called Outer Line be extended to include all tribal areas except Tawang Tract. His, successor Lord Hardinge too favoured a strategic boundary between China plus Tibet and the tribal territory. While the British were brooding over various strategies, the Chinese took the initiative to establish themselves at Tsangpo Valley and headwaters of several rivers flowing into Assam.
The clever Englishman then noticed that confrontation with China would not serve her strategic interests. It would, be better to accept Tibet as a buffer state between China and colonial India. To achieve this objective, the Englishman organised a tripartite conference ‘of delegates from Tibet, China and British at Simla in 1913 under the Chairmanship of Henry McMahon, the Foreign Secretary to the Government of India. The aim of the conference was to draw ‘Inner’ and ‘Outer’ Zones in Tibet and deter the Chinese from administering the outer Tibet. Since, the Chinese delegate did not agree to this’ proposal, the conference broke down. In April 1914, McMahon somehow managed to get the draft treaty initialled by the Chinese delegate Ivan Chen. Later, McMahon and the Tibetan representative signed a joint declaration to the effect that the redrafted convention would be binding on both their governments. Maxwell in his book India’s China War further brings out that the map accompanying the draft convention showed the proposed division of Tibet into ‘Inner’ and ‘Outer’ Zones. The frontier of Tibet was marked in red colour and the proposed boundary between the two Tibetan Zones in blue colour. But the red line, which for greater part of its length showed the boundary between Tibet and China, curved round its southern extension to show what would have been boundary between India and Tibet.
In that sector it followed the alignment on which McMahon had agreed with the Tibetans. The proceedings of the agreement were made public in 1935 and the Survey of India began to mark the lines on their maps. After the Second World War, the McMahon Line got revived. Posts happened to be established in the two regions through routes, Walong and Dirang Dzong, which connected India with Tibet. Though India does not have a cogent case on the boundary issue, let us elucidate India’s point of view vis-à-vis China’s. India believes: (a) in the Eastern Sector, the McMahon Line is respected by China in the actual observance even though name of this line is anathema to the Chinese as a “hangover from the era of colonialism”. The two countries have divergent perceptions about two vital places.
These are Thag La (Chodong) and Migyuton (Long ju). ThagLa lies towards east of Bhutan and adjoins it. Long ju lies on another border route to the east of it. (b) In the Central Sector, that is, the alignment west of Nepal and reaching the Ladakh area of the IRK, the disputes concern the alignment of postures at Bara Roti (Wu Je). Here both sides have agreed before 1962 to respect the status quo and not to maintain any military presence. (c) It is in Ladakh, that the two sides have a major difference over the alignment. The main points of the Chinese view are: (a) there were only four points of dispute on the line of actual control. Regarding area in Ladakh under dispute, China had declared in 1963 that she would vacate the area in which India had set up 43 military posts prior-to the War of 1962. However, the border adjoining Baltistan and the Dardic States being under Pakistan’s control, India should first settle the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan. (b) The Aksai Chin road is vital to China, because it links Western Tibet to Sinkiang. This road was built by the Chinese from Shigatse in Tibet to Yechen in Sinkiang covers a distance of 2,000 miles at a height varying from 11,000 ft to 16,000 ft through Aksai Chin. In Aksai Chin the road passes through Shabidulla (once the outpost of the State of Jammu and Kashmir) and ends at Kokyar where Sinkiang begins (Even though the journey is difficult and arduous, the Chinese use it in preference to the Keriya route which passes East of Aksai Chin and also links Rhutog in western Tibet to Khotan in Sinkiang.
The Aksai Chin road, together with the highway from Kashgar to the Khunjerab Pass and onwards into Pakistan, forms part of the lines of communication in the two remote non-Han autonomous republics, namely Tibet and Sinkiang). (c) Part of India’s border with the Sinkiang autonomous region is under Pakistan’s control since 1947. So, again, India should first settle the dispute with Pakistan first (As per Pakistan’s and Azad Kashmir’s governments’ agreement, the Northern Areas are under administrative control of Pakistan. (Facsimile of the agreement is given in Yousaf Saraf‘s Kashmiris Fight for Freedom). The Northern Areas include Gilgit, Hunza, and Baltistan, except the frontier from Siachen Glacier in the West to the Karakoram Pass and Aksai Chin. (The areas are of importance to upper Ladakh as the two rivers, the Shyok and Mibra have their origin here in Rumo and Siachin Glaciers respectively. The two rivers join and then fall into the Indus River and serve the water needs of the whole area of Ladakh North of Indus.) (d) The provisional agreement between China and Pakistan in respect of the area west of Siachin Glacier in March 1963 gives the area of Shaksgam, which abuts on the Siachin to China. Some areas of Tapndumbash, Pamir and Raksam have been given by China to Pakistan.) (e) The 1963 agreement between Pak and China covers the border right up to the Karakoram Pass. These areas will need tripartite negotiations when political conditions become favourable. Conspicuously, China’s position regarding McMahon is tenable under international law. As for India, it maintains a variable position.
India’s equivocal China policy
The hallmark of India’s foreign policy towards her neighbours is equivocation. India’s China policy is ostensibly based on Panchsheel principles that are mutual respect, non-aggression, non-interference and peaceful existence. But, it is actually based on Chanakya’s mandala principle which states ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’.
The duality of India’s foreign policy is reflected in her relations with China. Atal Behari Vajpayee, then Indian prime minister, is extolled as `architect of India’s China policy’. During his visit (June 2003) to China, he admitted China’s suzerainty over Tibet. Even in a written statement before the Lok Sabha, he said, ‘On Tibet, I would like to assure this House that there is no change in our decades old policy. We have never doubted that the Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China”. But, in a subsequent press conference, he clarified that there was no cataclysmic change in the status quo and India’s views on disputes with China.
After the visit, the Indian delegation told newsmen that ‘the Chinese draft wanted India to use the word “inalienable” for both Tibet and Taiwan being part of its territory, but India did not go the whole hog with this phraseology. Frontline dated July 18, 2003 reported, ‘Indian officials were at pains to point out that they had used the term “People’s Republic of China”, and not China- the PRC being an entity that came into existence in 1949’.
“What was the status quo? Kiran Kumar Thaplyal and Shiva Nandan Misra in – Select Battles in Indian History: From Earliest Times to 2000 A.D, (Volume II, page 632), point out ‘India gave major concession to China by giving up military, communications, and postal rights. It also withdrew military detachments from Yatung and Gyantse. By this treaty (1954) India indirectly recognized Chinese sovereignty (as against suzerainty) over Tibet referring to the latter as Tibet region of China’.
India’s intrusions into the Chinese territory are a stark contradiction of her status quo concerning the Chinese territory adjoining her so-called state of ‘Arunachal Pradesh’. The after math of the India-China War, also, was acceptance of Chinese point of view by India.
The vicissitudes of India – China Relations (1950 – 1962) reflect that India unquestioningly accepted China’s control of Tibet. India’s policy on Tibet during the British rule was to secure Tibet as a buffer state between India and China (fear of red China and the then USSR).
Yet, to China’s chagrin, India spurred Tibetans to expe1 the Chinese mission from Lhasa in the middle of 1949. This event forced the Republic of China in January 1950 to claim Tibet as part of China. Induction of Chinese army into that region in October 1950 vapourised the Englishman-conceived buffer between India and China.
India made muffled protests and then, according to military historians, ‘meekly acquiesced’ to China’s forward policy. In November 1950, when EI Salvador requested that Tibetans plea be heard by the United Nation, the Indian delegate did not support it. United States and Britain could not exploit the issue as India, China’s immediate neighbour, did not vote for Salvadorian proposal.
India acquiesced to construction of strategic roads, linking China with Tibet, during Nehru’s ‘Hindi-Cheeni Bhai Bhai’ era. The Chinese had constructed two roads for taking heavy load across Tibet to areas close to the so-called McMahon line. Simultaneously they surveyed the entire Aksai Chin.
In 1956, China constructed a road through Aksai Chin area from hills near Yarkand to Gartok. Johnson line had earlier shown this area as part of Kashmir, but India made no protest. In 1950, the Chinese rushed supplies through this very route to Western Tibet.
In 1958, China claimed Aksai Chin” as part of China. Now, India woke up from Rip Von Winkle’s slumber and made a counter-claim to possession of Aksai Chin.
The Indian claim was untenable under principles of international law which favoured the party in prior occupation. India had no case as it had never surveyed the area or sent her patrols into that area. As such, India did not invoke jurisdiction of International Court of Justice.
However, as an afterthought to create corroborative evidence, India sent two Indian patrols to investigate the road in July 1958. One of the patrols sent in the Southern sector came back safe while the other patrol sent in the northern sector was captured by the Chinese.
When India protested to China, the Chinese retorted that they had captured the patrol as it had, in violation of the ‘Panchsheel’ principles, trespassed their territory. When India agitated the boundary issue, the Chinese replied that the boundary between the two countries had never been delimited. About the McMahon line, the Chinese maintained that the Simla convention was signed only by the British and the Tibetan representatives and the Chinese government had not ratified the treaty.
China never accepted the Indian point of view that ‘the McMahon line was legalised by Simla convention. As such, ‘the boundary claimed by India both in the Western and the Eastern Sectors was based on geography, tradition as well as specific international agreement between India and China’. India however stuck to her schizophrenic contention on the boundary line in the eastell1 sector and her claim ‘to territory between McMahon line and the foot-hills’. As for Aksai Chin, the Chinese maps published in 1958 showed this area as part of their territory.
In March 1959, Dalai Lama fled to India, and was given asylum along with his followers. The New China News Agency accused India of ‘expansionist aims in Tibet’. Indian border post of Assam Rifles at Longju was evicted by the Chinese by force. In the Western Sector, the Indian government decided to set up posts north east of Leh.
India sent patrols to Lanak Pass. One of these patrols of about seventy men encountered the Chinese at Kongka Pass. On 20 October the Chinese and Indian patrols clashed. The flight of the Dalai Lama into India in 1960 and clashes between rival patrols led to a border war between India and China in 1962.
Duplicity in India’s foreign policy is the greatest obstruction to peaceful resolution of her disputes with her neighbours. She never tangibly objected to Chinese control of Tibet or construction of communication links in the area. Never invoked intervention by UNO on this matter. Yet, she sheltered Dalai Lama, and sent patrols into Chinese territory, leading 0 India-China War. India considers Kashmir issue to be a bilateral dispute. Yet she does not like to sit eye-ball-to-eyeball with Pakistan on dialogue table. She boasts of friendly relations with Bangladesh. But, simultaneously accuses the latter of providing sanctuaries to Indian ‘terrorists’ and ‘insurgents’ in BD territory. About Bhutan, the Indian strategic analysts say, if India does not annex it, China will.
Inference: It is high time India said no to her whimsical behaviour. How long will India cling to the Barbie doll of animosity towards her neighbours? It is not Chanakya’s mandala principle, but reason, which India should follow.
Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question
The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.
Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.
However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.
Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.
During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.
Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.
Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.
If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.
From our partner RIAC
Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?
Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.
One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.
In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.
To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.
The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.
Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.
Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.
From our partner RIAC
Kishida and Japan-Indonesia Security Relations: The Prospects
In October, Japan had inaugurated Fumio Kishida as the new prime minister after winning the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election earlier. Surely this new statesmanship will consequently influence Tokyo’s trajectory in international and regional affairs, including Southeast Asia.
Not only that Japan has much intensive strategic cooperation with Southeast Asians for decades, but the region’s importance has also been increasing under Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). Southeast Asia, as a linchpin connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, is key to Japan’s geostrategic interest and vision.
Since the LDP presidential election debate, many have identified Kishida’s policy trajectory, including in the defense and security aspect. Being bold, Kishida reflected its hawkish stance on China, North Korea, and its commitment to strengthening its alliance with Washington. Furthermore, Kishida also aimed to advance the geostrategic and security initiatives with like-minded countries, especially under FOIP.
One of the like-minded countries for Japan is Indonesia, which is key Japan’s key partner in Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific.
This article maps the prospect of Japan’s security cooperation with Indonesia under the new prime minister. It argues that Prime Minister Kishida will continue to grow Japan’s security cooperation with Indonesia to adjust to the changing security environment in Indo-Pacific.
Japan – Indonesia Common Ground
In its basic principle, Japan and Indonesia shared the same values in democracy, rules-based order, and freedom of navigation in developing strategic cooperation, especially in the maritime security aspect.
In the geostrategic context, Japan and Indonesia also have significant similarities. Both countries are maritime countries and seeking to maximize their maritime power, as well as having formally synchronized geostrategic vision. While Japan has FOIP, Indonesia has Global Maritime Fulcrum (Poros Maritim Dunia) and leading initiator for ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).
In capitalizing on this shared vision, since Shinzo Abe and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo era, Japan and Indonesia have initiated much new security cooperation ranging from a high-level framework such as 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting in 2015 and 2021 to capacity building assistances and joint exercises. Furthermore, defense equipment transfers and joint technology development were also kicked off under Abe-Jokowi.
Kishida’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Profile
Compared to his predecessor, Suga Yoshihide, Prime Minister Kishida is more familiar with foreign affairs.
Personally, Kishida comes from a political family and spent several years living in the United States, reflecting his exposure to the international and political environment from an early age. This is significantly different from Suga, who grew up in a strawberry farmer family in a rural area in Akita Prefecture.
Politically, served as foreign minister under Shinzo Abe, Fumio Kishida is the longest-serving foreign minister in Japan’s history. This reflects his extensive understanding of current world affairs, compared to Suga who spent most of his prime political career in the domestic area such as being chief cabinet secretary and minister for internal affairs & communication.
Specifically, in defense and security posture, Prime Minister Kishida is willing to go beyond the status quo and not blocking any key options in order “to protect citizens”. During his policy speeches, he stated that he is not ruling out the option to build attacking capabilities due to the severe security environment surrounding Japan. Also, Kishida will not limit the defense budget under 1% of Japan’s gross domestic product if necessary.
Future Security Cooperation Trajectory with Indonesia
In short, policy continuity will play a huge role. One of the reasons why Kishida was able to win over more popular Kono was due to his moderate liberalness, demonstrating stability over change. This was more preferred by faction leaders in LDP.
In defense and foreign affairs, the continuity is boldly shown as despite appointing entirely new ministers in his cabinet, the only two ministers retained by Kishida are Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi. By this, it sent the narrative to the international community that there will not be significant turbulence caused by the changing leadership on Japan’s side.
As a background context on Indonesia, Fumio Kishida was the foreign minister from the Japanese side behind the 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting with Indonesia in 2015. Indonesia is the only country Japan has such a high-level security framework within Southeast Asia. This framework has led Japan and Indonesia to have a second edition of the 2+2 meeting in 2021, resulting in many practical cooperation deals in defense and security.
The other setting supporting Kishida’s policy continuity, especially in the context with Indonesia is that his foreign minister’s counterpart, Retno Marsudi, was still in charge from the last time Kishida left the foreign minister post in 2017, until today. Initiating the 2+2 framework together, it will be easier for Kishida to resume his relationship with both President Jokowi and Foreign Minister Retno in advancing its strategic cooperation with Indonesia, especially in the defense and security area.
The prospect of continuity is also reflected in Kishida’s commitment to continue the geostrategy relay of both his predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Suga Yoshihide, in achieving the FOIP vision.
Not only that Indonesia is having a similar vision of maritime prosperity and values with Japan, but Indonesia is also concerned with South China Sea dynamics as it started to threaten Indonesia’s remote islands, especially Natuna Islands. As this is a crucial cooperation opportunity, Kishida needs to continue assisting Indonesia to improve the security and prosperity of its remote islands. Thus, as Kishida also admitted that Indonesia is a major country in ASEAN, having favorable relations with Indonesia is important for Japan’s geostrategy.
To capitalize on the potentials with Indonesia, Kishida needs to support Indonesia’s strategic independence as well as to make the best of his position as one of the United States’ allies in Asia.
Despite his tougher stance on China and Taiwan issues, Kishida cannot fully project Japan’s rivalry with China to Indonesia. In addition to its strategic independence, Indonesia has and needs strong strategic relations with China to support many of the vital development projects surrounding Indonesia. This cannot be touched.
Also, Japan needs to bridge Indonesia, as well as other like-minded Southeast Asian countries, with the Quad and AUKUS proponents. Indonesia is formally stated that it is concerned about the ownership of nuclear-powered weapons by its neighboring countries. On the other side, Japan supported AUKUS and is a close ally of the U.S. Kishida’s ability to grab this opportunity will solidify Japan’s credibility and position among Southeast Asians.
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As part of a hiring initiative meant to attract new and diverse hires, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released a...
UNWTO and NEOM Launch ‘Tourism Experiences of the Future’ Challenge
The ‘Tourism Experiences of the Future’ challenge will source innovative ideas and disruptive business models related to the tourism needs...
Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question
The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the...
KP’s Education Reforms – Heading Towards Right Path
The first word revealed in the holy Quran was “Iqra” which means “to read”. This first verse of Holy Quran...
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