The Perception Gap In Japan-India Relations
Despite favorable geopolitical conditions such as concern over the nature of China’s rise, the relationship between India and Japan remains one of unfulfilled potential. The persistence of a “perception gap” between the two is preventing deeper engagement.
At first glance, India and Japan appear natural partners. Located on the periphery of Asia, both are examples of economic growth developing in line with democratic values. Furthermore, India and Japan share no territorial disputes or historical animosity. Since a nadir following India’s nuclear tests in 1998, relations have evolved apace yet certain sticking points are holding back its promise.
During the Cold War, India and Japan adopted contradictory political and – crucially for Japan as a trading-nation – economic systems. India’s economic liberalization in 1991 encouraged some commercial interest but this was low as Japan concentrated efforts on China and Southeast Asian markets. South Korean companies, in contrast, who are less risk-averse than Japanese, established an early presence in India and have since proven more aggressive and hence successful. Progress has been made in attracting Japanese interest, most recently evident in the predicted announcement in May 2012 that Japan will sell India advanced bullet-train technology, but despite momentum in this stream of diplomacy, elevating relations to the strategic level has proved problematic.