The MoU/ Agreements signed between PMs Modi and Shinzo Abe on 14 Sep 2017 must not be seen in isolation of bilateralism. Bilateral agreements of this nature are result of deepening political convergence which sets the agenda for the diplomatic and military organs of the states. Invariably, such agreements between two democracies shape the geopolitical landscape in the region. India and Japan are the two strongest and most vibrant democracies in the larger Indo-Pacific. Citizens in the two countries have given very strong mandate to their respective Prime Ministers. Therefore, the convergence reflects shared sentiments of the people of two countries on issues which are of common national and international interest.

With the inward looking approach of the United States, relative rise of assertive and lawless China, arrogance of two client states of China, ie, North Korea and Pakistan, the world order is reshaping itself. Will it be Cold War type ‘two powers’ structure, or will it be multiple power structure based on regional interests? The window for this rearrangement could be short depending on how quickly China and other regional powers, eg, India, Japan, Australia etc rise and how chaotic will the interim period be. There would be unknown and turbulent events, eg, North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Middle East, et al, which could derail the restructuring, leaving the world more disorderly and chaotic.

Given this environment, does the MoU signed between India and Japan on 14 September 2017 address common interests which would ultimately shape the contours of a new security architecture in the IOR? The Defence and Security Cooperation is the most significant of all agreements. It will be handled at the highest level by way of Defence Ministerial dialogue, NSA’s dialogue, the “2+2” dialogue, the Defence Policy dialogue and Service to Service staff talks. This signifies the quicker decision making mechanism and implementation of steps which need to be taken to achieve overall objective. If the fine print is to be read, Maritime Security Cooperation in the form of more complex Malabar exercise and other bilateral exercises would intensify further. It will witness greater sharing of data for building robust regional Maritime Domain Awareness between the two navies which forms the bedrock of any Maritime Operation. It needs no revelation that the Chinese submarines are operating opaquely in SCS and IOR which can surprise the two countries. The presence of these submarines also causes anxiety amongst smaller littoral.This necessitates enlargement of the complexity of joint Anti Submarine Exercises and other Maritime manoeuvres necessary for regional security against conventional and non conventional threats. Chinese submarines have the tendency to surface in unexpected areas which could conflict with national interests of one, both or number of regional countries. The presence of Chinese combatants also emboldens the ill governed countries which are in possession of nuclear weapons. One bigger issue is falling of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terror groups operating in the region and which have linkages with states who have provided safe heavens and are sponsoring them. One certain conclusion is that there are no non-state actors; they are all sponsored by a state either covertly or overtly.

Exercises like Malabar and other bilaterals provide opportunity to improve interoperability amongst the participating navies who could pool their assets when required. Given the vast expanse of seas, it is impractical to assume that a single navy can ensure security to SLOCs and deter future conflicts. It is with this vision that the then CNO of US Navy, Admiral Mike Mullen, had spoken of 1000 ship World Navy. We are no where near.

The other Indo-Japanese agreements include strong commitment to value based partnership to achieve free, open and prosperous India-Pacific region where sovereignty and international laws are respected and differences are resolved through dialogue; all countries (big or small) enjoy freedom of navigation, overflights, sustainable development and a free, fair and open trade and investment system. Clearly, the agreement reflects true democratic values which has the ability to accommodate differing views, seeks to build consensus and implements inclusive developmental projects with the intention of prosperity and not long term economic colonisation.

The agreement is multifaceted. The capability development is aimed at peace time Human Assistance and Disaster Relief, Counter Terrorism, Peacekeeping, Maritime piracy and terrorism etc. It also covers cooperation in Science and Technology, Cyber etc.Very important ingredient to achieve these objectives would be infrastructure development of which High Speed Railway, Asia Africa Connectivity and other development projects in the North Eastern States in India will form an important link to India’s Act East policy. The two Prime Ministers have gone to the extent of identifying issues spanning over eighty paragraphs of the document.

It can be concluded that the visit of PM Shinzo Abe and agreements signed with PM Modi is beginning of a new multipolar structure of world order which would demonstrate the will of two matured democracies and desire of the peoples of the Indo-Pacific to achieve peace, progress and prosperity. Era of ABEMONICS has begun.
Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, PVSM, AVSM, NM and Bar is the former Commander in Chief Western Naval Command & former Chief of Integrated Defence Staff. He is Member, Governing Council, Centre for Security Studies, India Foundation.

Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, PVSM, AVSM, NM and Bar is the former Commander in Chief Western Naval Command & former Chief of Integrated Defence Staff. He is Member, Governing Council, Centre for Security Studies, India Foundation.

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