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Japan’s Effort to Counter China’s Silk Road

The increasing economic presence of Japan in both South Asia and South East Asia provides a counterweight to China.

Credit: apiguide/ Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • The increasing economic presence of Japan in both South Asia and South East Asia provides a counterweight to China.
  • Japan’s project, “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” is a dig on the lesser quality of Chinese projects.
  • Japan’s involvement in Indian infrastructure projects points to a burgeoning India-Japan partnership.
  • Japan’s current efforts help to make sure that no one power has a free run in Asia.

China’s ambitious OBOR project, connecting China with countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, has garnered a lot of global attention. What has gone unnoticed is that Japan is not standing by idly.

The increasing presence of Japan in both South Asia and South East Asia takes shape in a much more low-profile manner, but is based on a clear strategic plan.

Less poetically labeled and less comprehensive than China’s all-encompassing scheme, Japan pursues a “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure.” That wording is an evident dig at the lesser quality of Chinese managed projects.

The Japanese side concedes that quality infrastructure may appear costly at first. However, since it is easy to use and durable, as well as environmentally friendly and disaster resilient, quality infrastructure is indeed cost-effective in the long run.

Japan in India

If one looks at Japanese involvement in India, it all began with the Delhi metro. Today, there are numerous projects.

The main attention is on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project and two metro projects – in Chennai and Ahmedabad.

There are a number of other infrastructure projects in which Japan is investing. This includes a recent decision to allow Japan to develop a 15 megawatt diesel plant on the South Andaman Island.

Even though this is a modest project, its significance lies in the fact that India, for the first time, allows another country to develop infrastructure in these strategically important islands which host an Indian Tri-Service Command.

Japan is also involved in developing infrastructure in India’s North East, with the goal of strengthening India’s connectivity with Myanmar.

This is a result of Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit to India in January 2014, when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Japan to invest in the North East, including Arunachal Pradesh.

While Japan’s involvement in Indian infrastructure projects is still in the early stages overall, it points to a burgeoning India-Japan partnership. Japan has become active not just in India, but also in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Greater Japanese role in Asia

All these projects point to Japan striving for a greater role in Asia. Evidently, coming up with a counter narrative to China’s much talked about OBOR plays an important role in Japan’s plans.

Indications are that Japan, while pursuing a narrower and more targeted approach, seeks to distinguish itself from China by focusing on “High Quality Infrastructure.”

Further plusses in Japan’s favor are that the terms of financial assistance are feasible and that it is not primarily concerned about itself, ensuring that the benefits accruing from these projects also accrue to other countries.

All in all, Japan’s “Quality Infrastructure” initiative contributes to enhancing connectivity among Asian countries, creating jobs for local people, increasing local skills and improving people’s lives.

In conclusion, Japan’s current efforts help to make sure that no one power has a free run in Asia.

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About Tridivesh Singh Maini

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a policy analyst associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, New Delhi.

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