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Brief Report On Seminar Held On 5th December, 2012 On “Evolving Security Landscape In Asia: Japanese And Indian Perspectives

Brief Report

The Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (SIS, JNU) in collaboration with the Association of Asia Scholars (AAS), organized a seminar

At Jawaharlal Nehru University (SIS, Room no. 203) on:

“Evolving Security Landscape in Asia: Japanese and Indian Perspectives”

5th December, 2012.

AAS acknowledges the support for the seminar received from the Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

After the welcome remarks given by Prof. Swaran Singh (Chairperson, CIPOD) and introductory remarks given by Lt. Gen Yamaguchi (Professor and Director for International Programs, The National Defence Academy of Japan), the first session began with Prof. Hatakeyama’s presentation on, “US Foreign Policy after Obama’s re-election”. He began by stating that in the event of mounting US deficit and a slow-down in the US domestic economy, it is very important that US focuses on its foreign policy. Owing to the aforementioned reasons, there has been a cut in the US defense budget and in such a scenario, Prof. Hatakeyama outlined that it is essential to question, ‘how can the US administration strengthen strategic engagement in Asia-Pacific and save on its budget at the same time?’ While stating that the Asia-Pacific Region has become a key driver of global politics, he also raised certain concerns regarding how it could be difficult for the US to tie up with this region. The major reason for this was stated as the uncertainty of the US foreign policy and security policy over the next four years. The speaker also questioned the problem of the ‘fiscal cliff’ and President Obama’s administerial capabilities. Raising a doubt on how much capability and credibility the forthcoming secretaries would have, in Obama’s re-elected term, the speaker also expressed some concern about Obama’s capacity to deal with surprises.

The second presenter, Lt. Gen. Yamaguchi spoke about ‘China’s Rise and US Rebalance in Asia and Japan.’ He showed an interesting graphical representation depicting the extreme situations between China and US. With one end being Benign Chinese Co-operation and the other being Hegemonic China; on the US front, one end of the spectrum was robust US military presence and the other end reflected US absence. The diagram clearly stated that the quadrant in which there would be robust military presence along with China being hegemonic, the two powers would confront each other. Lt Gen Yamaguchi discussed how China has increased its military expenditure almost five fold, in the past half a decade. He also stated that rebalance was a process of demobilization whilst re-iterating that US rebalance is not a new topic and has been dealt with, before as well, by the Obama administration.

In the second session, the first presentation was made by Mr. Shogo Suzuki, on ‘China’s rise from European and Japanese perspectives’. He started off by stating that Europe and Japan have diverse ways of dealing with China, which differ on the grounds of geo-political contexts, different degrees of economic interdependence (with Japan being China’s third largest trading partner, while EU being China’s largest) and Europe probably having a greater degree of common interest with China in relativising American hegemony while Japan possibly may not. He stated that China’s grand strategy involved three core ideas: first, to secure its unity under the Communist Party Rule; second, to ensure China’s economic growth continues and last, to enhance political and military power under the goal of ‘peaceful rise’. He then addressed points about how Europe and Japan deal with China’s rise. First, about Europe’s strategy, he explained that they were broadly supportive of China’s aim of economic development, but did not always support China with respect to its sovereignty. Europe however, did accept China’s rise and growing recognition of Europe’s limited ability to influence China. Japan, on the other hand, dealt with China’s rise differently. It largely adhered to the ‘One China Policy’ and leaders did not meet Dalai Lama, nor did they bring up human rights issues as often as Europe. Although Japan encouraged China’s enmeshment in multilateral organizations, it hedged against China’s rise by strengthening alliance with US. To conclude, he made it very clear that what the future holds is a very vital question, considering the backdrop of China’s overreaction in the 2012 Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute, it being a spoiler at multilateral talks (for instance the Copenhagen climate conference) along with having an increasing number of neighbours in disputed territorial waters.

The second presentation of this session, Prof. Tadokoro elaborated on ‘Current debates on Sino-Japan relations’. He began by speaking about the current geo-political landscape, with the rise of China, the decline of Japan and the decline of US, while he was slightly doubtful of the latter, because, according to him, US’ power comprised of a wide array of sources, and so it was not possible to pinpoint the fact that there has been a steady decline in the US. He spoke in detail about internal and external balancing alongside discussing the concept of bandwagoning and how that had created an impact on the Asia Pacific region. He then went on to discuss the geo-economic dimension, questioning how durable China’s growth really is. While it has been applying diversification as a business strategy for risk management, Japan has always assisted China by giving various resources, especially in terms of investments that had been pumped in. Exploring the socio-cultural dimension, he spoke about whether the world was becoming Sino-centric. Although he confirmed that Western scholars were slowly accepting Chinese superiority, the possibility of it being a Sino-centric world, was not in sight in the near future at least, for Prof. Tadokoro. He then discussed how East Asia is increasingly becoming modernized, though Japan still remains the only post-modern nation amongst the East Asian ones. He also showed interesting graphs with the different styles of behavior of Japan regarding China’s rise and of China about Japan’s position.

Regarding the discussions that took place after the presentations, some pertinent points were brought up.

  • First, the question of whether continental states like China and India, can become sea powers was raised, in the context of their increasing importance on the maritime front even though they may not be surrounded by water bodies on all sides like Japan.
  • Second, the functioning of multilateral agencies needs to be re-visited, considering agencies like ASEAN are rather dependent on China for various reasons, which need to be factored into the discussions revolving around building up security across Asia.

While EU and its partnerships with Japan and views on China’s rise were discussed, by Mr. Suzuki, it was seen that based on similar lines, ASEAN (also being a multilateral agency) and its goals needed to be examined more seriously. The point that interdependence amongst such agencies creates vulnerabilities as much as it creates opportunities was deliberated over, in this context. Another interesting point that was debated about, rigorously, was the fact that it has been claimed that the Japanese have largely ignored their history, while the Chinese are given a dose about their history, especially in the relation to the issue of territorial disputes with Japan through academic channels, like history textbooks while influencing young minds negatively. Not that this was enough, the Chinese areparticularly proud of their imperial history. These factors have changed Sino-Japanese relations considerably, over time. Mr. Suzuki, remarked at this juncture that there is a myth about Japan being unaware of its history and at this point, China does misunderstand Japan in a few ways. Prof. Tadokoro on the other hand, stated that Japanese perception of China is not actually dependent on the fact that Japan is poorly knowledgeable about its own history rather this perception is more on the political front. According to him, the Japanese have never been enthusiastic about changing their constitution or their set of political laws. In addition to this, the point about Mr. Shinzo Abe’s projected victory, in the forthcoming Japanese election – December, 2012 and his expectations in dealing with the current disputes between the nation and China, were also spoken about as well. He has in fact promised to stand tough against China over disputed isles in the East China Sea and loosen limits in Japan’s 65-year-old constitution on the military. In fact, efforts have already been made in this direction by Mr. Abe, as various discussants pointed out, to get the relationship back on track while he was on his visit to South Korea and China. There is a possibility that Sino-Japanese relations may better if Japan comes under the Presidentship of Mr. Abe. In fact, Prof. Naidu (SIS, JNU) commented that Japan must opt for soft balancing while strengthening their relationship with USA and India and later, with Vietnam and Indonesia, along with redefining its security policy. However, whether there is going to be some kind of reconciliation between China and Japan, is still, a critical question and much of it also depends upon the forthcoming Japanese Presidential elections. While that was regarding the Japanese perspective, on the Indian side, it was said that it is better to compare India, in some ways, with Brazil and not China per se.

Prof.Varun Sahni (SIS, JNU), brought up a very relevant point, stating that there is a stark difference between the fact that China is rising, but India is emerging. The fact that there will be an effect on China’s immediate neighbor, India, as it rises rapidly, with enormous defense expenditure while focusing on internal security was also looked into. It was broadly concluded that there will be an impact on the progress of multilateral agencies like ASEAN, as relations between some of the important countries, like India, Japan and China see a change, over the course of time.

Report prepared by: Ms. Zitin Munshi (Research Associate, AAS).