By Eurasia Network – December 3, 2020

For India, this partnership is part of a dynamic foreign policy aiming at balancing the growing influence of China in the Asia-Pacific region – Picture : India’s official flag. Photo credit : Pexels

The Japanese and Indian governments are expected to conclude a cooperation agreement on telecommunications and digital infrastructure in coming weeks, reported Nikkei Asia.

The partnership, announced by senior Japanese government officials, covers the deployment of 5G technology in India, including the construction of submarine fiber-optic cables.

In return, India will provide training on new technologies in Japan. Indeed, despite Japanese efforts in the digital administration and cybersecurity industry, the country lacks expertise. This partnership also aims at the development and international standardization of 6G technology, expected for 2030.

Growing tensions with China prompt India to promote cooperation with Japan in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT). In this context the bilateral agreement should be signed in December 2020, during an online meeting between the Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ryota Takeda and the Indian Minister of Telecommunications, Ravi Shankar Prasad. If concluded, this partnership will be historic, amounting to several hundred million dollars.

Meanwhile, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a fiber optic submarine cable project to link mainland India to the Lakshadweep Islands, located 200 to 440 km off the southwestern coast of India. The Japanese NEC Corporation, which is currently completing the construction of submarine cables on Indian islands, would a serious candidate to obtain the contract. 

Moreover, the Japanese Rakuten, which already has a base in southern India in Bengaluru, plans to export 5G to India via the cloud, resulting in lower operating and installation costs. 

HAPSMobile, a subsidiary of the Japanese SoftBank, is in negotiations with an Indian company on the sale of stratospheric telecommunications technologies, via high altitude drones. 

Also this year, a consortium of Japanese entities, such as Olympus and Showa University, has begun supplying hospitals in India with its newly developed artificial intelligence-based software to assist doctors in analyzing endoscopic images of the bowel.

The Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has announced funding for a submarine cable to Palau Island in the Pacific with the United States and Australia. Japan, which signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on November 15, of which China is a member, is on the side of Beijing’s rivals. The land of the Rising Sun intends to take advantage of China’s ouster from the Indian digital landscape. If Tokyo does not dominate the smartphone application industry, it has a card to play in becoming a significant partner in the development of strategic infrastructure in India.

This activism is an attempt for Japan to support its economic growth amid the covid-19 pandemics and rising China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Since July 2020, the Japanese government subsidizes its companies to reduce their dependence on Chinese manufacturers. Tokyo put 470 million euros on the table to encourage its companies to invest in domestic production. A gradual recovery is underway in Japan, with GDP growth projected to be around 2.25 % in 2021 and 1.5 % in 2022, following an output decline of 5.25 % in 2020, reported the OECD.

For India, this partnership is part of a dynamic policy aiming at balancing the growing influence of China. New Delhi even banned around 40 Chinese mobile applications for security reasons. This measure comes in the context of a deadly border dispute between the two Asian giants, source of an armed clash last June.

For Japan, the Indian demographic giant and its 1.3 billion inhabitants is an opportunity to counterbalance China in economic, technological and political terms. India is a core country, along with Japan, the U.S. and Australia, in the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy.

New Delhi took part in the talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, but withdrew from the discussion last year over concerns about opening up its agricultural and manufacturing sectors to more foreign competition.

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