Japan Symposium Q & A with Dr Rajeswari Rajagopalan

By Perth USAsia Centre

Dr Rajagopalan will join us for both the private and public dialogues for this year’s Japan Symposium, convened by the Perth USAsia Centre in partnership with the Consulate-General of Japan in WA. 

How would you compare India and Japan’s approach to security?

Both India and Japan are defensive and status quo powers, at least when it comes to security issues.  Both also face significant security threat from China but beyond this, there are major differences.  India has multiple security threats even if it is China which is the most serious of them; whereas Japan’s primary security threat comes only from China and tangentially from North Korea.  Japan is also far more comfortable with alignments because it has been aligned with the United States for decades whereas India values its autonomy and continues to be extremely uncomfortable with security alliances.

What will you be speaking about at the Symposium?

I will be speaking on the potential and prospects of Australia-India-Japan trilateral, from an Indian perspective. 

Japan and India’s relations have been strong over many years. How do you believe India and the Indo Pacific generally has benefited from Japan, and what do you see as the way forward for Japan’s relationship with the Indo Pacific?

Both Japan and India are concerned about maintaining at least a minimal rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.  Japan under Abe [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] has been more willing to consider the broader security dynamic in the Indo-Pacific region, despite the constraints of the domestic political culture and the constitution.  Japan has demonstrated a willingness to slowly expand its involvement in maintaining security across the region, which has been welcome by India and other regional powers.  Japan’s capacities are still limited but the political willingness that Japan has shown to undertake these tasks bodes well for the future.  It is very clear that no single Asian power can manage the task of maintaining the rules-based order in the region, and all countries in the region need to cooperate.  India definitely sees Japan’s willingness to share these burdens as necessary. 

Australia’s High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu was interviewed by our Hugo Seymour last year and commented that India has become far more outwards looking – do you agree with this statement and what do you believe this will mean as India continues to evolve as a global powerhouse – will their relations with Australia and Japan further strengthen?

Definitely, I think that is true. There is a sea change in official Indian attitude towards the entire Indo-Pacific.  I recall even just a few years back that India was unwilling to use the term Indo-Pacific, and that India was equally reluctant about the Quadrilateral initiative.  All of this has significantly changed.  India in the years ahead will forge closer strategic ties with Australia and Japan given the growing convergence in terms of their strategic interests and that the challenges facing the Indo-Pacific are not diminishing.

Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is a Distinguished Fellow and Head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative, at Observer Research Foundation.

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