India, Japan as Security Providers for Southeast Asia


India, Japan as Security Providers for Southeast Asia

Philippines has dropped  a series of Chinese-led infrastructure projects due to sustainability and geopolitical concerns. It is now  redirecting its attention to Japan and India as alternative sources of development and security. Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista reaffirmed this earlier this month when he noted that the Philippine government is willing to tap both countries for development assistance. This statement, write Harsh V Pant (Vice President for Studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi) and  Don McLain Gill (lecturer at the Department of International Studies, De La Salle University, DLSU) “intersects with Manila’s desire to deepen and broaden its security and economic partnerships with like-minded partners amidst Beijing’s growing unwillingness to act and behave like a responsible neighbour.”

At the heart of Marcos Jr.’s foreign policy lies the intent to work closely with like-minded traditional and non-traditional partners with similar goals, interests, and concerns in the region. Accordingly, Manila’s attribution of both Tokyo and New Delhi as important traditional and non-traditional partners allows all three democracies to explore new opportunities for multi-faceted strategic cooperation.


Close strategic relations with India

The Philippines and Japan share a close strategic partnership, with the former being Manila’s major investor and its largest source of overseas development assistance (ODA).  Similarly, the two authors note “the bilateral partnership between the Philippines and India has witnessed noteworthy advancements as Manila is now more willingly incorporating New Delhi in its strategic calculations.”  In the past few months there was the visit by Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo to New Delhi and the  signing  of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Philippine and Indian Coast Guards, “which will allow both sides to improve their interoperability, intelligence sharing, and maritime domain awareness. More recently, India has also offered  to supply the Philippine Coast Guard with seven indigenously manufactured helicopters based on a soft loan agreement with extended payment terms. This potential agreement also comes at the heels of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile delivery to the Southeast Asian country later this year.”


Japan and India crucial to Southeast Asian security

Thus, write the two authors “Japan and India’s bolstered engagements in Southeast Asia complement the interest of resident countries like the Philippines to lessen their susceptibility to China’s expanding economic clout and deepening power projection capabilities. Forging robust ties with friendly regional powers is crucial to Southeast Asian countries’ hedging strategies, especially as the U.S.-China competition continues to intensify. In fact, based on the authoritative State of Southeast Asia Survey of 2023, Japan and India are the top two choices of Southeast Asian countries for alternative Indo-Pacific strategic partners. Therefore, the contemporary structural conditions serve as an opportunity for Japan and India to operationalise their shared vision for the Indo-Pacific, in general, and Southeast Asia, in particular."


India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership

The India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership is best defined through the robust ties both major Indo-Pacific democracies share. In terms of security, New Delhi and Tokyo constantly engage in varied platforms ranging from regular bilateral military exercises and two-plus-two meetings to multilateral frameworks such as the Quad and the G20. Moreover, according to Pant and Gill “both countries also share similar threat perceptions vis-à-vis an increasingly assertive and disruptive China.” In fact, in its 2022 National Security Strategy, Tokyo declared  China as an ‘unprecedented and greatest strategic challenge', while Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also recently highlighted the need to counter Chinese aggression.

Third-country cooperation: Beyond defence cooperation, New Delhi and Tokyo have also embarked on a third-country cooperation model in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. These include creating the Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), exploring new third-country cooperation models throughout the region including  the emerging trilateral partnerships between India, Japan, and Bangladesh  and a similar framework between India, Japan, and Sri Lanka.

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