India Japan Relations


Recently, the Japanese Prime Minister was on an official visit to India for the 14th India-Japan Annual Summit between the two Countries.


Exchange between Japan and India is said to have begun in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Indian culture, filtered through Buddhism, has had a great impact on Japanese culture, and this is the source of the Japanese people’s sense of closeness to India.

After World War II, in 1949, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru donated an Indian elephant to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. This brought a ray of light into the lives of the Japanese people who still had not recovered from defeat in the war. Japan and India signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations on 28th April, 1952. This treaty was one of the first peace treaties Japan signed after World War II.

Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries have enjoyed cordial relations. In the post World War II period, India’s iron ore helped a great deal Japan’s recovery from the devastation. Following Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi’s visit to India in 1957, Japan started providing yen loans to India in 1958, as the first yen loan aid extended by Japanese government.


  • Prehistoric relations

India’s earliest documented direct contact with Japan was with the Todai-ji Temple in Nara, where the consecration or eye-opening of the towering statue of Lord Buddha was performed by an Indian monk, Bodhisena, in 752 AD.

  • Hinduism In Japan

Japan has indirect connection with Hinduism as four of the seven gods of fortune originated from Hindu deities named:
a) Benzaiten Sama (Sarasvati).
b) Bishamon (Vaiśravaṇa or Kubera).
c)  Daikokuten (Mahākāla/Shiva).
d)  Kichijōten (Lakshmi)
Other examples of Hindu influence on Japan include the belief of “six schools” or “six doctrines” as well as use of Yoga and pagodas.

  • Buddhism
  • Buddhism has been practiced in Japan since its official introduction in 552 CE.
  • The Indian monk Bodhisena arrived in Japan in 736 to spread Buddhism and performed eye-opening of the Great Buddha built in Tōdai-ji.
  • Ancient records from the now-destroyed library at Nalanda University in India describe scholars and pupils who attended the school from Japan. One of the most famous Japanese travellers to the Indian subcontinent was Tenjiku Tokubei (1612–1692).

After Independence of India

  • Following WWII, during which Indian troops under the British Empire fought Japanese troops and Indians under the Indian National Army, fought the British with Japanese support.
  • India played a limited role in the Allied Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952.
  • Justice Radha Binod Pal was the lone dissenting voice on the war crimes tribunal set up to try Japanese war criminals, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
  • Once India became independent, it expressed support for Japanese interests; its delegation at the Far Eastern Commission, for example, was sympathetic to Japanese concerns about rebuilding their nation and to encouraging Japanese industry and finance.
  • In 1949, the Indian delegation stopped pressing the question in the Commission regarding its share of reparations from Japan and proposed halting the reparations altogether, noting that the burden of making such payments told heavily on the living standards of the Japanese people.
  • India welcomed the relaxation of controls on Japan because of the flow of Japanese technical expertise to the rest of Asia.
  • Although 52 nations assembled to sign a peace treaty with Japan at San Francisco in September 1951, India did not participate because of its belief that the Japanese Peace settlement was part of the Cold War and the principal parties to it were more interested in enlisting support for their respective positions than to bringing peace to Asia.
  • The Japanese public responded favourably to India’s stand, particularly its opposition to linking the peace treaty with a bilateral security arrangement.
  • Given the high esteem in which India, and particularly Nehru, was held by most Japanese in those years, there was an appreciation that India had raised its voice and expressed dissatisfaction with the terms of the treaty in so far as they concerned the prospects for peace in Asia.

The cold war and Indo-Japan Relations

  • Indo-Japanese political connections remained weak despite the exchange of ambassadors, mutual visits by goodwill groups and parliamentary delegations. India received its first Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in 1958.
  • On specific international questions such as the Sino-Indian border conflict and the India-Pakistan wars, Japan showed no overt interest either in lending support to India or in opposing it.
  • The Japanese consciously treated India and Pakistan evenhandedly, participating in their economic development programmes without getting drawn into their disputes.
  • During the India-Pakistan conflict, Japan’s diplomatic moves in the UN were not necessarily hostile to India, but its action on the aid front could be interpreted thus.
  • Soon after the US suspended its aid to India, Japan also enforced an embargo on flow of credits and all fresh loans.
  • Despite the initial enthusiasm and high hopes of the 1950s, the Indo-Japan relationship failed to take off politically and the relationship was essentially dormant from the 1960s to the 1980s.
  • Nevertheless, during the Cold War period Japan became the largest bilateral donor to India. Thus, the relationship was primarily sustained by Japanese ODA.

Post cold war relations

  • The end of cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the inauguration of economic reforms in India seemed to mark the beginning of a new era in Indo-Japanese relationship.
  • India’s “Look East Policy” posited Japan as a key partner.
  • Japan being the only victim of nuclear holocaust, Pokhran –II tests of India in May 1998 brought bitterness in the bilateral relations where Japan asked India to sign NNPT.
  • Tokyo’s relation with India showed signs of an upswing when Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori came on an official 5 day visit to India in August 2000.
  • Keeping aside the sanctions due to nuclear tests a new global partnership over issues of worldwide importance was envisaged.


Japan is regarded as a key partner in India’s economic transformation. In the recent past, the India-Japan relationship has transformed into a partnership of great substance and purpose.

Japan’s interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons including India’s large and growing market and its resources, especially the human resources. Japan’s bilateral trade with India reached US$ 17.63 billion in FY 2018-19.

  • India’s primary exports to Japan have been petroleum products, chemicals, elements, compounds, non-metallic mineral ware, fish & fish preparations, metalliferous ores & scrap, clothing & accessories, iron & steel products, textile yarn, fabrics, and machinery, etc.
  • India’s primary imports from Japan are machinery, electrical machinery, iron and steel products, plastic materials, non-ferrous metals, parts of motor vehicles, organic chemicals, manufacturers of metals, etc.
  • The India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that came into force in August 2011 is the most comprehensive of all such agreements concluded by India.
  • Japan already has invested in the $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
  • Japanese FDI into India has mainly been in the automobile, electrical equipment, telecommunications, and chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. Eg. Suzuki.
  • Japanese companies have established ten Japan-India Institute of Manufacturing (JIM) in India.
  • Cooperation in Railway Sector Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Railway (MAHSR). The ambitious project is being implemented with nearly 90% financial support and technology from Japan.
  • The two countries have agreed to a Bilateral Swap Arrangement that would allow their central banks to exchange local currencies for up to $75 billion. This is substantially more than the $30 billion currency swap arrangement announced between China and Japan.
  • Japan is the third-largest source of FDI ($28.160 billion between 2000 and June 2018) investment into India after Mauritius and Singapore.
  • 57 Japanese companies have committed to investing 320 billion yen in India, which is expected to create at least 3,000 new jobs.

 India-Japan Digital Partnership (I-JDP) was launched during the visit of PM Modi to Japan in October 2018 furthering existing areas of cooperation as well as new initiatives within the scope of cooperation in S&T/ICT, focusing more on “Digital ICT Technologies”.

Defense cooperation

  • India and Japan held their first bilateral exercises, ‘Dharma Guardian’and ‘Shinyuu Maitri’, in 2018. It was held between the Armies and Air Forces of both the countries.
  • Japan participates in the annual India-US Malabar naval exerciseson a regular basis.
  • Japan also joined the India-US Air Force exercise ‘Cope India’as an observer for the first time.
  • Progress in Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). India has two centers – Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) and Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) located at Gurugram specifically for this purpose under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA)
  • The sale of the ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy.
  • Japan has committed to manufacturing 30 percent of the aircraft in India and which would help in improvement of Indian defense manufacturing.
  • Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA): Negotiations are going on for the agreement through which Japan could gain access to Indian facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India could have access to Japan’s naval facility in Djibouti.

Recent Summit & Development

  • Investment by Japan:
    • Japan will invest Rs 3.2 lakh crores in the next five years in India.
    • 7 JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) loans for projects in connectivity, water supply and sewerage, horticulture, healthcare, and biodiversity conservation in various States.
      • An MoU has been signed to introduce Johkasou technology in India by Japanese companies for decentralised wastewater treatment. It is used in areas where sewage infrastructure has not yet been developed.
  • Sustainable Development Initiative for the North Eastern Region of India:
    • It has been launched with an eye on India’s infrastructure development in the Northeast, and includes both ongoing projects and possible future cooperation in connectivity, healthcare, new and renewable energy, as well as an initiative for strengthening bamboo value chain.
  • India-Japan Digital Partnership:
    • On cyber security, the leaders discussed “India-Japan Digital Partnership” with a view to enhancing the digital economy through promotion of joint projects in the area of IoT (internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and other emerging technologies.
    • Japan is looking forward to attracting more highly skilled Indian IT professionals to contribute to the Japanese ICT sector.
  • Clean Energy Partnership:
    • It was launched for cooperation in areas such as electric vehicles, storage systems including batteries, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, development of solar energy; hydrogen; ammonia; etc.
    • The objective is to encourage manufacturing in India, creation of resilient and trustworthy supply chains in these areas as well as fostering collaboration in R&D (Research and Development).
    • It will be implemented through the existing mechanism of Energy Dialogue.
  • Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR):
    • India appreciated Japan’s cooperation on the MAHSR and various Metro projects in India and looked forward to the planned preparatory survey for the Patna Metro.
  • People to People Engagement:
    • The Indian PM confirmed India’s participation in the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, as an opportunity to further strengthen and broaden trade, investment and people-to-people links between the two countries.
  • On Indo-Pacific:
    • The two leaders expressed their commitment to promoting peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • QUAD:
    • The two PMs affirmed the importance of bilateral and plurilateral partnerships among like-minded countries in the region including the QUAD grouping between India-Australia-Japan and the United States.
    • The Japanese Prime Minister invited PM Modi for the QUAD Summit Meeting in Tokyo.
  • Terrorism:
    • The two leaders reiterated “condemnation of terrorist attacks in India, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks, and called upon Pakistan to take resolute and irreversible action against terrorist networks operating out of its territory and comply fully with international commitments, including to FATF (Financial Action Task Force).
  • Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty:
    • The Japanese PM stressed the importance of early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
      • The Treaty intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone. It will enter into force after all 44 States listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty will ratify it.
      • India has not yet signed the Treaty.
  • On Situation in Other Countries:
    • Ukraine: Talked about the serious invasion of Russia into Ukraine and sought a peaceful solution on the basis of international law.
    • China: India informed Japan about the situation in Ladakh, about the attempts of amassing troops and India’s talks with China over border-related issues.
      • The Japanese PM also briefed India about his perspective of the East and South China sea.
    • Afghanistan:
      • On Afghanistan, the PMs expressed their intention to collaborate closely to realize peace and stability in Afghanistan, and stressed the importance of addressing the humanitarian crisis, promoting human rights and ensuring establishment of a truly representative and inclusive political system.
      • They also referred to the UNSC Resolution that unequivocally demands that “Afghan territory not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist acts”.
    • North Korea: The PMs condemned North Korea’s destabilising ballistic missile launches in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs).
    • Myanmar: They called on Myanmar to urgently implement ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus.


  • The trade ties which have remained underdeveloped when compared to India’s trade ties with China. The bilateral trade between New Delhi and Tokyo in 2017-18 stood at a meagre $15.71 billion, whereas the Sino-Indian bilateral trade in 2017 stood at $84.44 billion in spite of the political tensions between India and China.
  • The two sides have also been unable to collaborate in the defence sector in spite of huge potential.
  • India is one of the biggest arms importers in the world, while Japan, especially under Abe, has been looking at arms exports, though it still remains a very divisive issue within the country.
  • Both countries have border and hegemonic issues with China. So their policy stance hinges generally on China, rather than growing comprehensively.
  • Both had diverging interest with respect to economic issues like on E-commerce rules (Osaka track), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
  • A challenge for government is to correct the lopsided trade and calibrate China’s market access to progress on bilateral political, territorial and water disputes, or else Beijing will fortify its leverage against India.
  • Balancing between Quad and Brics: India is a member of groups like the BRICS, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. In addition, though New Delhi has not joined the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is a member of the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank).So India has to do a balancing act between Quad and BRICS.
  • Question mark on Quad: India has long adopted a non-aligned approach as opposed to the stauncher, pro-US foreign policy stances of Japan and Australia. The failure of these nations to come up with a joint statement points to an inherent struggle to reconcile their competing views on how best to counter the rise of China.
  • Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) project: there is a great deal of scepticism on the feasibility of the AAGC itself as well as the nature of the projects embedded in it.

Way Forward

  • India and Japan are two powerful democratic forces in Asia which are searching for more options to work and prosper jointly. Economic front needs to be strengthened to reach “Low Hanging Fruit of Asia” wherein demographic dividend of the India and other Asian countries can be deployed to benefit Asia as whole.
  • While it need not be institutionalised, it should work towards a roadmap with actionable items and show tangible results, such as by stepping up coordination in counter-terrorism, cyber security, and disaster relief.
  • Both need to join hand to establish peace and order in not only disturbed region of Asia but of the whole world.
  • Indo-Japan should be realistic enough to understand that in any future regional strategic scenario, because of its economic and military strength.
  • Pollution is a serious issue in major Indian cities. Japanese green technologies can help India tackle this threat.
  • Smooth implementation of the prestigious high speed rail project linking Ahmedabad and Mumbai will ensure credibility of India’s investment climate.
  • India’s purchase of Japan’s indigenously made US-2 amphibian aircraft if successfully executed, could also contribute to India’s ‘Make in India’
  • Both countries are also engaged in discussions on the possibilities of India acquiring Japanese technology in the production of submarines and on cooperative research in areas like unmanned Ground Vehicle and Robotics.
  • There are many other areas which are providing opportunities such as Africa continent, although India-Japan presented a joint venture namely Asia-Africa Growth Corridor for the grab the African opportunities.
  • Close cooperation with a democratic India, located mid-way along trade-routes connecting East Asia with the Middle East and Africa, would be advantageous to Japan.
  • At the same time, a technologically deficient India has much to gain from a relationship with a country like Japan.
  • Indo-Japan should be realistic enough to understand that in any future regional strategic scenario, because of its economic and military strength, China will figure quite prominently so efforts should be done to keep the Indo-Pacific multipolar.

Bilateral Treaties and Agreements

  • Treaty of Peace (1952)
  • Agreement for Air Service (1956)
  • Cultural Agreement (1957)
  • Agreement of Commerce (1958)
  • Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation (1960)
  • Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Science and Technology (1985)
  • Japan-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (2011)
  • Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India Concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology (2015)
  • Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India Concerning Security Measures for the Protection of Classified Military Information (2015)
  • Agreement between Japan and the Republic of India on Social Security (2016)
  • Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (2017)
  • Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India Concerning Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Indian Armed Forces (2021)

Source: PIB

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