25.03.2024 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Indian Foreign Minister Sahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to South Korea and Japan

Indian Foreign Minister Sahmanyam Jaishankar’s

The recent trip by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to South Korea and Japan, which began on March 5, represents a significant development in the political game being played out in the Indo-Pacific region. Particularly since the role of the main “local” players in the region, already very significant today, is only likely to increase with time.

Not least because the regional influence of the present leading global power is set to decline, a process which the present author sees as inevitable. After all, the USA is already experiencing the almost catastrophic costs of “imperial overheating” – a recognized consequence of the foreign policy followed by its “deep state.” Or, to use another Trumpism, by the “Washington swamp.” Apparently, that “deep state” pursues goals that have little to do with the interests of the American people, seeing US territory merely as a base and a source of resources (including military resources).

In fact, there are a number of strange figures speaking on behalf of Europe today while pursuing a directly anti-European policy, and these are in fact agents of that “Washington swamp.” It is, partly, as a result of their efforts that Europe is finding itself increasingly marginalized on the international political stage, where the focus of events is, in fact, shifting towards the Indo-Pacific. Apparently, in order to remind the world of its existence, yet another war is being “planned” in Europe right before our eyes. Strangely enough, this war has some enthusiastic supporters, largely influenced by highly primitive propaganda.

In the Indo-Pacific region, however, the leading players, who include, first and foremost, China, India and Japan in the first place, are increasingly making their presence felt. The development of relations between the above triangle will increasingly determine the developing political map of the Indo-Pacific region. In the media comments that have already appeared, the focus has largely been on this aspect of Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s trip to South Korea and Japan. And the phrase the “Chinese factor” invariably features prominently in these comments.

After all, China ranks as the number one, or possibly number two trading and economic partner of India, Japan and South Korea. And this gives rise to what Park Geun-hye, President of South Korea from 2013-2017, referred to as the “Asian Paradox.” Importantly, Asia is different from Europe, where if one country does not like another, it will cut off all links with them. That is to say, almost literally, cutting off its nose to spite its face.

Nevertheless, none of China’s three major Asian partners have sunk to that level, despite their very real political differences. However, a certain “external” player has recently been giving them recommendations on this issue.

As for the general purpose of Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s trip (rather than its specific results) it fits into India’s foreign policy concept of 30 years ago – Look East. A policy that was upgraded to Deal with the East in the late 2000s.

And it is worth noting that New Delhi has indeed made remarkable progress in its transition from “looking” to “dealing with” East Asia. We only have to cite India’s membership of the Quad configuration, which includes Australia and Japan in addition to the US, the comprehensive development of its bilateral relations with each of these three countries, and its participation in various joint military exercises with these countries. We should also mention New Delhi’s increasing interest in developing relations with Taiwan.

And the main reason for India’s initial decision to look East (and also to look West) is the Chinese factor that we have already mentioned. China’s transformation into a global power with global interests is an inherently inevitable process. It is up to each of all the other powers involved in the current phase of the Great World Game to decide how to relate to it.

Unfortunately, the increasingly competitive relationship between the two Asian giants is becoming a dominant factor in the development of the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and the global situation as a whole. It should be noted, by the way, as the world order continues in its radical transformation, there is no guarantee that the new global situation will be any “fairer” or “stable and secure” than the current one. In essence, both of these well-worn phrases are as speculative and chimeral as the concept of the “end of history” that preceded them.

Interpreting Beijing’s increased activity in the Indian Ocean region in general and, in particular, its activity in relation to India’s neighbors, particularly Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan, as the main challenge to its national interests, New Delhi is beginning to take reciprocal steps. That is, by showing increased activity in its relations with Australia, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s recent trip, the most important part of which was clearly his trip to Japan, should be considered as one element of this activity. It was the latest in a series of bilateral contacts at different levels over the last few years, which will give new life to the relationship between two of the three leading players in the Indo-Pacific region. The main events held by the Indian Foreign Minister in Tokyo were his talks with his Japanese counterpart Yoko Kamikawa and his launch of the inaugural bilateral expert discussion platform the Raisina Roundtable in Tokyo.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s brief opening remarks and the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s report on the hour-and-a-half-long ministerial meeting can be read here and here. Both texts mention, among other things, the increasing frequency of contacts between the two countries via various state structures (with three personal meetings between the two prime ministers in 2023) and business organizations, as well as the “active development of cooperation” in various aspects of defense.

In a more detailed form, the Indian Foreign Minister’s position on relations with Japan in the context of the emerging international situation is presented in his speech during the first joint meeting of experts from both countries at the inaugural Raisina Roundtable in Tokyo. First organized in 2016 with the participation of the Indian Foreign Ministry, the increasingly popular Raisina Roundtable platform has so far met annually in New Delhi. It appears that the Roundtable will now be held on a regular basis in Tokyo as well.

In the Indian Foreign Minister’s speech, he devoted special attention to the problems standing in the way of the development of bilateral trade and economic relations, which were described as “stagnant.” Indeed, the current volume of bilateral trade (about $20 billion, with a sharp surplus in Japan’s favor) is very modest, given the sizes of the two countries’ economies. One of the main reasons for this is the underdeveloped transportation and logistics infrastructure between South Asia and East Asia. Therefore, the mention in the above speech of a project to create a transportation corridor between Chennai (formerly Madras), located on the east coast of India, and Vladivostok attracted significant interest.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s trip to Japan began with a “courtesy visit” to the office of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

On the way to Japan, the Indian Foreign Minister stopped off in Seoul, where he met with senior officials and attended the 10th meeting of the regular Joint Ministerial Commission and also addressed the National Diplomatic Academy. According to the Indian Foreign Ministry’s report on Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s trip to South Korea, and to judge by the contents of his speech, the main topic of interest for both sides was the establishment of co-operation in high technology areas such as the development and mastering of artificial intelligence, microchips, and digital technologies.

The discussions also touched on the creation of “sustainable international supply chains,” which, it seems, are not limited to those routes between India and South Korea. On that subject, it is worth noting the comments made by the Taiwanese newspaper Taipei Times, in which Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to South Korea is seen in the context of the current US leadership’s efforts to bypass China and develop other microchip supply chains.

The issue of controlling such supply chains is of critical importance in the modern world. No less than the possession of modern weapons. And since it is Taiwan that still produces 90% of the world’s microchips, its support is an essential element in any such supply chains. But the very mention of Taiwan in any text immediately brings with it certain geopolitical associations, especially in relation to the Chinese factor already discussed.

Which, as we have seen, formed the unspoken subtext to the whole of the Indian Foreign Minister’s recent trip.


Vladimir Terekhov, expert on issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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