Japan and India – security ties amid China’s rise, by Wellington Dantas de Amorim and Antonio Henrique Lucena Silva

China’s rise in recent decades has fostered many interpretations as what should future Asia resemble. Acharya, Kang and others have a benign view of Chinese influence, with a peaceful hierarchy where the other countries stand satisfied with its hegemony. On the other academic corner, realists like Friedberg view Asia’s future as a replay of the European Concert in the XIXth century, with the proeminence of a balance of power among major nations. In a more extreme approach, Mearsheimer points to the resemblance of America in the XVIII century, that is, China would pursue an expansionist path as the United States, striving to be a regional hegemon.

In the paper published in Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (2014 special edition), researchers try to analyze movements by India and Japan, the two most important actors in Asia alongside China. What has characterized their response to a rising China? Are there any meaningful trends which can be spotted? Theoretically, Walt’s balance of threats approachwas used. According to Walt, there are two types of movement that a country can employ when there’s a rising power: balancing or bandwagoning. Walt defines balancing as “allying with others against the prevailing threat”. Instead of bandwagoning (aligning with the source of danger), states “join alliances to protect themselves from states or coalitions whose superior resources pose a threat”. Moreover, Walt defines four sources of threat: Aggregate power (for example, variables as population size, industrial and military capability, and technological prowess); Geographic proximity; Offensive power; Aggressive intentions.

India’s position in relation to China is kind of ambivalent. Although both are BRICS members, which granted China’s support to India’s pursue of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, China is considered the second military threat to India, lagging behind only Pakistan. Of all the terrestrial border issues which China faced, only two remain unsolved, exactly with India (Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh).

Japan’s position towards China is very rooted in historical terms, with many conflicts, invasions and quasi-invasions between them; it can be labeled, in the terms proposed by Colaresi, Rasler and Thompson, a “strategic rivalry”. Therefore, China’s rise, including in military terms, is a real concern to Japan, especially with the renewed debate over border issues (for example, the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands).

Therefore, China is perceived as a (possible) threat by both India and Japan. Did they develop some kind of balancing strategy, as it would be expected according to Walt?

Although not much publicized, a kind of strategic partnership between them has been evolving since 2000, and was greatly stimulated by the rapprochement between US and India, in 2005, with the Nuclear Cooperation Plan. Although very distant in geographical terms, a series of joint military efforts was implemented, ranging from the Malabar naval exercises (alongside the US) to bilateral drills involving both  Navies or Coastal Guards. Although the basic justification for such maneuvers is rather vague (to guarantee open sea lanes, fight piracy or even helping tsunami casualties), other measures as the export of special reconnaissance planes from Japan to India highlight the clear trend of increasing military ties.

India is cautious in order not to clearly indicate China as a possible military threat, due to its joint participation in BRICS group as well as the forementioned border disputes. Nevertheless, the very fact that those disputes periodically exacerbate nationalism, in either side of the frontier, is an unequivocal reminder of the problem.

In fact, Japan and India send covert signals to China, as when Japan started funding rare earth materials production in India just months after China stopped exporting them to Japan, due to a Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands incident, in 2010.

The research also points to a deterioration of India’s views of China, since 2005. Coupled with the (already expected) negative Japan’s views of China, it seems to reiterate the population’s support to a balancing strategy by both governments.

Therefore, Walt’s proposition was confirmed, in the case of India and Japan towards China’s rise. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that, up to now, it has been a “soft balancing” process, that is, as defined by Paul, “Limited arms buildup; Informal, tacit or ad hoc security understandings among affected states, within or outside international institutions. Preventive strategy.”.


Wellington Dantas de Amorim, Federal Fluminense University, Brazil (wda3059@gmail.com)

Antonio Henrique Lucena Silva, Federal Fluminense University, Brazil, (antoniohenriquels@gmail.com)

Read the article:

AMORIM, Wellington; SILVA, Antonio Henrique Lucena da. Japan and India: soft balancing as a reaction to China’s rise?. Rev. bras. polít. int.,  Brasília ,  v. 57, n. spe,   2014 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/article_plus.php?pid=S0034-73292014000300073&tlng=en&lng=en&gt;. access on  19  Oct.  2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201400205.

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