Diplomatic Bluebook 2015

Chapter 2

Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map

4.South Asia

(1) India

Located in a geopolitically important region at the center of the Eurasian continent, between Southeast Asia and the Middle East, India is an emerging economic power with a huge market, home to the second-largest population in the world, as well as having Asia’s third-largest economy, with an immense demand for infrastructure. Moreover, as the world’s largest democracy, it shares universal values with Japan, in the form of democracy and the rule of law.

In May, the ruling Indian National Congress party suffered a crushing defeat in the general election; the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party; BJP) won an historic victory with a working majority and Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, was elected as the new Prime Minister.

In terms of economic affairs, as well as a rise in share prices, consumption and production at last began to recover in FY2014, due in part to a sense of anticipation regarding Prime Minister Modi, so the prospects for the domestic economy are beginning to look brighter. On January 30, 2015, it was announced that the GDP growth rate for FY2014 was forecast to be 7.4% higher than the previous fiscal year.

With regard to foreign affairs, Prime Minister Modi demonstrated his desire for improved relations with other South Asian countries, inviting the leaders of neighboring countries to attend his inauguration ceremony. India is also seeking to enhance its relationships with other major countries, holding summit meetings with Japan, the U.S., and China, among others, and its influence is growing in the international arena.

With regard to relations with Japan, Prime Minister Abe visited India in January 2014, when, as well as holding a summit meeting with Prime Minister Singh, he became the first Japanese prime minister to be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations. In September, having put together his administration, Prime Minister Modi visited Japan, making his first bilateral visit to a country outside South Asia since his inauguration. During this visit, he held a summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe, at which the two leaders agreed to upgrade the relationship between Japan and India to that of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. While in Japan, Prime Minister Modi also visited Kyoto, where he had an unofficial dinner with Prime Minister Abe. The two leaders also held another summit meeting during the G20 Summit in Brisbane (Australia) in November. During this series of summit meetings, Japan and India affirmed the importance of strengthening their cooperative relationship in a variety of fields, including politics and security, economics and economic cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, and regional and global issues. In particular, in the field of economics, the two countries announced a joint target of doubling both Japanese direct investment in India and the number of Japanese companies expanding into India over the next five years. Moreover, in January 2015, making his first foreign visit since his reappointment in December, Foreign Minister Kishida went to India and held the Japan–India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Suwaraj.

(2) Pakistan

Pakistan occupies a strategic position, linking Asia with the Middle East; not only are its political stability and economic development of tremendous significance and influence for regional stability and growth, but it is also the most important country in the international fight against terror. Moreover, with a population of approximately 180 million, it has immense economic potential. However, worsening security due to terrorism by Islamist extremists continues to be one of the most important challenges for the Sharif administration, along with the need to address the country’s electricity shortages and other aspects of its economic stagnation, as well as the parlous state of its public finances.

With regard to security, since his inauguration, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has consistently pursued dialogue with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but following an attack by the TPP on Karachi’s international airport in June, he launched a clean-up operation by Pakistan’s army in North Waziristan and other areas. The TTP and other armed insurgents have responded to this with repeated reprisals, massacring over 130 children in an attack on a school in Peshawar in December. Prime Minister Sharif has stepped up the military operation to eradicate terrorism, so the security situation is unpredictable for the time being.

In terms of politics, some members of the opposition launched large-scale protests against the government in August, over alleged fraud in the 2013 general election. Although these eventually subsided in December, the prolonged nature of the anti-government protests affected the current administration’s progress with initiatives aimed at improving security and achieving economic reform.

On the foreign policy front, strengthening relationships with the new administrations in India and Afghanistan is a key issue. With regard to India, although there were signs of a rapprochement, with Prime Minister Sharif being invited to Indian Prime Minister Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, border skirmishes between the Indian and Pakistani armies in Kashmir have been intensifying since August, so relations have cooled. In the case of Afghanistan, given the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, it is vital for both countries to work together to improve security in the border region.

Regarding the economy, although structural reforms have been underway since September 2013 under an IMF program, the pace of economic reform has slowed, due in part to the impact of August’s mass protests against the government. Macroeconomic indicators are improving overall, but the economic growth rate for FY2014 is forecast to remain at around 4.3%.

Japan backs the efforts of the Sharif administration to reform the economy and public finances and to improve security, and intends to continue supporting these reform efforts so that Pakistan can achieve stable development as a moderate Islamic state.

(3) Bangladesh

Bangladesh, about 90% of whose population is Muslim, is a democratic nation located on the Bay of Bengal, so it is of great geopolitical importance as a point of intersection between India and ASEAN.

With regard to domestic politics, a general election was held for the first time in five years in January 2014, but the opposition boycotted the elections, so the ruling Awami League won a resounding victory and Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina was reappointed as Prime Minister. In 2015, triggered by the first anniversary of the elections boycotted by the opposition, the conflict between the ruling and opposition parties has intensified and security is deteriorating.

On the economic front, although Bangladesh is among the ranks of the least-developed countries, it is achieving steady economic growth, maintaining growth rates of around 6% thanks to its strong export trade, which is mainly focused on textiles. Moreover, with a population of more than 150 million, it is attracting attention both as a production base with an abundance of cheap, high-quality workers and as a potential market with a high demand for infrastructure development. As such, the number of Japanese companies that have expanded into Bangladesh has grown from 61 (2005) to 223 (January 2015). On the other hand, overseas remittances from those who have emigrated overseas and from migrant workers are a crucial source of foreign currency, accounting for just under 10% of nominal GDP. In addition, problems in ensuring a stable supply of electricity and natural gas and the need for infrastructure development are obstacles to investment by foreign companies.

With regard to the relationship with Japan, Foreign Minister Kishida visited Bangladesh in March and held the Japan–Bangladesh Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali. Moreover, the prime ministers of the two countries made reciprocal visits within a short period, with Prime Minister Hasina paying an official visit to Japan in May and Prime Minister Abe visiting Bangladesh in September. In particular, Prime Minister Abe was accompanied on his trip to Bangladesh by numerous figures from the business community, making it a visit that symbolized the development of economic relations between the two countries. As a result of the Second Japan–Bangladesh Summit Meeting, the two countries decided to engage in close cooperation via a Comprehensive Partnership based on their shared values of peace, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The Prime Minister announced that, under this partnership, Japan would provide Bangladesh with up to 600 billion yen in aid over the next four to five years, mainly in the form of Japanese ODA loans. In addition, he confirmed Japan’s cooperation in promoting the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B), an initiative aimed at improving infrastructure development and regional connectivity. Furthermore, Prime Minister Hasina said that, in light of her country’s very friendly bilateral relationship with Japan, Bangladesh would support Japan’s candidature in the election of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council in 2015, withdrawing its own candidature.

Prime Minister Abe gives a speech at the Bangladesh–Japan Business Forum (September 6, Bangladesh; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office) Prime Minister Abe gives a speech at the Bangladesh–Japan Business Forum (September 6, Bangladesh; Source: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

(4) Sri Lanka

Located in a strategic position on sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a traditionally pro-Japanese country that is attracting attention because of this geopolitical and economic importance.

With regard to domestic affairs, national reconciliation has been a key issue since the end of the civil war in 20094, and is a matter of considerable interest to the international community as well. The Government of Sri Lanka is employing a diverse range of methods to promote national reconciliation, including the steady implementation of the recommendations made in the report by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which aims to achieve a political solution to ethnic issues.

In December 2014, President Mahinda Rajapaksa decided to hold presidential elections. President Rajapaksa was defeated in the presidential elections on January 8, 2015 by opposition unity candidate and former Minister of Health Maithripala Sirisena, who was then inaugurated as the new President. After his inauguration, President Sirisena appointed United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new Prime Minister. While the new administration aims to implement reforms, including investigating corruption and amending the constitution to reduce presidential powers, it has also announced its intention to introduce domestic measures while engaging in dialogue and cooperation with the international community, with a view to achieving national reconciliation.

On the economic front, Sri Lanka has maintained an economic growth rate in excess of 7% in recent years and recorded per capita GDP of 3,280 US dollars in 2013, with further high growth anticipated in light of the country’s geopolitical importance and its access to the Indian market.

With regard to relations with Japan, in September, Prime Minister Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Sri Lanka for 24 years; at a summit meeting during his visit, the two leaders agreed to develop the relationship between their countries into a “New Partnership between Maritime Countries.” Prime Minister Abe was accompanied on his trip by numerous businesspeople and a business forum took place, making the visit an opportunity to strengthen economic relations between Japan and Sri Lanka.

  • 4 The LTTE, an anti-government militant group with membership drawn from the Tamil ethnic minority, who mainly live in the north and east of Sri Lanka, engaged in a civil war with the government for more than 25 years, from 1983 until 2009, with the aim of achieving the secession and independence of the northern and eastern regions.

(5) Nepal

Following the 2006 conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the 1st Constituent Assembly was convened in 2008, but efforts to pass a constitution ran into difficulties due to conflict between the major political parties. A new administration was inaugurated in February 2014 and discussions aimed at passing the constitution continued, but due to ongoing conflict between the various parties within the Constituent Assembly concerning such matters as the introduction of a federal system and the governance system, it was not possible to pass the constitution by the original deadline of January 22, 2015.

Japan and Nepal have traditionally enjoyed friendly relations, not only because Japan was the biggest donor to Nepal for many years, but also due to interaction in a range of areas, including relations between the Imperial family and the former royal family, as well as exchanges in the field of mountaineering. Through assistance with elections and the development of the legal system, Japan is providing support for efforts to ensure that democracy becomes firmly established in Nepal.

In October, Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey visited Japan and held the Japan–Nepal Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Kishida, at which the two foreign ministers agreed to set up a political dialogue between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of their countries. Moreover, Japan announced ongoing support for initiatives to ensure that democratization becomes firmly established in Nepal, and the two sides agreed to promote further cooperation in a range of fields, including infrastructure development, disarmament and nonproliferation, people-to-people exchanges, disaster prevention, and reform of the UN Security Council.

Japan–Nepal Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (October 8, Tokyo) Japan–Nepal Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (October 8, Tokyo)

(6) Bhutan

In 2008, Bhutan made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy and initiatives aimed at ensuring that democratization becomes firmly established are currently being implemented under the Tobgay administration. Using Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an indicator of how well the country is running, the government is tackling the issues pointed out in the 11th Five-Year Plan (which ends in 2018), which were economic independence, food production, and the reduction of the youth unemployment rate.

With regard to relations with Japan, the 2011 state visit to Japan by the King and Queen of Bhutan was the catalyst for the flourishing of exchanges between Japan and Bhutan in a variety of fields and at a range of levels. In June, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay paid an official visit to Japan, becoming the first Bhutanese prime minister to visit at the invitation of the Government of Japan since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1986. He held the Japan–Bhutan Summit Meeting with Prime Minister Abe, at which the two leaders agreed to strengthen friendly relations between their countries in a diverse range of fields, including matters in the international arena, as well as setting up a dialogue between their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs at the director general level.

(7) The Maldives

The Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is achieving economic growth mainly in the fisheries and tourism industries, which account for approximately 30% of GDP. In 2011, it graduated from the ranks of the least-developed countries, with per capita GDP rising to approximately 6,600 US dollars (2013). On the domestic front, parliamentary elections were held in March, in which the majority of the seats were won by the ruling party, President Abdulla Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives, helping to stabilize the foundations of government.

In terms of relations between Japan and the Maldives, in April, President Yameen made the first official visit to Japan by a Maldivian president since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1967. While in Japan, he held the Japan–Maldives Summit Meeting with Prime Minister Abe, during which President Yameen announced that his country would adopt the Japanese standard for terrestrial digital broadcasting. This is the first case of the Japanese standard being adopted in South Asia.

Japan-India Relations


Japan is working proactively on strengthening relations with India, the 3rd largest economic power in Asia, and the biggest democracy in the world. This column introduces dynamic development of Japan-India relations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe feeding carps at the State Guest House’s lake in Kyoto (August 30th, Kyoto; Source: the Cabinet Public Relations Office) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe feeding carps at the State Guest House’s lake in Kyoto (August 30th, Kyoto; Source: the Cabinet Public Relations Office)
2.Political and Security Fields

Since it was decided to build the “Japan-India Global Partnership” in 2000, Japan has been engaged in strengthening relationship with India. The annual summit meeting, in which the leaders visit each other’s countries almost every year, plays a central role in strengthening it. Recently, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India in January 2014, becoming the first Japanese Prime Minister to be invited as the chief guest to India’s Republic Day Celebrations, and after assuming his position as the Prime Minister of India in May, Narendra Modi visited Japan in September, choosing Japan as the first non-neighboring destination. With this strong trusting relationship between the two leaders, cooperation in politics and security field is increased. For instance, bilateral dialogues such as the vice minister/secretary level “2+2” dialogue, the trilateral bureau-chief-level meeting of Japan, India and the United States, and bilateral and trilateral joint military exercises are the examples of active cooperation and interaction.

3.Economic Field

Japan is making efforts to build a strategic economic relationship with India based on the recognition that there is still plenty of room for improving economic relations between Japan and India, Asia’s second and third largest economies. For instance, the Japan-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement went into effect in 2011, and Japan is cooperating in building large-scale infrastructure by yen loans and promoting investment from Japanese companies.

4.Science and Technology, Culture and People-to-People Exchange Fields

Japan and India are expanding cooperation in a wide range of fields such as life sciences, fundamental physics and space industry. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan in September, they decided to promote cooperation in cutting edge area, and in October, the Japan-India Joint Committee on Science and Technology Cooperation was held.

Mutual understanding of cultural aspects is also improving, for example, through the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between Japan and India in 2012, and university-level and local government-level exchanges are also expanding. It’s also expected that people-to-people exchange will increase even more with the introduction of the issuance of multiple entry visas for short-term stay for nationals of India in July 2014.


Japan will continue to make efforts towards strengthening its relations with India so that they, as special partners, can contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in Southwest Asia and the entire international community.