The 2018 India-Japan annual summit underlined the importance of strategic cooperation between the countries in their respective Indo-Pacific visions. The willingness in the Modi-Abe government to extend its cooperation across the Indo-Pacific resulted in the announcement of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, which, though yet to realise concrete goals, finally saw the identification of a few countries (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Kenya) as areas of priorities at the 2018 summit.

Darshana M. Baruah
Darshana M. Baruah is an associate director and senior research analyst with Carnegie India. Her primary research focus is on maritime security in Asia, particularly the Indian Navy and its role in a new security architecture.
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While India and Japan continue to collaborate in the Indo-Pacific, there have been some significant developments in the maritime domain, which could translate into strategic and practical cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. 

There are three key developments, announced at the 2018 summit, which could significantly alter the way India and Japan interact and engage in the region: 

An Agreement on Maritime Domain Awareness

This agreement intendeds to cover information on white shipping or commercial shipping. It could, however, provide the architecture to include strategic intelligence and information sharing in the future. MDA for the Indian Navy translates to being aware of all movements “on, over and under the seas”. While priorities lie within a navy’s Area of Responsibility (AOR), the sheer size and scope of the area to be monitored in order to generate situational awareness is tremendous. 

An effective regional MDA can only be created through partnerships. Information and intelligence sharing between partners through a model of burden sharing contributes significantly to generating the big picture required to maintain, both, a free and open maritime environment, as well as, one’s own strategic advantages. Japan has a remarkable recognisance fleet, with the capabilities to monitor and carry out our surveillance, and patrol over large areas of the region. Tokyo has approximately 73  .. 

India’s AOR is the Indian Ocean, which encompass the Bay of Bengal through to the Western Indian Ocean. Like Japan’s P-1’s, India deploys its P-8I’s (with limited numbers) for surveillance and reconnaissance patrols to generate its MDA, amongst other methods. While Tokyo and Delhi’s AOR’s are different, there is an overlap to a certain degree, especially in monitoring sub-surface vessels entering the Indian Ocean. This agreement could therefore go beyond white shipping and create a mechanism by  .. 

Acquisiton and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA)

The 2018 vision statement underlines the importance of ACSA, as it “will enhance the strategic depth of bilateral security and defence cooperation”. The Fact Sheet further reiterates its importance, noting, “mutual logistics support in the Indo-Pacific Region contributes to regional peace and stability.” Agreements like ACSA (which Japan has signed with U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada) and logistics support agreements like LEMOA (which India has signed with U.S. and France), within their limit .. 

Smart Islands

India and Japan have suggested the need to develop smart islands since 2016, but have, for the first time, identified the need to develop smart islands in India. Given Delhi’s renewed focus on developing its Andaman and Nicobar Islands, it is safe to note that smart islands might refer to joint collaborations in these islands. 

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, again a set of strategic islands, sits close to all the entry points into the Indian Ocean. These islands could alter the Indian Navy’s ability to patrol, monitor, and operate in areas further away from the Indian mainland. While the strategic importance of these islands is well known in Delhi, there are significant challenges in developing them. Environmental concerns demand the need for a sustainable and eco-friendly model of development for these islands. There is .. 

The India-Japan summit has laid out the foundations for a stronger operational strategic collaboration between the two countries. While the scope and possibilities continue to rise, Delhi is still limited by its foreign policy choices, and the balance it needs to maintain between alignments and alliances. However, if there is an appetite and willingness, such agreements and understandings will provide the basis for India to grasp and expand its regional profile within the limitations of its capa .. 

This article was originally published in The Economic Times.