Nearly two months after the border stand-off at Doklam in Sikkim, Japan has come out in support of India and stated that in the bilateral agreement with Bhutan, India is also involved. Japan has conveyed its unequivocal support to the two countries through diplomatic channels, thus becoming the first major country that is China’s neighbor to come in Delhi’s support.
In another first, the Vietnam Government also confirmed, quite guardedly though, that it has acquired Brah-Mos anti-ship cruise missiles from India. Though New Delhi refrained from commenting, they did deny they had sold any missiles to Vietnam. This acquisition would be seen by China as a defiant move by Vietnam which has a dispute with China on the South China Sea, which China claims as its own.
The Japanese support comes ahead of its Prime Minister, Shinto Abe’s visit to India from September 13 to 15. The news was conveyed by the Japanese Ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, to both New Delhi and Thimpu. Japanese diplomats who have been in constant touch have been briefed by government officials about the situation in Doklam and its implications.
The Japanese have also been in constant touch with South Block and the Foreign Secretary, Jaishankar, and other top officials. According to Tokyo which has been watching the situation ‘very closely’ such an ongoing stand-off has long-term security implications for the entire region. It is also of the view that in the resolution of such disputes ‘all parties involved should not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force.’
Thus Japan has been critical of Chinese attempts ‘to change the status quo’. The Ambassador said, ‘We understand that the stand-off at Dhoklam area has been going on for two months. What is important is all parties involved do not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo but resolve it in a peaceful manner.’ According to South Block sources Japan has been at the receiving end of such unilateral attempts by China. It has experienced ‘Chinese expansionism’ between 2012 and 2014 in the territorial disputes over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
Interestingly Japan’s support comes at a time when there is no let-up in Chinese posturing and no major country has openly come out in India’s support. The US has encouraged both India and China to sit down and talk while Britain has maintained it is a strictly bilateral issue. Australia has expressed concern over the ‘escalation of tensions’ and has urged both countries to resolve the issue through talks, to avoid ‘miscalculation’ and ‘misjudgment’.
In the midst of such guarded statements by major players it is significant that Japan has come out in open support of India’s stand. Interestingly Japan has also a strong bilateral relationship with Bhutan for three decades. During this time the Japanese royal family has visited Bhutan thrice, in 1987, 1997 and last year and, in turn, the Royal Bhutanese family has visited Fukushima in 2011 and the King has addressed the Japanese Parliament.
Meanwhile the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman has confirmed the acquisition of the missile system from India. ‘The procurement of defense equipment by Vietnam is consistent with the policy of peace and self-defense and is the normal practice in national defense.’ The spokesperson added that Vietnam-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership includes cooperation in defense as seen making a practical contribution to peace , stability and cooperation in the region.’
Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization and a Russian manufacturer, the Brah-Mos can accelerate to speeds of 2.8 times the speed of sound and strike enemy ships 300 km away. The People’s Liberation Army’s daily had warned in April that ‘the deployment of Brah-Mos missile is bound to increase competition and antagonism in India-China relations and impact on the stability of the region.’
Meanwhile Vietnam has extended an oil concession to India in the South China Sea and has begun drilling in another area it has dispute with China. This has the potential of heightening tensions over the ownership of this maritime area. India has also sent warships to monitor the Malacca Straits through which much of China’s oil supplies and energy and trade passes.
Vietnam has granted ONGC a two-year extension to explore oil at block 128. This is part of an U-shaped ‘none-dash-line’ that marks vast areas that China claims as its own, a route through trade worth 5 billion dollars passes between the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. This also China has staked a claim.
The People’s Liberation Army had warned Impasse Explained: What Is The India-China-Bhutan Border Standoff?