Asia’s unique strategic triangle

Japan-China-India triangle key to Asia

Shigefumi Takasuka

Daily Yomiuri, October 13, 2007

How the three-way relationship between Japan, China and India evolves in the coming years will be a crucial factor in Asian and global security, a strategic expert said at a two-day international forum of journalists held in New Delhi.

Brahma Chellaney, professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, was speaking on Sept. 28 at the 8th Asian-European Editors’ Forum. The meeting’s official theme was "Globalizaiton: Up- and Downsides for Asia."

In a speech titled "Asian Geopolitics: A New Great Game," he said Asia had become the world’s economic powerhouse in only two generations, and that the 21st century certainly belonged to the region. But he added that one of the challenges standing in the way of further progress was the resentment many nations in the region still harbor toward each other over past events.

"In the coming years, given the tangled Japan-China and India-China relationships, the competitive pride and rivalries among Asia’s three biggest powers are likely to greatly influence the continent’s geopolitics," Chellaney said.

"The central challenge would be to stabilize major power relationships in Asia and promote cooperative approaches that can tackle security, energy, territorial, environmental and historical issues," he said.

"This is not going to be easy and will depend on a genuine thaw in India-China and China-Japan relations."

To prevent memories dating back to World War II and after from hampering the intertwined relations of those three nations, he stressed that the "demons of nationalism" will have to be chained.

Referring to the antigovernment demonstrations then going on in Myanmar, one participant asked him why India had recently decided to pursue closer relations with Myanmar.

Chellaney replied that it should be understood in the context of bilateral economic relations and China’s strategic ties with the Myanmar junta. But, he added, the Indian government continues to support a fast return of democracy in Myanmar.

In the afternoon session of the first day of the two-day forum, Yeo Lay Hwee, senior research fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said in her speech titled "Asian Regionalism: Helped or Hindered by Globalization?" that fears of globalization had provoked regionalism in East Asia, but failed to form an East Asia Community due to antipathy between Japan and China and U.S. interference.

East Asian nations must work together to chart the course of globalization, she said.

According to Yeo, globalization does not mean that everyone will benefit from the "game" equally. There will be winning and losing countries in globalization, and regional cooperation could alleviate its negative effects and "compensate the losers to reduce the resentment," she said.

Though both Chellaney and Yeo stressed the necessity of historical reconciliation among Japan, China and South Korea, the participants from those countries did not express their opinions on the issue, apparently reflecting its complexity.

Instead, the participants from Southeast Asian countries minimized the importance of the history issue in their countries.

"The history issue with Japan is almost over in Southeast Asian countries," said Endy Bayuni, chief editor of The Jakarta Post, a leading English-language daily in Indonesia. "We’ve accepted Japanese prime ministers’ apologies. But, it won’t be easy with China and South Korea."

The forum was organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German nongovernmental organization, in cooperation with The Statesman, an Indian member of the Asia News Network, a grouping of 14 leading newspapers in Asia.

About 40 journalists representing prestigious news organizations in Asian and European countries, including The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Daily Yomiuri, and other organizations also took part in the forum, discussing topics such as "Economic Globalization: Chances and Challenges for Asia" and "Globalization and its Consequences for Asian Media."

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