Japan’s Shifting Foreign Policy to South Asia: Issues and Challenges

Md. Saifullah Akon*
Debasish Nandy**
Alik Naha***

* Corresponding author. Lecturer, Department of Japanese Studies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. E-mail: saifullah.djs@du.ac.bd
** Associate Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol, West Bengal, India. E-mail: debasishnandy.kc@gmail.com
*** Faculty Member, Department of Political Science, Vidyasagar College(Day), Kolkata, India. E-mail: aliknaha@gmail.com


Due to the geographical distance and cultural diversity, South Asia was considered a ‘distant neighbour’ to Japan’s foreign policy and retained diminutive relations during the early post-WWII period. To amplify its ‘bubble economy in the cold war era, Japan moved towards China immediately after the ‘Nixon Shock’ and towards Southeast Asia, following Fukuda’s ‘heart to heart’ strategy in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively. Since the end of the cold war, the world has witnessed several new incidents in the new world order, ranging from Japan’s ‘lost decade’ to China’s rise. Understanding the changing geopolitical realities of the global order, increasing strategic demand of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and huge potential market for Japanese goods, Japan has now broadened its foreign and defence outlook and economic engagement with this region. Moreover, South Asia will soon be an ‘economic hub’ with middle-class consumers. In that case, China’s growing investment and proximity to South Asian countries, particularly Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under his ‘China Dream,” has been seen as a significant threat to Japan’s new strategy. Besides, South Asia became a crucial part of the Asia-Pacific region to implement Japan’s new Free and Open Indo Pacific (FOIP) policy and make Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) effective. From this strategic point of view, Japan already has maintained warm relations with India and swelling its relations with other South Asian countries. Given the above circumstances, this paper aims to figure out the prospects of Japan’s new shifting foreign policy towards South Asia and identify the critical challenges of Japanese engagement with this region, where China is already a decisive actor. The methods and tools employed in this paper include lexical scrutiny’s, mapping, contextual analysis, and qualitative and mixed methods data analysissoftware (MAXQDA) to analyse the current state of knowledge and development. This paper is context, theory, and case dictated.

Keywords Japan-South Asia . Foreign policy . Economic hub . BRI . FOIP . QUAD .