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December 26, 2009

For a "Star Alliance" of second-tier powers in the world--my trip to India

After attending an international symposium on Central Asia held at Jawaharlal Nehru State University in Delhi

I attended the international symposium "Regional cooperation and security in Central Asia" organized by Prof.K.Warikoo, Director of the Central Asian Studies Programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University. It was held on Dec.4&5 and was attended by about twenty foreign participants from Central Asia, Russia, EU and others.

General impression of Delhi
It was my first trip to Delhi after five years of lacuna. The number of cows and man-drawn tricycle taxi has decreased, and new large shopping malls have been opened. However, there is no such construction boom, which one can find in China. It is probably because lands are owned privately in India, thus making rapid large-scale razing and reconstruction impossible. Therefore, the general impression is that the tempo of India's economic development is slower than that of China, though their development probably has more steady character.
In punctuality and organizational skills things leave much to be desired, but in places where there are good managers, workers looked highly motivated and are able to quickly act on their own judgement.

Main features of the symposium
No particular conclusions and proposals were made for the symposium. It peacefully proceeded with presentation of speeches and discussion thereafter. I would draw out the following points as main findings (The impressions, which I acquired in my meetings with Indian experts outside the symposium, are combined in the following).

(1) All participants were aware of the growing influence of China in Central Asia, in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) inter alia. Some countries are accordingly readjusting their policy toward Central Asia and SCO. Especially for Europe SCO, if it is coupled with EU, may seem to be a suitable forum where they could involve China in a multilateral discussion.
On the other hand, Russian President Medvedev has proposed a new mechanism for security by combining NATO, CSTO, SCO and OSCE under one umbrella. This, if ever realized, would form something between OSCE and UN for the entire Eurasia except for the Mideast.
If NATO, EU and SCO ever develop mutual ties (it will not happen so quickly), Japan should be aware of the risk of being left out from this new deal. Perhaps, the remedy would be accession of the Central Asian countries to APEC and closer cooperation between Japan, EU and NATO.

(2) India still does not express a grave concern about encroaching Chinese influence around it. Probably India is well aware that the Chinese leadership today does not pursue an expansionist policy, attaching priority on maintenance of stability around itself. Further, the maritime predominance of India in the Indian Ocean, important route for Chinese tankers from the Mideast and Africa, gives them confidence.
On the other hand India does not feel that the tripartite forum between India, China and Russia provide a solid basis for their policy in Eurasia, because of the mutual apprehension between India and China.

(3) India feels comfortable with the current status of their relations with the U.S. India believes that it has capacity to influence U.S. policy, partly because there are about two million(sic) Indian people living in the U.S. However, India is well aware of the fact that as long as the Afghan War continues Pakistan is more important for the U.S., because it is the Pakistani intelligence forces which possess information about whereabouts of the Talibans.

(4) Japan under Abe's government (2006~07) promoted its relations with India, intending to balance the growing power of China. Mr. Abe even declared "Strategic Global Partnership" with India.
However, I did not find much enthusiasm on the part of the Indian experts about prospects of cooperation with Japan. India seems to consider that Japan does not possess enough capacity to affect the balance of power around Inida.

My own statements
During the symposium I stressed the importance to help the Central Asian countries consolidate their statehood. In this undertaking, I said, such countries like Japan, India and EU may well form a loose grouping, because their weight in Central Asia is likewise middle level, and because their objectives in this part of the world are largely identical (and innocuous).
I name it as a "Star Alliance" in international relations. (The Star Alliance is originally a union among second-tier aviation companies in the world. Today with Japan's ANA, Lufthansa, SAS, United, Continental, South Korea's ASIANA and others it forms a large entity)


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