After the 3/11 Catastrophe: Whither the Japanese Peace State?

For the past several years, foreign policy circles both inside and outside Japan have been anxious to determine whether Japan should or would develop new strategies to deal with a changing security environment in Asia. The catastrophic impact of the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has only heightened the sense of anxiety over Japan’s future direction. At a time of great uncertainty about Japan’s future and the implications for its foreign policy, one might instead look to Japan’s national identity for signs of continuity and consistency.

For decades, Japan’s outlook and external behavior have been shaped by its identity as a “peace state” – a pacifist state associated with the so-called Yoshida Doctrine of cheap riding on U.S.-provided security while concentrating on economic development. That identity runs deep in the Japanese outlook, acting as both a guiding compass and an ideological constraint on state behavior. As the scholar Richard Samuels describes it, an identity is “a platform of ideas about a nation’s place in history and its people’s aspirations for the future.”[1] For Japan, its identity as a peace state means that it is “essentially a reactive or adaptive state” which is not interested in becoming a great military power.[2]

This peace state identity has been consistently evoked in Japanese discourse and followed in practice, even as Japanese defense policy has seen increased debate and contestation in recent years, argued Mike M. Mochizuki at an April 14 Policy Briefing on “Identity and Rising Asian Powers: Implications for Regional Cooperation,” organized by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. Read more of this post

India’s Decision on Fighter Jets Disappoints U.S., But Should Not Surprise

By Deepa M. Ollapally

The Indian Defense Ministry’s announcement that it has shortlisted two European fighter jets, shutting out two American competitors from Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for its once in a generation purchase of 126 multi-combat aircrafts may be disappointing, but not surprising. This has as much to with what is seen as the technical superiority of the Eurofighter (UK, Spain, Italy and Germany) and Dassault’s Rafale (France), as much as New Delhi’s attempts to stay clear of perceived geopolitical undertones involved in buying Lockheed’s F-16 and Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet. Despite the very real improvement in relations between India and the U.S., India seems to have fallen back to its longstanding instinct for strategic autonomy. In a domestic context where there has been an intense debate taking place over the last five plus years about India’s new and growing role as a rising power—especially about how close is close enough to the U.S—the “safest” course of action for Manmohan Singh’s government was to do what it did.

Simply put, a purchase from Europeans is seen in purely commercial terms, while any major deal with the Americans immediately takes on strategic and political meaning in India. Prime Minister Singh had already gone out on a limb in 2008 when he put his government on the line with a vote of confidence over the US-India civil nuclear deal. This unprecedented deal with a price tag of $11 billion had led to enormous lobbying over several years by all the potential suppliers, most noticeably by the American companies. From Washington, there was an implicit, if not explicit, expectation of “payback” for the landmark U.S.-India nuclear deal. No doubt, had the government gone with Lockheed and Boeing, there would have been loud accusations at home of India caving into American “pressure.” At least since 2004, domestic voices comprising a diverse group of Nationalists and Leftists have been at the forefront in urging India to stay closer to its traditional un-aligned stand in international relations.

For all practical purposes, the metric for gauging India’s autonomy comes down to proximity to the U.S. And on this question, the decades old consensus against close ties with the U.S. has clearly eroded since the end of the Cold War, opening it to hot contestation between old and new opinion groups. Read more of this post

Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: Views from China, Japan and Russia

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have flared up again since North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23.  Here is a round-up of Chinese, Japanese and Russian views on this latest crisis:


The Global Times, the official English newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, has been running daily editorials on the crisis:

Obama’s Asian Journey: Prospects for US Policy

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia was a mixed bag of achievements and disappointments. This was the assessment of a panel of experts at a recent public event on “Obama’s Asian Journey: Prospects for US Policy,” co-hosted by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Asia Society. Speaking on the panel, Deepa M. Ollapally, Alasdair Bowie, Gregg A. Brazinsky and Mike M. Mochizuki assessed the outcomes of Obama’s visit to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, respectively:


Obama’s visit to India was a case of “low expectations, high results.”

Concrete gains for India included: clear support for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; lifting of nearly all embargos on dual-use technologies; and U.S. commitment to work toward India’s inclusion in a number of nuclear regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime.

More importantly, the visit marked a shift in U.S.-India relations from the narrow, sectoral engagement of the past, to a truly broad spectrum relationship. Obama is the first US President to view relations with India as a multi-layered partnership: Read more of this post

Obama’s India visit: Beyond strategic symbolism

By Deepa M. Ollapally

Before India’s political pundits write off President Obama’s visit as nothing more than symbolic, they would do well to consider US- India relations under the Obama administration in its entirety. But in order to do that, they need to first shed their single minded focus on strategic affairs.

There is growing apprehension in India (and among some US analysts) that Indo-US relations have reached a plateau, and that no big strategic breakthroughs are on the horizon. First of all, it is unrealistic to expect strategic transformations at every summit.

Obama’s two predecessors were able to make history after the end of the Cold War by changing the course of US-India relations from one of decades-old disaffection to solid cooperation. Obama has inherited an excellent foundation for relations between the two countries, and there is little question that the US president has embraced India. Read more of this post

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