In late May 2018, the Japanese press announced that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are finalizing plans to conduct counter-terrorism exercises with the Indian army in the northeast part of India later in the year1—the first overseas combat training exercise of its kind for the traditionally homebound Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF). In July 2017, an India-Japan agreement for cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy went into force2—the first such pact by Japan with any country not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and an extraordinary exception from the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons. Although noteworthy, these pathbreaking exceptions to Japan’s post-WWII security patterns are not astounding. They actually are two milestones in a series of historic accommodations between Tokyo and New Delhi demonstrating the steady growth of a strategic bilateral partnership.
In mid-2018, New Delhi and Tokyo have been softening their rhetoric toward China during what many view as an ongoing period of uncertainty regarding the Trump administration’s ultimate posture in East Asia.3 Nonetheless, they view themselves as the bookends for a regional alternative to what both see as an unacceptable Chinese program to make the Indo-Pacific region less open and far more hostile to the free and fair flow of goods, services, people, and ideas. The remarkable pace of the growing strategic relationship is a significant geostrategic development.