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India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan's Best Friend

Indians welcome Japanese products and want closer ties
A supporter of Narendra Modi dons a mask of the Hindu nationalist candidate
A supporter of Narendra Modi dons a mask of the Hindu nationalist candidatePhotograph by Tsering Topgyal/AP Photo

The results of national elections in India, expected to be announced on May 16, could mean good news for Japan and not such good news for China. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist opposition party, has long been a favorite of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who would like to foster military and economic ties with India. Modi, the front-runner in the contest to be India’s prime minister, and Abe also share an antagonism for China. Modi has criticized the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being too accommodating toward China and has pledged to take a tougher line on issues such as the border dispute between the two countries that has festered for decades.

Abe has clashed with China in a dispute over the ownership of several islands in the East China Sea. When it comes to the Chinese, “the Japanese are extremely apprehensive,” says P.K. Ghosh, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “It doesn’t take a genius to say India can be the largest friend of the Japanese.”