This paper concerns the significance of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Japan’s relationship with India. It explores how and why peaks in Japan’s ODA to India parallel the two highpoints in the overall bilateral relationship – the early post-war period (roughly to the early1960s), and the present (from the mid-2000s). It argues that whatever other purposes Japan’s ODA may serve domestically and internationally through supporting economic development, in the program with India ODA has politico-strategic utility in signaling not just to India, but also to the rest of Asia and beyond, Japan’s interest in strengthening this bilateral relationship to gain leverage in Asia. Early in the post-war period, collaboration with India was seen to provide an entry point for the development of primarily commercial relations with Southeast Asia and other Asian nations while lingering concerns about Japan’s wartime incursions supported resistance to other approaches. Currently, while positioned as Japan’s special strategic and global partner, and enjoying an ever more powerful economy, India helps open the way for Japan to extend strategic leverage within Asia and beyond. This is significant for Japan at a time when regional transformation, especially through China’s rise, is becoming instrumental in reshaping the regional and global balance of power, causing Japan great strategic and economic concerns along the way.
Keywords: Japan, India, foreign aid, Japan–India relations, ODA, strategic ties, financial assistance