Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raises hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad, September 2017.
Amit Dave / Reuters

If the United States wants a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged and U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed at their recent meeting in Tokyo, no two powers will be as important as India and Japan

The two countries are among the most concerned about security in the region and are also increasingly ready to work with each other on it. The relationship between the two countries—historically strategically distant—has grown increasingly robust under the stewardship of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Abe, with regular high-level summitry (Abe traveled to Delhi to visit Modi last month) combined with increasingly frequent and deepening exchanges at the diplomatic, defense, and business levels.

One reason the two countries are coming together is a common strategic anxiety about China’s rise, particularly its foreign policy ambitions in Asia. For them, Beijing’s maritime assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, as well as the Indian Ocean region, and its push to expand its geopolitical influence beyond East Asia through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are particularly alarming. India and Japan, in response,

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