Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a diplomatic thaw between Japan and China, saying they can work with India to build an "Asian Century".
The three regional powers "have many common interests and we need to build on them to convert ours into an Asian Century by working together", said the Indian leader, who arrived in Japan yesterday at the start of a five-day visit. He was speaking to Japanese reporters in New Delhi in a pre-departure interview.
Mr Modi also said he felt that the time has come for Japan and India to upgrade their relations in defence and security.
"I see in the recent changes in Japan's defence export policies and regulations a possibility to engage in a new era of cooperation in high-end defence technology and equipment," he added, referring to Tokyo's lifting of a long-time ban on military exports.
"Defence relations constitute a strong underpinning of our strategic and global partnership," said the Premier, who kicked off his visit in the ancient capital of Kyoto, about 370km west of Tokyo.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travelled to Kyoto to greet his counterpart and host him to dinner, in a move seen as underlining the close ties between the two leaders as well as their countries.
In his interview, Mr Modi also expressed a desire to enhance ties with China, saying it was his government's resolve to utilise the full potential of its strategic and cooperative partnership with China.
India is said to be studying an invitation from Beijing to become a founding member of the China- led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, whose establishment will challenge the current international financial system dominated by developed nations.
Mr Modi was originally scheduled to arrive in Tokyo today but later decided to extend his visit by arriving a day early.
In a statement released before his departure, he said his visit to Kyoto reflects the ancient foundations of India's contemporary relations with Japan. The visit there will also focus on some of India's priorities, including urban renewal and smart heritage cities as well as advanced scientific research.
The Japan visit is Mr Modi's first bilateral trip as Premier outside the Indian sub-continent, reflecting the high priority India has given Japan in its foreign, economic and development policies.
Like what Mr Abe is doing in Japan, Mr Modi is set to implement a set of policies to kick-start the Indian economy, including streamlining regulations to attract foreign investments.
"I see a lot of complementarity and synergy between the goals of Abenomics and what I am trying to achieve in India," he told Japanese reporters.
Abenomics is the nickname given to the package of policies implemented by Mr Abe to pump up the lacklustre Japanese economy.
Mr Modi's visit is also aimed at speeding up negotiations for a nuclear technology agreement with Japan which began in 2010. An accord is necessary if Japan is to export nuclear reactors to India, but the talks remain stuck over regulations to prevent proliferation.
India is not a signatory to either the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
On its part, Japan is keen to sell its well-known Shinkansen bullet train technology to India. The two countries are jointly funding a feasibility study for a high-speed rail link between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in Gujarat state.
This article was first published on August 31, 2014.
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