Tokyo, Delhi set to boost security links

Tokyo, Delhi set to boost security links
Mr Modi and Mr Abe during their visit to Toji Buddhist temple, a Unesco World Heritage site, in Kyoto, western Japan. The ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto was the Indian Premier’s first port of call last Saturday.

Japan and India are likely to launch a security dialogue involving their foreign and defence ministers as part of efforts to upgrade their security ties.

Raising the level of their "two-plus-two" security consultative framework - currently at only the permanent secretary level - is expected to be high on the agenda in talks here today between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Indian Premier Narendra Modi.

Besides pursuing closer economic ties, the two countries - dubbed the "two major maritime democracies in Asia" by officials - are keen to boost security relations in the face of China's military build-up and rising territorial ambitions. If the security dialogue with India were raised to ministerial level, it would be the fifth for Japan following similar arrangements with the United States, Australia, Russia and France.

The two sides are also expected to continue joint maritime drills by their respective navies and also trilateral drills with the US.

Defence officials say Mr Abe's re-interpretation of a constitutional clause to give Japan the right to collective self-defence could free the Indian and Japanese navies to jointly patrol sea lanes vital to Japan in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss the possible sale of the Japanese-made US2 amphibious rescue aircraft to India.

Other issues on the table include the early conclusion of a nuclear cooperation pact and Japan's interest in selling its high-speed rail technology to India.

Japan is the first major country to be visited by Mr Modi on a bilateral basis since he came to office in May, underlining New Delhi's keenness to enhance its strategic partnership with Japan.

But while India may be concerned about China's expanding presence in the Indian Ocean and is seen as seeking security cooperation with Beijing's neighbours including Japan, Delhi is also building closer ties with Beijing.

The influential Asahi Shimbun daily pointed out yesterday that after Mr Modi's inauguration, the first foreign leader he called on the phone was Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. In the middle of this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Delhi for talks with Mr Modi.

Nevertheless, Mr Modi's visit here has been marked by unprecedented displays of warmth on both sides. Mr Abe went out of his way to welcome the Indian leader last Saturday, travelling to Kyoto, Mr Modi's first port of call, to meet him and giving him a big hug by way of greeting.

After a private dinner hosted by Mr Abe, the Indian leader, who had been exchanging effusive tweets with the Japanese leader before arriving in Japan, told his host in Japanese: "I am moved by your hospitality today."

Last Saturday, the two sides inked a partnership agreement between Japan's ancient capital Kyoto and the Indian holy city of Varanasi that will focus on how to preserve heritage while building smart cities.

This article was first published on September 01, 2014.
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