NEW DELHI: The India-Japan strategic partnership could take a major step forward during the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The inaugural 2+2 Dialogue of Indian and Japanese foreign and defence ministers over the weekend in Delhi confirmed “significant progress” in the negotiations on a naval logistics agreement. Atsushi Kaifu, deputy press secretary in Japan’s foreign ministry, also told journalists here on Sunday that “I expect it will be done at the earliest”.
The logistics agreement will help both navies to expand their capabilities in the context of “emerging security challenges”. While China was not specifically named in the joint statement issued at the end of the 2+2 dialogue, Atsushi Kaifu said his country “cannot compromise on maritime and security issues in the South China Sea and the East China Sea”, adding that “If China accedes to international rules there will be more opportunities (of cooperation) for both sides”.
Kaifu was non-committal about reports that Japan would not sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) without India. On the sensitive issue of 5G, he said India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi had briefly discussed it in the context of building cooperation in the digital space.
He was vague on details about bilateral defence technology cooperation other than in robotics (unmanned ground vehicles), which was also mentioned in Saturday’s joint statement but he insisted that “both sides were working hard to finalise”.
He said “India and Japan are keen on enhancing connectivity in the Indo-Pacific and joint projects in third countries are in our common interest. I am not fully aware of any concrete projects but I sense eagerness on both sides to work in developing connectivity in third countries”.
Kaifu returned to the theme of China’s muscle flexing in the South China Sea, describing it as “the issue of non-observance and non-compliance (with UNCLOS). So the first step is to ask them to follow (the rules), so we are stressing on that”