A day after Chinese Premier Le Keqiang called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set the ball rolling on a new roadmap for bilateral engagement, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe exuded confidence that both sides will be able to confirm trilateral cooperation with the United States whenever Modi visits Japan.
Indicating that a Modi visit to Japan was on the cards, Abe said: “In India, Mr Narendra Modi has become Prime Minister through another free and fair election. I am absolutely certain that when I welcome Prime Minister Modi to Tokyo we will successfully confirm that Japan-India cooperation, as well as trilateral cooperation, including our two countries, will make the ‘confluence of the two seas’ that is the Pacific and the Indian Ocean peaceful and more prosperous.”
Abe, who on Friday delivered the keynote address at the IISS’s annual Shangri La dialogue on ‘Peace and prosperity in Asia, forevermore Japan for rule of law, Asia for rule of law and the rule of law for all of us’, specifically referred to Modi as a positive opportunity to build on the US-Japan vision for “strengthening trilateral cooperation with like-minded partners to promote peace and economic prosperity in Asia and the Pacific”.
Without naming China, he made it clear that there were “attempts to change the status quo through force and coercion” and that the reaffirmation of the US-Japan alliance was the “cornerstone for regional peace and stability”. This vision, Abe explained, was being taken forward through such arrangements of trilateral cooperation.
He brought up Australia as an example of such cooperation, referring to the recent visit of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abott to Japan. The two countries, Abe added, agreed to pursue the trilateral arrangement, especially in security matters. “We clearly articulated to people at home and abroad our intention to elevate the strategic partnership between Japan and Australia to a new special relationship.”
It was right after this reference that Abe brought up Modi, indicating Japan’s keenness to build on the idea of trilateral cooperation. The outgoing UPA government, it may be noted, had not gone the distance with Japan on such cooperation despite former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsing Abe’s strategic vision of the confluence of the two oceans.
The Defence Ministry, in particular, had always desisted the idea of projecting an alliance with the US because of which trilateral exercises could not take place off the Indian coast.
While Japan, a country with which Modi has enjoyed a strong association with during his stint as Gujarat Chief Minister, now senses an opportunity with the regime change in New Delhi, China, too, has moved quick off the blocks to find early momentum in the bilateral engagement with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also expected to be in India on June 8.