India and Japan on Saturday expressed concern over the threat posed to regional peace and security by “terrorist networks operating out of Pakistan” and asked Islamabad to take “resolute and irreversible” action against them.
At the inaugural India-Japan 2+2 ministerial dialogue — Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation while the Japanese side was headed by Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Defence Taro Kono — the two countries also noted “significant progress” in the negotiations on the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which will allow them to use each other’s military bases for logistical support.
Eye on China
As India and Japan met in Delhi in the new format, they made progress on defence, terrorism and Indo-Pacific issues and aligned their positions more closely. Delhi and Tokyo’s alignment of strategies is in view of the larger threat from Beijing’s assertive economic and military strategies. This sets the stage for Japan PM Shinzo Abe’s visit in mid-December.
“The ministers underlined the need for all countries to ensure that all territory under their control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries in any manner,” said a joint statement. “They noted in this context the threat posed to regional security by terrorist networks operating out of Pakistan and called upon it to take resolute and irreversible action against them and fully comply with international commitments including to FATF,” it said.
“They emphasised the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence,” said the statement.
The statement recalled the shared vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, in which the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are ensured, and all countries enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight.
The two sides also took note of the negotiations on a Code of Conduct (COC), and urged that it should be effective, substantive, and consistent with international law, and must not prejudice the rights and interests of stakeholders using the South China Sea and freedom of all states under international law.
In October 2018, the two countries had agreed to begin formal negotiations on ACSA, which will allow the Indian Navy to access a Japanese base in Djibouti, while the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) will be permitted to use India’s military installations on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
As part of capacity building in maritime security, India and Japan welcomed the setting-up of the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) by India in December 2018. “The Indian side looked forward to Japanese side dispatching a liaison officer at the IFC-IOR in the near future,” the statement said.
It said the ministers noted with satisfaction the commencement of exchange of information based on the Implementing Arrangement for Deeper Cooperation between the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy signed last year.
They emphasised the need to further strengthen cooperation on defence equipment and technology and looked forward to productive discussions at the fifth Joint Working Group on Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation (JWG-DETC).
The Japanese side appreciated India’s announcement of “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” at the recent 14th EAS to create a safe, secure, stable, prosperous and sustainable maritime domain, and the Indian side welcomed Japan’s “Vientiane Vision 2.0” in November 2019 as an updated initiative for defence cooperation between Japan and ASEAN.
They concurred to proceed with coordination for the “first India-Japan joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan”.
Earlier in the day, the two visiting ministers from Japan met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The meeting came a day after Japan’s Deputy Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hideki Makihara said in an interview to Bloomberg that Tokyo was not considering signing the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) without India.
Earlier this month, India announced that it was withdrawing from the RCEP, citing the deal’s potential impact on the livelihoods of its most vulnerable citizens. China said the 15 remaining countries had decided to move forward first, and India was welcome to join whenever it was ready.
“We aren’t thinking about that at all yet,” Makihara said in the interview on Friday. “All we are thinking of is negotiations including India… It is meaningful from the economic, political and potentially the national security point of view,” he said, adding that “Japan will continue to try to persuade India to join.”
Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama will accompany Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his trip to India next month, Makihara said.
According to an official statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Modi said at the meeting that both he and Abe attach great importance to strengthening bilateral partnership. The takeaway from the 2+2 meeting will set the stage for the Modi-Abe bilateral meeting, most likely in Guwahati, in mid-December.
“Prime Minister added that India’s relationship with Japan was a key component of our vision for Indo-Pacific for peace, stability and prosperity of the region, as well as a cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy,” the statement said.
What is important is that both Delhi and Tokyo’s objectives are aligned, in the face of an assertive and proactive Beijing in the Indo-Pacific region.
So far, only India and the US have the 2+2 ministerial mechanism, although India and Australia also have the 2+2 dialogue at the official level. With this, India has 2+2 dialogue mechanism with all the Quad countries. India, Australia, US and Japan have met under the rubric of Quadrilateral since 2017 at the official level, and at the foreign ministers’ level in September this year. The India-US 2+2 level dialogue is expected to take place in Washington DC on December 18.