Faced with an assertive China in their neighbourhood, India and Japan on Monday decided to have a 2+2 dialogue mechanism between Defence and Foreign ministers as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. This is aimed at giving political muscle to the existing diplomatic, security and defence cooperation.
So far, India only had a 2+2 dialogue between Defence and Foreign Ministers with the US. India and Japan had a 2+2 at the secretary-level. This new mechanism will replace the 2+2 dialogue between Foreign and Defence secretaries, while separate dialogues between NSAs and Defence Ministers will continue.
The two sides also decided to start negotiations on the crucial Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which will enhance the strategic depth of bilateral security and defence cooperation. Once concluded, it will give the two defence forces access to each other’s military bases for logistical support, just like there is one with the US. And, in view of the geo-political contest in Indo-Pacific region, the two sides decided to deepen their “maritime domain awareness”; they signed a pact between Indian Navy and Japanese maritime self-defence force.
The two sides also decided to strengthen cooperation in third countries. They also signed a pact for yen loan on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail project.
To enhance financial and economic cooperation, the two governments signed an agreement to conclude a Bilateral Swap Arrangement (BSA) worth USD 75 billion.
At least 32 pacts, ranging from defence to economic, health to agriculture, and many on infrastructure development, were signed.
After the bilateral meeting on Monday, Modi said, “21st century will be Asia’s century and Indo-Japan ties will play a key role in shaping it. We have agreed to start the 2+2 dialogue. It’s objective is to promote peace and stability in the world.”
Abe said, “The new era of India Japan relations will be strengthened by the 2+2 dialogue. And to strengthen our defence cooperation, we will start discussions on the ACSA.”
In the joint statement, the two leaders shared their view that in order to achieve this shared vision, India and Japan must endeavour to work together for a rules-based and inclusive world order that fosters trust and confidence by enhancing communication and connectivity to ensure rule of law, unimpeded trade and flow of people, technology and ideas for shared prosperity.
“Prime Minister Modi recognised that the India-Japan relationship has been transformed into a partnership with great substance and purpose and is a cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy. Prime Minister Abe underscored the basic importance of India-Japan relationship for the regional order and is determined to advancing the “new era in India-Japan relations” so as to further cooperate for peace, stability and prosperity of Indo-Pacific,” the joint statement said.
“The two leaders also affirmed that ASEAN unity and centrality are at the heart of the Indo-Pacific concept, which is inclusive and open to all. They shared a willingness to expand concrete cooperation with the U.S. and other partners. The two leaders’ vision for the Indo-Pacific is based on a rules-based order that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, ensures freedom of navigation and overflight as well as unimpeded lawful commerce, and seeks peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law,” the statement said, with an oblique reference to China. Interestingly, this came days after Abe made his first bilateral visit to China and had a summit-level meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Both Prime Ministers condemned in the strongest terms the growing threat of terrorism. Like in 2017, they called upon Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, including those of November 2008 in Mumbai and January 2016 in Pathankot.