Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya discussed the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, according to a joint statement issued during Singh’s two-day visit to Tokyo.
Singh recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe had in their vision statement in October last year “reiterated their unwavering commitment to working together towards a free and open Indo-Pacific”. Singh also said that the two leaders had “expressed their satisfaction at the progress made in fostering defence cooperation for shared security, and reaffirmed their desire to further deepen the strategic and defence cooperation between Japan and India”, according to the statement.
In this context, Singh and Iwaya “affirmed their intention to hold the first Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue (2+2) ahead of the Japan-India Annual Summit this year” to take forward the cooperation for peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
In China’s shadow, a strategic alliance
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last year, India and Japan decided to have a 2+2 dialogue mechanism between the Defence and Foreign Ministers of the two countries. With an assertive China in their neighbourhood, this was an effort aimed at giving political muscle to the existing diplomatic, security, and defence cooperation between the countries. India had until then had a 2+2 dialogue only with the United States. India and Japan also have shared maritime interests in the Pacific Ocean, and had decided in last year’s meeting to deepen their “maritime domain awareness” with a pact between the Indian Navy and Japanese maritime self-defence force.
Peace and stability in the Indian and Pacific Oceans are “crucial for ensuring prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the entire world” and both the ministers “had a frank exchange of views on the current security situation in the region, including developments on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea,” according to the statement.
The two defence ministers also “welcomed the steady progress in bilateral cooperation in the area of Maritime Domain Awareness based on the Implementing Arrangement for Deeper Cooperation between the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy signed last year”.
Singh and Iwaya met for the annual defence ministerial meeting on Monday and Singh also called on Abe.
The two countries also welcomed Malabar 2019, the trilateral maritime exercise between India, Japan and the US, which will be held between late September and early October. The second trilateral mine-countermeasures exercise (MINEX) between the three countries was held in July and both Singh and Iwaya “expressed their resolve to continue the trilateral exercise in the same framework from next year onwards,” according to the statement. They also “recognised the conduct of Japan-India Maritime Exercise in 2018 and shared the view to conduct the exercise on a regular basis”.
The two countries want the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy to work towards participating in multilateral exercises, including as observers. They also shared their views to “explore cooperation with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through various initiatives that would further the shared vision of peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region”, the statement mentioned.