A year after PM Narendra Modi visited Japan and riled Beijing with his comments on “expansionist” policies of some countries, India and Japan have, for the first time, come up with an unequivocal statement on South China Sea and called on countries to “avoid unilateral actions” that could lead to tension in the region. Last year, India had signed two joint statements with Japan, but neither mentioned the South China Sea.
Issued after talks between Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Saturday, the statement said, “In view of critical importance of the sea lanes of communications in the South China Sea for regional energy security and trade and commerce which underpins continued peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, the two Prime Ministers…called upon all States to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region.”
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar echoed the statement, saying, “South China Sea is of concern to us… Both countries have energy stakes there… Important that unilateral actions should be avoided…and code of conduct should be established quickly.”
Japan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yasuhisa Kawamura said, “China is an important stakeholder for both countries… Our framework of cooperation is not targeted towards a third country.”
But with Japan being included as permanent member of India-US Malabar exercises and trilateral dialogues being established between India, US and Japan, it will widely be perceived as a bloc.
On the issue of terrorism too, they used strong language. “The two PMs… called for eliminating terrorist safe havens, in disrupting terrorist networks and financing channels, and stopping cross-border movement of terrorists… They underlined the need for all countries to effectively deal with trans-national terrorism emanating from their territory. They affirmed the importance of bringing perpetrators of terrorist attacks, including those of November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, to justice,” it said.
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