Japan seeks closer maritime defence ties with India

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Japan's foreign minister used a visit to India Saturday to push for tighter maritime security ties between the two nations, as Tokyo seeks to shore up its relationships in Asia to counter an increasingly powerful China.

Fumio Kishida, who met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, is on his first overseas visit since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secured a landmark victory in national elections last month.

"Japan and India have been increasing cooperation in the field of maritime security... It is important to further strengthen our cooperation," Kishida said in a speech to the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi on Saturday.

Both India and Japan have signalled a keenness to beef up their defence ties in recent months to counter an increasingly assertive China.

The issue of China's growing might is also likely to figure when Kishida meets his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj for the eighth strategic dialogue later on Saturday, India's foreign ministry confirmed.

Kishida also urged closer economic collaboration with India, a subject close to both Modi and Abe, who have been compared for their economic reform zeal.

"Under Abenomics the government of Japan supports the overseas advancement of Japanese enterprises, while India has been strengthening its manufacturing industry by attracting investment under Modinomics," the Japanese foreign minister said.

Prime Minister Modi, who chose Tokyo for his first bilateral visit outside South Asia in August-September, was on that trip offered public and private investment worth US$35 billion (S$43.76 billion) over next five years by his Japanese counterpart.

The governments will also assess the progress in ongoing bilateral negotiations over nuclear energy.