Tokyo, Delhi agree to beef up strategic relations

Countries to boost security, economic ties within their 'special' partnership

This article was first published on Sept 2, 2014

Japan and India have agreed to enhance their strategic partnership and boost economic and security ties in what is widely seen as a bid to counterbalance China's increasing influence in the region.

This was the outcome of talks here yesterday between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart, Mr Narendra Modi, who arrived in Kyoto last Saturday to kick off his five-day official visit.

Addressing reporters jointly after their meeting, Mr Modi disclosed that both leaders have agreed to add the word "special" to their countries' partnership.

"This means Japan has an even bigger role to play in our development," said Mr Modi.

Mr Abe announced an investment of 3.5 trillion yen (S$42 billion) in public and private investments in India in the next five years, mainly in finance, infrastructure projects and building of smart cities.

Japan also offered financial and technical aid to India to develop a high-speed rail network.

On security, the two leaders agreed to greater coordination on maritime security and also discussed the possible sale of Japan's US-2 amphibious rescue aircraft to India. This could become Japan's first foreign military sale in nearly 50 years.

But while they emphasised the importance of "two-plus-two" security consultations, now held at the permanent secretary level, they merely agreed to consider upgrading the framework to ministerial level in future.

As expected, the two sides were unable to conclude a civil nuclear pact as Japan demanded assurances of stringent checks on the use of nuclear energy. India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act.

But they said they have instructed their officials to accelerate negotiations with the goal of an early conclusion.

Underlining his keenness for Japanese investments, Mr Modi has brought with him a delegation of prominent Indian industrialists to Tokyo.

Addressing Japanese business leaders earlier at a luncheon, Mr Modi said he has created a special team in his office, complete with two Japanese employees, specifically to facilitate Japanese investments and businesses.

He said he wants to "replicate Japan-like efficiency" in his office and the government.

"Rules and laws are being changed which will show results in the near future," said Mr Modi who had worked with Japanese businessmen in his 14 years as chief minister of Gujarat, where he even built world-class golf courses to attract them.

At the luncheon, Mr Modi also criticised the expansionist policies of some countries, without naming them.

"All around, we see policies of the 18th century being followed, that of expansionist policies," he said.

"Encroaching borders, occupying seas or capturing entire countries. This will not lead to development of mankind in the 21st century. If Asia is to lead the 21st century, then India and Japan have to come together and take the development agenda to greater heights," he added.

Asked about these comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing that China and India are strategic partners that seek common development.

Both nations, he said, have maintained "close communication" regarding Chinese President Xi Jinping's planned visit to India in the middle of this month.

Mr Modi's visit to Japan is his first to a major country as prime minister on a bilateral basis. Washington is eager for India and Japan to step up their cooperation in order to offer a regional balance to China.

The visit has been marked by overt displays of warmth and mutual admiration by both leaders, who appeared to be banking on their personal rapport and bonding to take their two countries' relationship to the next level on all fronts.

They spent part of the weekend together in the ancient capital of Kyoto, where they enjoyed a private dinner, toured an ancient temple and did not neglect to exchange exuberant tweets afterwards.

Yesterday, Mr Abe organised a special Japanese tea ceremony in Mr Modi's honour in addition to hosting a banquet for his guest.

wengkin@sph.com.sg