Deepening cooperation in defence and security, India and Japan have agreed to enhance exchanges between their forces which is likely to translate into more bilateral exercises, as well as more exchanges in the field of technology and equipment as India looks towards increasing its domestic defence production.
This comes after a bilateral dialogue between the Defence Ministers of India and Japan on September 5-6, that took place as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in China for the BRICS summit from September 3-5.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera, as part of the annual India-Japan Defence Ministerial Dialogue held in Tokyo, exchanged views on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.
The talks are likely to have touched on the over 70-day stand-off between India and China along the border in Doklam, even though the statement did not name China anywhere.
However, it did carry a joint condemnation of North Korea’s September 3 nuclear test.
Both sides also expressed satisfaction on the India-US-Japan naval exercise Malabar 2017, that took place in the Bay of Bengal in July and led to unease in China.
Jaitley went to attend the bilateral dialogue on Sunday night, hours after Nirmala Sitharaman was named the new Defence Minister, stating that logistics arrangement at the last moment was difficult. Sitharaman will take charge of the ministry formally on Thursday after Jaitley’s return.
India and Japan expressed satisfaction at the continued deepening and diversification of bilateral defence cooperation since the signing of the bilateral Memorandum on Defence Co-operation and Exchanges in September 2014 and the two Defence Framework agreements signed in December 2015.
It also observed that through institutionalised dialogues and visits, defence cooperation between the two countries has been strengthened.
In 2018, the Japanese Defence Minister will visit India. The Armies of both nations will explore holding a joint exercise on anti-terrorism next year for the first time. Japan also invited India to participate in an Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise held by Japan Ground Self Defence Force as an observer.
Onodera expressed his intention to have state-of-the-art Japanese assets including P-1 to participate in the next edition of the Malabar exercise in 2018 and Jaitley welcomed his proposal.
“The Ministers noted the importance of bilateral training interactions between Indian Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). The two sides will consider inclusion of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training to expand cooperation,” it said.
In addition, the ministers agreed to pursue exchanges and training by ASW aviation units such as Lockheed P-3 Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft. The Japanese side proposed to invite Indian Navy personnel to mine-countermeasures training held by JMSDF.
As India looks forward to increasing defence manufacturing within the country, the two sides discussed enhancing interaction between governments and defence industries to encourage equipment collaboration.
Jaitley briefed his Japanese counterpart about recent policy reforms in the defence manufacturing sectors in India, and said it offers opportunities for foreign industries to play an active role.