Defence minister Parrikar says he would like to see a strong partnership with Japan in defence equipment and technology
India and Japan pledged to deepen their defence ties as the two nations seek to counter China’s growing influence in the region amid escalating territorial disputes.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar called on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Monday, his first overseas trip since being appointed in November. Parrikar also met his counterpart Gen Nakatani as part of the 29 March-1 April visit.
“A strong India-Japan partnership is not only in the national interest of the two countries but is also important for peace and security in the region,” defence ministry said in a statement, citing Abe. Parrikar said he would like to see a strong partnership with Japan in defence equipment and technology, according to the statement.
Converging economic and security interests are driving Asia’s second- and third-biggest military spenders closer in an attempt to thwart increasingly assertive Chinese claims over contested lands and waters. Japan is also easing its defence export rules as India, the world’s biggest arms importer, is looking to modernize its military.
A close rapport between Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been cemented by a shared unease with China.
Parrikar and Nakatani discussed potential areas for cooperation in defence equipment and technology and “emphasized the need to pursue mutually beneficial future cooperation projects,” the defence ministry said in a separate statement Monday. The two also “reviewed strategic developments relating to international security situation with emphasis on the inter-connected Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions,” according to the statement.
Tokyo’s ties with Beijing have been roiled by differences over Japan’s wartime actions and competing claims over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea strategically located near potential oil and gas deposits and fishing grounds.
India and China have clashed sporadically along their border for the past five decades, including a standoff last year marring a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Modi warned China to drop its “territorial mindset” in February and said his country’s weakness had encouraged China’s army to enter Indian territory.
In September, Japan and India pledged to upgrade their security relationship to uphold maritime security and the peaceful settlement of disputes. India also invited Japan last July to participate for the first time in annual naval exercises with the US in the Pacific Ocean.
The two countries have also been discussing the sale of Japanese US-2 amphibious planes to India, as well as a pact on civil nuclear energy.
Since taking office in 2012, Abe has reinterpreted his nation’s pacifist constitution to allow Japan to come to the aid of allies, reversed a decade-long decline in defence spending and lifted a ban on arms exports.
India is bulking up and modernizing its forces as it reasserts control in the Indian Ocean and along a 14,000km northern land border, parts of which it contests with China.
India last month increased its defence budget by 11% to $40 billion and approved the building of six nuclear-powered submarines and seven new frigates. It plans to spend $150 billion to modernize its military by 2027.