Indo-Pacific region, defence cooperation high on Modi-Abe agenda: Envoy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe (Photo: PTI)

Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and in the defence and security sector will be high on the agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will hold their annual bilateral summit this month, Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu said on Friday.

Modi will be visiting Japan on October 28-29 in what will be his third visit for the annual bilateral summit.

India is the only country with which Japan holds an annual bilateral summit while India holds a similar summit with Russia too.

Speaking at a briefing organised by the think-tank Brookings India here, Hiramatsu referred to Modi's statement that Japan is the cornerstone of India's Act East Policy.

He recalled the joint statement issued following last year's annual bilateral summit in India which called for a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

"I am sure in the (upcoming) meeting, the two leaders will discuss the region in more concrete terms," Hiramatsu said.

Last year, a quad comprising India, Japan, the US and Australia was revived that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The quad had a second meeting in June this year and the process is steadily growing," the Ambassador said.

He also said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional bloc has to play a central role in the Indo-Pacific region, a view that India also holds.

Regarding cooperation in the defence and security sector, Hiramatsu said that India and Japan, along with the US, regularly hold the Malabar naval exercise.

"From November 1 to 14, the ground-based defence forces of Japan and the Indian Army will hold a joint exercise in Mizoram that will also include counter-terrorism exercise," he said.

He also that the air defence forces of Japan and the Indian Air Force too will also hold a join exercise soon.

Stating that India has shown interest in Japanese submarines, he said that talks are going on for this though there has been no outcome as yet.

"We are also discussing a Japanese high tech amphibian aircraft also and I hope there will be progress made in this regard (during the summit)," Hiramatsu said.

He also indicated that a mutual logistics support agreement might be signed following the summit.

On the strong trade and investment relationship between the two countries, he said that Japan is the largest investor in the infrastructure sector in India.

"We will continue with our Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) programme in India," Hiramatsu said.

"Last year, the highest financial aid was provided under the ODA."

Stating that Japan is working on key connectivity projects in northeastern India, the Ambassador said that work is on on national highways in the states of Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram.

"Another road is being developed connecting the Assam-Bhutan border with the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border," he stated.

He also said that India offers a lot of business opportunities to Japanese companies.

"Prime Minister Abe says a strong India is in Japan's best interest," Hiramatsu said.

Regarding the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he said that Indian is an important partner for Japan during the discussions going on for this.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 Asean member states and the six states with which this regional bloc has existing free trade agreements - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.



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