India and Japan will increase bilateral military engagement with both sides deciding to step up defence cooperation. Defence Minister A.K. Antony described the move as one geared towards peace and prosperity of the region.

Maritime security, anti-piracy measures, freedom of navigation and maintaining the security of Sea Lanes of Communication to facilitate unhindered trade by the sea routes were some of the issues that dominated the India-Japan Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday night.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony and his Japanese counterpart Yasuo Ichikawa recognised the importance of sea lanes and decided to ‘actively pursue consultations and cooperation in the field of maritime security both bilaterally and in association with all other countries in the region’, Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar, who accompanied the delegation said here on Thursday.

Stating that maritime security challenges were becoming increasingly complex and varied, Mr. Antony said, since November 2010, India had increased its anti-piracy deployment in the East Arabian sea and reiterated that an efficacious solution to deal with the scourge requires concerted efforts of the world community under a U.N. mandate.

The anti-piracy efforts need to be supplemented by adoption of better security measures by the world maritime community, he said, adding, “There is a need to not only have a legal framework for prosecuting the pirates, but concerted efforts are also necessary to track the money-trail and to stop it from being channelised for funding terrorist activities, worldwide.”

Mr. Antony noted that both India and Japan are exchanging escort schedules of their naval vessels deployed in the Gulf of Aden region signalling coordination in anti-piracy efforts. He expressed the hope that respective organisations from both sides like the Director General Shipping would be able to establish a mechanism to share the escort schedules with the merchant ships flagged with them. Discussing specifics of exchanges and defence cooperation, the two sides expressed satisfaction at the planned activities based on agreed annual calendars. The Japanese Defence Minister will visit India early next year.

Early 2012 will see both sides implement the Japan-India Defence Policy Dialogue in Tokyo, and staff talks between Ground Self Defence Force and Indian Army, staff exchanges between Air Self Defence Force and Indian Air Force.

Both sides will carry out mutual visits of vessels and aircraft and conduct bilateral exercise between Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF) and Indian Navy. In 2012, vessels of both sides will make mutual visits and MSDF aircraft will visit India, during which bilateral exercise would be held.

Japan’s association with Indian Navy formed part of the trilateral Malabar series of exercise with the United States. The 2007 exercise was objected to by Beijing while Japan pulled out from the scheduled 2011 engagement off Okinawa coast following the Fukushima earthquake disaster.

The two sides will implement exchanges on peacekeeping operations like International Peace Cooperation Training and Exercise Unit of the Central Readiness Force of GSDF and Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK), India.

In addition, there would be cadet exchanges between the National Defence Academy of Japan (NDA) and the National Defence Academy of India (NDA). The two sides will also implement exchange of ideas aimed at concrete collaboration, such as joint training for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The two countries resolved to continue to make active contributions to the peace, stability and prosperity of Asia as a whole. On arrival at the Ministry of Defence Headquarters in Tokyo, Mr. Antony laid a wreath at the Memorial Zone. He was also presented with a guard of honour prior to the talks. The Indian delegation included Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Indian Ambassador to Japan Aloke Prasad, Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral R.K. Dhowan and Central Command Chief Lt. Gen. V.K. Ahluwalia.

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