At a meeting of Defence Ministers, no decision was taken on joint exercises in Indian Ocean in view of China’s growing maritime assertiveness

India and Japan resolved to continue their defence consultation and cooperation, including in maritime security, at a meeting of their Defence Ministers A.K. Antony and Itsunori Onodera on Monday.

Mr. Onodera, who began his four-day visit to India on Sunday, called on Mr. Antony as a follow-up to the India-Japan Defence Ministerial Meeting held in November 2011. The Defence Ministry said the Ministers discussed regional and global security challenges, as well as defence cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.

Mr. Onodera briefed the Indian delegation of Japan’s National Security Strategy and National Defence Program Guidelines, which were adopted in December last.

When Mr. Onodera’s visit was announced in late December, some Japanese news agencies reported, citing government sources, that he “plans to promote talks to export Japan’s US-2 amphibious aircraft used by the Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) to India, prior to the scheduled visit to the country by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in late January.” However, sources here said that while Japan had been pitching for the sale of these aircraft as a special case, for the moment it did not figure on India’s list of priorities.

According to the reports from Japan, the two sides were “expected to regularise joint training exercises between the MSDF and the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean so they can protect sea-lanes in the wake of the growing maritime assertiveness of China.” But, again, the Defence Ministry remained silent on the issue; sources could only say India did not view the relations from the prism of threat because India, Japan and China together had been conducting anti-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden.

An official statement said the Ministers appreciated the progress in the defence cooperation and exchanges in a variety of fields, including the holding of the third Defence Policy Dialogue, which was decided during the 2011 Defence Ministerial meeting; the second “2 plus 2” dialogue; and the second training between the MSDF and the Navy, which was held in December 2013.

The Ministry said the two sides also decided to “promote defence cooperation and exchanges” through high-level mutual visits every year. Mr. Antony is scheduled to visit Japan in 2014.

Both countries agreed to hold the third “2 plus 2” dialogue and the fourth Defence Policy Dialogue (between the Administrative Vice-Minister and the Secretary of Defence) in Delhi this year. Also this year, ships of the Indian Navy will visit Japan for joint exercises.

The two sides also agreed to exchanges experts, in humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter-terrorism, between the Indian Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force; and discuss the possibility of talks between the staff of the Japan Air Self-Defence Force and the Indian Air Force.

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