Defence ties reset as Japan joins Malabar naval exercises

Points to a new strategic realignment in Indo-Pacific region

December 13, 2015 02:01 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:27 pm IST - New Delhi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi taking part in Ganga Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi on Saturday. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi taking part in Ganga Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi on Saturday. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Charting a new course, India and Japan on Saturday announced a series of military and strategic agreements and understandings. Unveiling the new bilateral military cooperation, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “We have created a new chapter in India-Japan relationship with important defensive initiatives.”

The high point of the new strategic and military realignment is Japan’s formal entry into the India-U.S. Malabar bilateral maritime exercises, turning it into a trilateral initiative aimed at ensuring peace, security and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Announcing the landmark naval trilateral, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said: “Japan used to be an irregular participant in the Malabar naval arrangement. From now Japan will be a formal partner of the Malabar exercise.”

“Defence related agreements are indeed the most important part of this particular visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India,” Yasuhisa Kawamura, Director General for Press and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan told The Hindu in an exclusive meeting. Mr Kawamura highlighted the “agreement on transfer of defence equipment and technology cooperation” and the “agreement on security measures for the protection of classified military information”.

Defence ties with Japan to help ‘Make in India’

Mr. Yasuhisha told The Hindu that defence ties with India are now “fundamentally important” to Japan and that India’s flagship “Make in India” programme also will benefit from defence co-production plans.

Following Saturday’s understanding, it is expected that Japan will soon take up production of US-2 amphibious aircraft, 15 of which are reportedly to be purchased by India.

Japanese sources emphasised that the emerging military ties are not targeted at China. “The Malabar naval trilateral is does not have any designated target, and we plan to work with India and the U.S. for peace, security, freedom of navigation, in the South China Sea and the important energy lanes of Indo-Pacific region,” Mr. Kawamura said. He pointed out that there were serious challenges emerging between China and Japan.

No n-deal

The positive military-level negotiations however, did not help in ensuring the final draft of the civil nuclear deal. Briefing the media, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar pointed out that “legal, legislative, expert-level negotiations are yet to be concluded though the government-to-government negotiation on the principles have been sealed”.

Apparently, the Indian side gave assurances to Japan’s strong non-proliferation lobby to expedite the deal, the Japanese preferred to play safe and sought time for Prime Minister Abe to convince the Japanese parliament on the assurances.

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