It is important for Japan and India to deepen their security cooperation and strive to ensure the safety of sea-lanes.
Japan and India have held their first foreign and defense ministers’ meeting — so-called two-plus-two talks — in India and issued a joint statement focusing on the promotion of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” initiative, which has been led by Japan and the United States.
The two-plus-two meeting is a framework in which ministers discuss security policies and defense cooperation. India became the seventh country for Japan to hold the dialogue in this style, following the United States and Australia, among others. India last year held a two-plus-two meeting with the United States, making Japan its second country for such a meeting.
China has been proceeding with work to turn the South China Sea into a military foothold and using its economic strength to back port development in countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. Concerns have been raised that China could use such ports for military purposes under its maritime strategy dubbed “a string of pearls.”
India’s deepening cooperation with Japan and the United States is apparently aimed at keeping China in check. It is imperative to strengthen the multilateral cooperative system to urge China to refrain from behaving in a hegemonic way.
The joint statement incorporated a policy for Japan and India to aim to conclude an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) under which the two countries will exchange supplies, between the Self-Defense Forces and the Indian military. It also stipulated that the two nations will jointly hold fighter jet training in Japan for the first time.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy have conducted a series of minesweeping and anti-submarine drills in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Last year, Ground Self-Defense Force units visited India to conduct antiterrorism exercises.
The envisaged Japan-India ACSA is aimed at facilitating joint exercises. The scale of drills should be expanded to improve proficiency.
Both Japan and India are developing unmanned vehicles. It is hoped the two countries will strengthen coordination in the joint development of defense equipment and cooperation in robotic technology.
Defense Minister Taro Kono said after the meeting, “Cooperation among Japan, the United States, Australia and India is important for realizing the Indo-Pacific initiative.”
In recent years, joint maritime exercises have been conducted under Japan-U.S.-Australia and Japan-U.S.-India frameworks. In the case of drills under a scenario that involves China, a joint exercise comprising Japan, the United States, Australia and India is also worth considering.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to visit India in the middle of this month for talks with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. It is necessary to deepen cooperation in a wide range of fields, including security and the economy.
The Indian government has placed Jammu and Kashmir, a northern area that is at the heart of a territorial dispute with Pakistan, under its direct control. Local residents and Pakistan are strongly opposed to the move.
Japan and Western nations have confidence in India because it has long valued democracy based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. It is important for Japan to continue to urge the Modi administration to refrain from engaging in coercive measures.