India and Japan are already working together on a project in Sri Lanka and hope to work together similarly in third countries in Asia and Africa.
New Delhi: India will begin negotiations on a defence logistics pact with Japan during a two-day visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 28 and 29. The move is significant in the backdrop of growing Chinese military assertiveness in Asia. In another obvious joint move to counter Beijing’s economic muscle, New Delhi and Tokyo will also discuss partnerships with third countries to support infrastructure projects there. India and Japan are already working together on a project in Sri Lanka and hope to work together similarly in third countries in Asia and Africa.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale also significantly said the “geo-strategic” component of the Indo-Pacific region is expected to figure during talks between PM Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. With the strong personal rapport between the two leaders, the Japanese PM, in a special gesture, will host a private dinner at his holiday home at Yamanashi Prefecture near Mount Fuji for PM Modi.
The Indo-Japanese cooperation in joint infrastructure and connectivity projects in third countries in Asia and Africa comes in the wake of India’s refusal to sign up for China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since one of the BRI’s flagship projects passed through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the proposed logistics pact — the Acquisitions and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) — will provide Navies of the two countries access to each other’s bases. This will be crucial, given the already close tri-services cooperation between the two countries. Japan is already a participant in the trilateral naval Malabar exercise with India and the US. There is also likely to be bilateral cooperation for research and development in areas of cutting-edge technology such as unmanned ground vehicles. Foreign secretary Gokhale told reporters on Thursday that there is “growing focus on the strategic partnership between the two countries”.
When asked why India and Japan could not team up with China instead on connectivity projects in other countries, he said “the door had not been shut” but pointed to the principle of participation in projects that respect national sovereignty, a veiled reference to India’s objections to the Chinese BRI.
PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart are also expected to discuss the progress on bilateral cooperation projects such as the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project and the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. PM Modi may also seek Japanese expertise on India’s Ayushman Bharat medicare project.