Modi, Kishida review \'challenge\' of China; boost trade, defence ties

Japanese PM invited Mr Modi as a guest for the G-7 summit to be held in May this year in Hiroshima

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks here on Monday with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, when both sides discussed Chinese military and economic assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region and the common “challenges” that both nations face on this score, with Mr Kishida hailing India as an “indispensable” partner for Japan and announcing a new plan for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) which includes Japanese investment to the tune of $75 billion for the development of infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region by 2030, in what is seen as a move to counter Beijing.

During the talks, India and Japan decided to further ramp up ties in the defence and security sector, including defence equipment and technology collaboration encompassing co-design and co-innovation, trade and investment ties, health and digital partnership, development finance, food security, climate change, people-to-people ties, skill development, as well as reliable supply chains in semiconductors and other critical technologies.

As the current chair of the Group of Seven, the Japanese PM invited Mr Modi as a guest for the G-7 summit to be held in May this year in Hiroshima. Mr Modi accepted the invitation and hoped that “India-Japan relations will continue to touch new heights”. India, as the current G-20 chair, also discussed its priorities for the G-20 with Japan, which is also a member of the grouping. Two pacts were signed on Monday between the two sides, including one for the fourth tranche of a 300 billion yen Japanese loan (about Rs 18,000 crores) for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR), which is commonly known as the bullet train project. The other was on Japanese Language Education in India. Both leaders also expressed satisfaction over the “good progress” on the target set last year of Japanese investment of 5 trillion yen (Rs 3.20 lakh crores) in India in the next five years.

Delivering the 41st Sapru House Lecture here on his new plan for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), when he slammed the Russian “aggression” on Ukraine, Mr Kishida underlined the four pillars of this new plan that included peace with protection of vulnerable countries, strengthening of maritime security between Japan’s self-defence forces and the armed forces of other nations including the coast guards, safe use of the seas and airspace, and a multi-layered connectivity plan that includes Japan-Asean connectivity, linkages with Pacific island nations and an industrial value chain concept for the Bay of Bengal that links Bangladesh with Northeast India.

With an obvious eye on China without naming it, the Japanese PM emphasised that disputes in the Indo-Pacific should be settled peacefully and without coercion by adhering to international law. Not surprisingly, therefore, the most significant part of Mr Kishida’s speech was the announcement by him of a US$ 75 billion plan for development of infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region by 2030 that is expected to include both private investment and Japanese yen loans and also official Japanese government assistance. The announcement is seen as a move to counter China in the region.

When asked at a special MEA briefing about whether China was discussed at the talks, foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said both leaders discussed the “challenges” that both nations face in the region. It may be noted that both India and Japan have territorial disputes with China. It may also be noted that both India and Japan have significantly stepped up their bilateral military exercises.

Praising the Japanese PM, Mr Modi said: “I have felt his positivity and commitment towards India-Japan relations. … Our meeting today is special for another reason as well. This year India is chairing the G-20, while Japan is chairing the G-7. And therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to work together on our respective priorities and interests. Today, I explained in detail to Prime Minister Kishida about the priorities of India’s G-20 presidency. Giving voice to the priorities of the Global South is an important pillar of our G-20 presidency.”

Mr Modi added: “The India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership is based on our shared democratic values, and respect for the rule of law in the international arena. Strengthening this partnership is not only important for both our countries, it also promotes peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. In our conversation today, we have reviewed the progress made in our bilateral relations. We exchanged views on defence equipment and technology collaboration, trade, health, and digital partnership. We also had a fruitful discussion on the importance of reliable supply chains in semiconductors and other critical technologies. Last year, we had set a target of Japanese investment of 5 trillion yen in India in the next five years, that is, three lakh twenty thousand crore rupees. It is a matter of satisfaction that there has been good progress in this direction.”

Mr Modi further stated: “Today, Prime Minister Kishida extended an invitation to me for attending the G-7 Leaders’ Summit to be held in Hiroshima in May. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for this. A few months later in September, I will have the opportunity to welcome Prime Minister Kishida to India again for the G-20 Leaders’ Summit. May this series of our talks and contacts continue like this, and may India-Japan relations continue to touch new heights.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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