Tokyo: While Japan’s defence minister heads to Pakistan next week, the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit India.
Abe, a conservative who seeks a greater military role for Japan, has long championed nurturing ties with India to balance Tokyo’s frequent tensions with China.
At the same time Defence Minister Yuriko Koike will fly to Pakistan as “a special envoy of the prime minister,” according to a defence ministry spokesman.
She will hold talks in Islamabad on Wednesday with Pakistani Defence Minister Rao Sikandar Iqbal. Japanese media reports said she was also expected to meet with President Pervez Musharraf.
Koike will visit New Delhi on the heels of Abe but has no joint schedule with him. She will meet her Indian counterpart AK Antony, the spokesman said.
Abe’s visit to India is part of a week-long tour starting 19August that will also take him to Indonesia and Malaysia.
His predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, visited both India and Pakistan in 2005 on the last trip by a Japanese premier to South Asia.
The trip comes at a time of political uncertainty for Abe after his Liberal Democratic Party was crushed in elections last month amid a raft of scandals.
Abe is due to reshuffle his cabinet on 27August after returning to Japan and speculation is rife on whether he will keep Koike, who is embroiled in a widely publicised battle about appointments at her ministry.
Japan’s first female defence chief, she took office just last month after her predecessor quit over remarks suggesting that the US nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified.
Japan has campaigned actively against atomic weapons, clouding relations for years with India and Pakistan which declared themselves nuclear powers in 1998.