New Delhi: India on Saturday seemed to join issue with China and support Japan’s position in its current territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea underscoring the importance of freedom of flight and the freedom of navigation.
“The two prime ministers underscored the importance of freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with the recognized principles of international law and the relevant standards and recommended practices of the international civil aviation organization,” a joint statement issued after talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
“The two prime ministers reiterated the commitment of Japan and India to the freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes based on the principles of international law,” the statement added.
Though neither of the leaders mentioned China by name, it was clear that the reference was to the Asian giant given the territorial dispute between the two Asian neighbours—Japan and China.
This is the first time India has publicly commented on the air defence identification zone announced by Beijing in November.
India has its own territorial dispute with China stemming from the 1962 war which resulted in an undemarcated border.
Tensions between Japan and China have risen over the dispute over islands in the East China Sea. Both claim the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
In November, China tried to establish its authority over the islands by demanding that all aircraft flying in the region obey its rules or face “emergency defensive measures”—a move that upset many countries in the region including Japan. Japan’s response was to frame the country’s first-ever national security strategy that calls for a more proactive approach to security despite Japan’s post-World War II pacifist constitution.
And earlier this week, Abe upped the ante when he said that current relations between Japan and China were not unlike the ties between Britain and Germany in 1914. But economic interdependence was not enough to prevent World War I, Abe said, according to a report in The New York Times.
According to the joint statement, “the two Prime Ministers reaffirmed their resolve to further deepen the strategic and global partnership between India and Japan as two democracies in Asia sharing universal values such as freedom, democracy and rule of law, and to contribute jointly to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world, taking into account changes in the strategic environment.
“Prime Minister Abe elaborated his policy of ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’. Prime Minister Singh appreciated Japan’s efforts to contribute to peace and stability of the region and the world,” it added.
“Welcoming the expansion of the bilateral currency swap arrangement from $15 billion to $50 billion and signing of the contract for its entry into force in January 2014, the two Prime Ministers expressed their expectation that this expansion will further strengthen financial cooperation and contribute to the stability of global financial markets including emerging economies,” the statement further said.
Abe is in New Delhi as the chief guest of the Republic Day Parade on Sunday. This is his second visit to India; the first was during his previous term in office in 2007. It was at that time that both countries elevated their ties to “a strategic and global partnership”.
In their remarks to the press after the India-Japan summit, Abe announced a loan of 200 billion yen ($2 billion) for infrastructure projects in India, including the Delhi Metro project and Singh described Japan as the “heart” of India’s look-east policy and “key partner” in economic development.
“Prime Minister Abe and I have just concluded a comprehensive annual summit meeting. We noted with satisfaction the growing frequency of our political engagement and our expanding defence and security cooperation. Our bilateral maritime exercises have now been established on an annual basis and we have welcomed Japan’s participation in the Malabar exercise this year,” Singh said referring to naval exercises between Japan, the US and India.
On the civil nuclear pact that the two countries have been discussing for several years, Singh said the negotiations “have gained momentum” in the last few months.
On talks between the two sides on India buying the Japanese made US-2 amphibian aircraft, Singh said India and Japan were now “exploring modalities of cooperation on its use and co-production in India. More broadly, we are working towards increasing our cooperation in the area of advanced technologies”, Singh said.
The Indian Prime Minister said that Japan was a “privileged partner in India’s most ambitious infrastructure projects”, including the $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor and the planned Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor.
“The presence of Japanese companies in India increased 16% last year. However, I believe there is enormous untapped potential in our business ties. I, therefore, sought increased Japanese investments in India. We explored ideas for concrete cooperation in manufacturing and R&D in the electronics sector as well as in energy-efficient and energy-saving technologies,” Singh said.
Prime Minister Abe in his comments said that India and Japan had agreed to a dialogue between the newly established national security council of Japan and its Indian counterpart and spoke of the possibility of stepping up cooperation in maritime security. To increase people-to-people interaction, the Japanese Prime Minister said his government was looking at issuing Indians short-term multiple entry visas. He also urged closer ties between the Indian and Japanese businesses and academic institutions.
Earlier in the day, the Japanese prime minister called on President Pranab Mukherjee, a statement from the president’s office said. In the meeting, the President recalled that it was Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi who launched Japan’s official development assistance programme. According to the Indian foreign ministry, there are some 66 projects which are underway in India from using Japanese overseas development assistance loans and grants. “India attaches great importance to India-Japan relations and appreciates Prime Minister Abe’s view that India-Japan relations have the largest potential in any bilateral relations,” the statement quoted the president as saying.
“The Japanese Prime Minister said there has been steady progress in the strategic and global partnership between the two countries. Cooperation between the defence forces of the two countries will contribute to peace and security of the entire region,” the statement said. “Over 1,000 Japanese companies are already in India. He would like to see trade and investment develop further. He has therefore brought along with him a large business delegation. He also looks forward to developing exchanges in the academic field,” the statement added.