The first India-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial meeting was held in New Delhi. The Foreign Affairs Minister of Japan, Mr. Toshimitsu Motegi and Japan’s Minister of Defence Mr. Taro Kono, held discussions with their respective Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh. The 2+2 meet marks an upgradation in the bilateral relationship and deepening of defence and strategic ties. The Indo-Japan strategic partnership, since the year 2000, has been held at the officials’ level between Joint Working Groups. From 2010 they were being held at the Secretarial level, but now has been upgraded to the Ministers’ level.
This kind of bilateral meeting was first proposed during former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee’s term and former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s tenure in 2000-2001. Thereafter, the momentum has kept building.
In a joint statement, both New Delhi and Tokyo said terrorists operating out of Pakistan pose a grave threat to regional peace and security. It also asked North Korea to dismantle all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs).
The 2+2 Ministerial came as a run-up to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India later this month for the Indo-Japan Annual Summit. The Annual Summit has grown gradually since 2014. For the first time, Indo-Japanese bilateral ties were given a boost in 2006, followed by joint military exercises in 2007; of which the Malabar Exercise is an important part. Japan has been participating in the Malabar Exercise as a member since 2015.
Last year, Indian Army and Japan’s land forces held a joint exercise for the first time, which was on counter terrorism. Talks are ongoing for a joint air-force exercise, which was also discussed at the 2+2 Ministerial meet. This fighter aircraft exercise is expected to see the light of the day soon.
While Japan has a 2+2 at the Ministerial level with six countries; India is engaging in this format with the US and Japan only. However in September this year, on the side-lines of the UNGA, the Foreign Ministers of US, India Japan and Australia met for the first time in New York for the Quadrilateral (Quad) talks. About a fortnight ago, all four countries of the Quad had their first practical table-top exercise on counter terrorism, thereby giving a thrust to the Quad grouping.
Analysts opine, maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific dominated the talks at the2+2 meet, which found resonance with Prime Minister Modi’s speech in Bangkok this year at the East Asia Summit where he mentioned about having an “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” for freedom of navigation, peace and stability.”
The Indo-Japan relationship has been growing with many projects like high speed trains in the pipeline. With many defence projects in the offing, this trust is getting deeper. During the 2+2 Ministerial meet, both sides expressed desire for an early conclusion of the negotiations of the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) which will further contribute to enhancing defence cooperation between the two sides. A Japanese liaison officer will be posted at the Gurugram-based Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) which was started by India in December 2018.
The 2+2 Ministerial meet has a quadrilateral depth defence technology cooperation which began in 2010. This has enhanced to sharing of technologies like robotics and unmanned ground vehicle. India’s DRDO is cooperating with its Japanese counterpart on a range of issues.
The South China Sea too found a mention at the 2+2 Ministerial meet wherein; the importance of freedom of navigation, over-flight, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including those reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) were stressed upon.
Script: Suman Sharma, Journalist