Indo-Japan military drill follows Xi-Modi meeting

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Days after the Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summit, India and Japan are set to start two military drills in eastern India as New Delhi strives to strike a balance in its ties with the two Asian arch-rivals.

While the Indian Army and Japanese Ground Self Defence Forces will undertake the second edition of the Exercise Dharma Guardian in Mizoram between October 19 and November 2, the Indian Air Force and Japanese Air Self Defence Force will carry out an exercise in West Bengal between October 17-23.

At the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte, 25 soldiers from each side will train together on counter-terrorism measures whereas, in the Shinyuu Maitri air exercise at Panagarh, the focus would be on tactical operations with both sides using aircraft — C-130J by the IAF and C-130H by Japan — used in special operations.

The exercises with the Japanese military comes a month after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya in Tokyo to review the bilateral ties and prepare the grounds for the first 2+2 summit between the foreign and defence ministers from the two countries later this year.

The annual military drill between India and Japan commenced from 2018, signifying New Delhi's newfound strategic closeness to Tokyo both of which are the two key players in the Quad along with Washington and Canberra.

Last month, the foreign ministers of the Quad countries met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, but what transpired behind the closed door was not disclosed. The Quad meeting is followed by the “informal summit” between Modi and Xi.

While the Quad was relaunched in 2017 with the stated objective of keeping the Indo-Pacific “free and open” (a reference to China's expansionist approach in the South China Sea), New Delhi makes an effort to ensure that it does not appear overtly adversarial to China and derail the process to mend the bilateral ties that first nosedived after the Doklam crisis of 2017 and suffered a set back following Beijing's public support to Islamabad on Jammu and Kashmir.

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