India, Japan strategic cooperation on track

India, Japan strategic cooperation on track

Defence Minister of Japan Itsunori Onodera calls on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Monday. PTI

India and Japan would hold their first joint Army exercise later this year, turning a new leaf in the bilateral strategic collaboration.

The first-ever joint exercise between Japan Ground Self Defence and the Indian Army will be held in the fall of 2018 focussing on counter-terrorism strategies, says a statement issued after a bilateral meeting between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera here on Monday.

The two strategic allies also chalked out plans for continuing with engagement between the two Navies and Air Forces. Besides collaborative military R&D would also be undertaken.

The timing of the Indo-Japan defence ministers meeting assume significance as it took place on the eve of the arrival of Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe, who would be the first high-level Chinese delegate to visit since the Wuhan Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jin Ping in April when both leaders decided to reset the Sino-Indian ties in the wake of the Doklam crisis.

“The ministers had a frank exchange of views on the current security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including developments in the Korean Peninsula,” says the statement, clearly suggesting the Chinese muscle-flexing in the Indian Ocean region and developments in North Korea were discussed between the two allies.

India and Japan had slowly transformed their defence relations, repositioning themselves as military allies in the last few years as China became assertive in the Indian Ocean region.

The ties between the two air forces would have received a boost with India agreeing to Japan's participation as observers in the next round of Exercise Cope India with the USA. Japan Air Self-Defence Force helicopter crews visited Sarsawa Air Force Station in December 2017 and the top brass from the two Air Forces had a staff talk in June.

Last year, the Narendra Modi government decided to revive the mock air drill between the IAF and USAF that was put on hold since 2009. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa will be travelling to Japan by 2018 end.

New Delhi and Tokyo kick-started a military research programme between the Acquisition, Technology and Logistical Agency of Japan and Defence Research and Development Organisation too with the objective of developing an unmanned ground vehicle using robotics. Indian Defence Minister would visit Japan on a reciprocal tour next year.

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