Beijing’s cloak-and-dagger moves in the South China Sea and beyond has led to Tokyo and New Delhi become more amicable.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has welcomed his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to Japan, hosting a private dinner at his villa near Mount Fuji to kick-off two days of talks on trade and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
The two leaders are scheduled to hold formal talks in Tokyo on Monday that will also likely touch on China’s growing power in the region.
Abe himself had just returned from China, where he held talks with President Xi Jinping.
Abe and Modi are expected to issue a joint communique on strengthening security cooperation and measures aimed at pursuing a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kyodo News agency reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed Japanese foreign ministry official.
Their statement is expected to include improved cooperation between the two countries and the United States amid efforts to counter China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
Japan and India are set to hold their first joint military exercises involving ground forces in November.
“[We] will have a frank exchange of views and I’d like to deepen our cooperative ties for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Abe said at a meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Modi visited a factory operated by robot manufacturer Fanuc before being invited to Abe’s vacation home near Mount Fuji.
The invitation was seen as Abe’s response to the welcome he received from Modi’s hometown in Gujarat last year.
It was also an opportunity for Abe to make a pitch to Indian tourists to visit the mountain, which is considered as a national symbol and pride of Japan.
Abe has made bolstering and opening the nation’s economy central to his policies, called “Abenomics”, and has encouraged trade, foreign investment and tourism.
Abe and Modi are also likely to agree to expand the two countries’ cooperation in the medical field and boost exchanges in various areas.
This is Modi’s third visit to Japan as prime minister. The two leaders last met in Japan in November 2016.
Although Japan has long seen the US as its main ally, especially in defence, Abe is courting other ties. He has also been vocal about free trade, which runs counter to Trump’s moves to raise tariffs.
Earlier this year, Japan signed a landmark deal with the European Union that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade.