India and Japan have said they would strengthen defence cooperation, with New Delhi inviting investment by Japanese industries and both Asian countries planning a joint military drill involving their air force fighters.
India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday held talks in Tokyo with Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada ahead of “two-plus-two” talks between defence and foreign ministers from two countries.
“He invited Japanese industries to invest in India’s defence corridors,” India’s defence ministry said in a statement, referring to Singh.
“The two ministers agreed that the early conduct of the inaugural fighter exercise will pave the way for much greater cooperation and interoperability between the air forces of the two countries.”
India, like Japan, is bolstering its military to tackle what it sees as increased security threats, including from neighbouring China.
In Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has promised a “substantial” defence spending increase. His ruling Liberal Democratic Party wants to double Japan’s military budget to 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years amid concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could embolden China to act against neighbouring Taiwan.
New Delhi, which last week commissioned its first home-built aircraft carrier, is expanding its security ties with Tokyo as both Asian nations grow wary of China’s growing military might in the region.
At the outset of the two-plus-two meeting, Japanese foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi underscored the growing importance of the ties between the two countries as the international community faces various challenges.
“If you take a look at the international community, unilateral attempts to change the status quo with force are continuing in the East and South China Seas, let alone Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Hayashi said.
China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands. In the East China Sea, Beijing claims a group of uninhabited Japanese-administered islets.
Japan and India, along with Australia and the United States, are members of the Quad group of nations and hold annual naval exercises across the Indo-Pacific to demonstrate interoperability.
The last leaders’ gathering in May in Japan was dominated by discussion about Taiwan after US President Joe Biden angered China a day earlier by saying he would be willing to use force to defend the democratic island.
As they met, Russian and Chinese warplanes conducted a joint patrol in the region.
Kishida and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a separate bilateral meeting agreed to work closely together to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.