India and Japan pledge to boost military ties

May 25th, 2006  

Topic: India and Japan pledge to boost military ties



TOKYO (AFP) - India and Japan pledged to step up military cooperation, as Tokyo tries to move closer to the South Asian nation which is seeking to modernize its armed forces.

Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee was at the start of a visit to Japan and China, which have seen growing friction with each other and are both seeking to improve ties with New Delhi.

Mukherjee and Japanese Defense Agency Director-General Fukushiro Nukaga signed an agreement to "promote wide-range cooperation in the defense and security field" including in technical areas and training.

The two democracies share the goals of promoting "peace and stability in Asia and at the global level" and of countering terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, a joint statement said.

They called for greater military coordination including meetings between defense chiefs at regular intervals and the holding of a "defense policy dialogue" between the two countries.

While the agreement was short on details, the Indian delegation was also meeting companies in hopes that "Japanese defense industries will play a niche role in India's defense modernization," as an Indian defense ministry statement put it earlier.

C. Raja Mohan, a prominent Indian strategic analyst, said Mukherjee's visit aimed to "gently push at Japan's closed but unlocked door on defense technology exports to India."

"Mukherjee hopes to launch a structured defense dialogue that will facilitate the transfer of Japanese military and dual-use technologies to India in the near future," Mohan wrote in Thursday's Indian Express newspaper.

Japan, which is officially pacifist, strictly bars military exports.

But in 2004 it relaxed the ban to allow exports to the United States, its main ally, and it has considered limited cooperation with Southeast Asia to fight piracy -- a major concern to Tokyo which imports nearly all its oil.

Japan has also been seeking to build warmer ties with India to balance tension between Tokyo and Beijing, which accuses Japan of failing to atone for its wartime aggression.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who will meet Mukherjee Friday, said earlier this year that "our relations with India have been relatively weak though it is a country very friendly to Japan."

But India has also been working to repair ties with China. The two countries have never established a formal border after a brief but bitter military conflict in 1962.

Mukherjee is due to arrive in Beijing on Sunday for a five-day visit in which he will meet Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
May 25th, 2006  
This is good news for India and Japan.