Eye on China, with Tokyo help

India and Japan are set to reach an agreement on exchange of information on marine traffic in the South China Sea and beyond, a development that marks a collaboration on watching Chinese vessels closely.

By SUJAN DUTTA
  • Published 31.03.15
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Japan’s defence minister Gen. Nakatani (right) greets Manohar Parrikar in Tokyo on Monday. (Reuters)

New Delhi, March 30: India and Japan are set to reach an agreement on exchange of information on marine traffic in the South China Sea and beyond, a development that marks a collaboration on watching Chinese vessels closely.

Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar is currently in Japan where he held talks with his counterpart, Gen. Nakatani today. A joint media release issued after the talks does not specifically mention an "understanding on exchange of information on white-shipping".

"White-shipping" is the term used to describe mercantile traffic.

In documents outlining its strategic policies last year, Japan identified India as a "primary driver" of change in the global "balance of power". The official documents list several areas in which the Indian and Japanese navies can collaborate.

Today's joint release said the two ministers "reviewed strategic developments relating to international security situation with emphasis on the inter-connected Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions".

"They were of the view that in the inter-connected Indo-Pacific region, India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership has a key role in maintaining peace and stability in the region," it said.

Both Japan and India have been watching with some consternation the growth of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy. As recently as this month, the Indian Navy warned the government that a Chinese nuclear submarine transiting the Arabian Sea may have been capable of "mapping the coastline".

Japan is locked in a dispute with China over territorial rights to islands in the South China and East China Seas. Japan also collaborates with the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia in watching Chinese naval movements. The South and East China Seas are waters through which a bulk of Indian mercantile traffic passes.

"The two ministers welcomed the progress made in bilateral defence exchanges following the signing of memorandum of cooperation and exchanges in the field of defence during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan in September 2014 and emphasised the need to further strengthen and elevate bilateral defence relation," the official statement said.

India and Japan are also in talks to co-develop Japanese-origin amphibious aircraft (the US2 Shinmaywa) that Tokyo has offered to New Delhi. India has also urged Japan to participate in a project to make six conventional submarines. The Indian Navy has taken an interest in the Japanese "Soryu" class of boats.

India and Japan have a Joint Working Group on Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation. The ministers "were of the view that India and Japan have the potential in the area of defence equipment and technology cooperation, which can emerge as a key pillar of bilateral defence relations" said the official statement.