Maritime security to be focus of India, Japan defence cooperation

India and Japan have announced that they want to strengthen defence cooperation, especially in the field of maritime security, on a day when Defence Minister of Japan and his Indian counterpart met and discussed the creation of and response to the new China air defence zones that have heightened tensions in the East China Sea.

Visiting minister Itsunori Onodera, who met Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday morning, briefed the Indian side on 'regional and global security challenges, as well as Japan's new National Defence Program Guidelines that were adopted last month.

Following the meeting, it was announced that both sides have decided to "strengthen India-Japan defence consultation and cooperation to further consolidate and strengthen the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India".

Sources said the Japanese side explained their view on air defence zones created by China over the disputed islands in the East China Sea and discussed the security implications of the move with India.

However, the joint statement did not reflect this, merely saying the two ministers "frankly exchanged ideas regarding regional and global security challenges, as well as bilateral defence cooperation and exchanges between India and Japan".

Cooperation in the defence sector, which has seen an upswing in recent years, will get another fillip with the two sides announcing the possibility of staff talks between the Japan Air Self-Defence Force and Indian Air Force, professional exchanges of test-pilots, cooperation in the field of flight safety and exchange of crew members between transport squadrons. This will be the first air force engagement between the two nations that have regularly conducted Naval exercises.

India and Japan have also decided to carry out high-level mutual visits on an annual basis with the announcement that Antony will visit Japan this year. This will be in addition to the third "2 plus 2" dialogue and the fourth Defence Policy Dialogue (Defence Secretary level) that will be held in New Delhi this year.

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