India's security cooperation with Japan in the Asia-Pacific, which is fast turning into the driver of global politics, received further impetus on Monday as the two sides announced fresh dialogue mechanisms for maritime and cyber security.
As the sixth round of strategic dialogue between the two nations was co-chaired by foreign minister S M Krishna and his visiting Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba, New Delhi and Tokyo are also preparing for a joint naval exercise off the coast of Japan in June. Indian Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force will take part in the exercise.
India and Japan also decided to take forward negotiations for civil nuclear energy cooperation, but Japanese sources later told TOI that there were "certain elements" that needed to be addressed before entering into this partnership.
"We will discuss maritime affairs with a special focus on maritime security," said Gemba, adding that the two sides are also looking to expand cooperation in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. "India is actually situated at an important place on the sea lanes of the communication which links Japan with West Asia. So, I cannot overlook the geo-political significance of the location of India,'' he added.
Later, in a meeting with PM Manmohan Singh, Gemba explained to him the significance of the new dialogue initiatives. Sources said that Singh expressed "high hopes" from this exercise.
The move comes at a time when both the countries are concerned about China's rapidly increasing political and economic muscle and when Asia-Pacific is seeing increasing security cooperation among all major democracies in the region, including the US and Australia.
Noting that the two countries have already had three rounds of negotiations on civil nuclear cooperation, Krishna, at a joint press conference with Gemba, said, "We have instructed our negotiators on the way forward". Asked on the progress in civil nuclear talks and if India's non-NPT status was a sticking point in the negotiations, Gemba said, "We reconfirmed that we will move ahead with the negotiations to conclude, and agreements to obtain mutually satisfactory outcome". "At the same time, I asked for understanding on Japan's strong desire for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," he added.
Talking to journalists later, Japanese officials said that India signing NPT was one of Japan's "aspirations", but added that it was not a condition for signing civil nuclear deal with India. Krishna and Gemba also discussed developments in Myanmar, Afghanistan and North Korea.
Japanese officials said later though that the issue of a more assertive China was not discussed in the meeting. They said that Japan was actually looking at creating a web of network in the Asia-Pacific to ensure rising powers were comfortable with each other and that's why Tokyo had also proposed a Japan-China-US trilateral.