The summit meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Japan here on Saturday was a continuation of the efforts to forge closer security, political and defence ties by putting in place new building blocks and expanding the horizons of ongoing initiatives.
However, the talks between Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe also reflected the gap on the nuclear issue.
The visiting Japanese Prime Minister spoke on the importance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has not been put into force mainly due to India’s resistance. But Dr. Singh felt India’s own commitment not to test any more nuclear bombs should suffice to convince Japan into signing a bilateral civil nuclear deal.
The two countries signed eight pacts, of which half were connected with Japanese aid, thus indicating that soft loans and outright grants will continue to remain an integral component of Tokyo’s strategy of reaching out to New Delhi. Mr. Abe held out the promise of more aid, of which 70 per cent will go for implementing phase-III of the Delhi Metro project.
On the defence side, the two countries decided to make joint naval exercises a permanent feature and India, despite the experience of 2007, invited Japan to join the Indo-U.S Malabar series. Seven years ago, the presence of Japan and Australia in the Malabar series fuelled protests at home and from China leading to the dropping of the duo from subsequent chapters.
The Prime Ministers reviewed the progress made in selling hi-tech US-2 amphibious aircraft to India, with government sources saying final plans envisaged a transfer of a substantial number of such planes. This is the first time Japan is offering to sell a plane which has military uses as well.
With Mr. Abe setting up a National Security Council for the first time in Japan’s history, the Prime Ministers decided to hold politico-security consultations on a regular basis with India’s National Security Advisor, besides stepping up the pace of meetings between the Defence Ministers.
With a new government slated to take over here towards the middle of this year, two leaders decided not to let the momentum drop by affirming the need for holding three important consultations in the security arena after the change of guard — dialogue between India, Japan and the U.S., defence policy dialogue and two-plus-two talks, a unique forum for India involving the Defence and Foreign Secretaries of both countries.
Japan also lowered non-tariff barriers to import of shrimps that will help Indian fishermen.
Recognising the importance of people-to-people exchanges, the Prime Ministers hoped that the Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteer scheme would be expanded to uncovered sectors while visa regimes are being relaxed by both sides.
Taking into account the potential of the Tamil Nadu Investment Promotion Programme for India’s economic development, the Prime Ministers looked at the possibility of extending similar programmes to other States.