Monday, September 1, 2014

• Japan, India joining hands to counter China’s ‘String of Pearls’


Indian Premier Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit Toji Temple in Kyoto on Sunday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a centuries-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto known for its five-storied pagoda and its tranquillity.



But the two leaders are expected to focus on a more turbulent situation thousands of kilometers away that could threaten Japan’s national interests and may prove a big test for the nation’s new security policies under the Abe administration.

Dealing with China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean will likely top the agenda for the Abe-Modi talks on Sept. 1 in Tokyo.


The fact that Abe traveled to Kyoto to welcome Modi on his first visit to Japan as prime minister underscores the importance the Japanese government places on bolstering ties with India.


Abe will follow up on his meeting with Modi with a visit to India’s neighbors Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to announce large support projects for those two nations.
China is already deeply involved in social infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The construction of large ports in those South Asian nations has formed China’s so-called String of Pearls through the Indian Ocean. 


That arrangement overlaps Japan’s major sea lanes to the Middle East through which it imports petroleum.
On Aug. 31, however, Modi and Abe were more interested in what the ancient capital of Kyoto had to offer.
The two visited Toji temple and took in the many Buddhist statues housed there. 


Modi also took a tour of Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, where Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka explained the latest research.


Science will be a topic of their talks on Sept. 1.
The export of Shinkansen bullet train technology to India will be one item of economic cooperation the two leaders will discuss.


Moreover, the recent move by the Abe administration to end Japan’s long-held ban on weapons exports allows for talks on exporting the US-2 short takeoff and landing, search-and-rescue amphibian aircraft.
The US-2 was the focus of attention in joint training exercises in late July near Okinawa involving the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the navies of the United States and India.



 

Manufactured by ShinMaywa Industries Ltd. of Hyogo Prefecture, the US-2 is the only aircraft capable of landing and taking off in waves up to 3 meters high.
The joint training exercise had in mind protecting interests in the Indian Ocean.


Indian Navy Rear Adm. Atul Kumar Jain, who led the Indian contingent in the exercise, said India was interested in the US-2 and its advanced capabilities.
He also stressed the importance of cooperation among the three nations to achieve the common objective of freedom of navigation.


The Abe administration also feels that cooperation with India is vital to protect Japan’s sea lanes that extend from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean and reach the Persian Gulf.


“The recent approval of the exercise of the right to collective self-defense means that it could become possible, depending on the situation, for the MSDF and the Indian Navy to jointly patrol the sea lanes,” a high-ranking Defense Ministry official said.
“In exchange for such cooperation, Japan will export the US-2.”


The Abe Cabinet in July approved a reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution to allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense.
Abe and Modi are expected to agree on holding periodic joint training exercises as well as regular meetings between Cabinet-level ministers in charge of foreign affairs and defense from the two nations.


Abe plans to visit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from Sept. 6.
Agreements are expected on providing assistance to those nations for the supply of coast guard cutters as well as social infrastructure construction.