Indian, Japanese Air Force To Hold Join Drills To Counter Chinese Assertiveness

Indian and Japanese air-force will participate in their first joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation and counter growing Chinese military assertiveness in the region. 

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An inaugural “two-plus-two” security talks welcomed the significant progress in negotiations for a treaty that would allow the sharing of defence capabilities and supplies. They called for a quick resolution to the acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA), according to a joint statement issued after the talks in New Delhi.

The Indian and Japanese governments are planning to sign the deal when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits India for talks with his counterpart Narendra Modi in mid-December, according to Japanese officials.

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India and Japan intend to have a joint exercise involving fighter jets from the Air Self-Defense Force and the Indian Air Force next year, the officials said. It will be the fourth similar exercise for Japan after ones with the US, UK and Australia.

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said the commencement of the talks “signifies a higher level of importance in Japan-India defence ties in the Indo-Pacific region.” The talks also brought together Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Indian External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar and Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.

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The ministers shared the vision of “a free, open and inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific,” the statement said, in a veiled critique of China’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas, as well as heightened military presence in the Indian Ocean.

They called for ensuring “the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” taking a dig at China’s militarization of positions in disputed areas of the South China Sea and Beijing’s efforts to threaten Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

They welcomed trilateral defence partnership with the US such as the annual Malabar maritime exercises, as well as joint foreign ministerial meetings also involving Australia. The Japanese and Indian ministers agreed to promote exchanges of information on the Indian Ocean by utilizing the Information Fusion Center for the Indian Ocean region, an entity India set up in December last year. They also pledged to step up joint research in the area of unmanned ground vehicle robotics.

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In a written interview, the Indian minister of external affairs quoted PM Modi as saying relations with Japan are a “vital pillar” of India’s “Act East” policy, and that the Modi government believes “there is much room to grow” in bilateral ties.

Japan is the second country with which India has two-plus-two security talks after the United States. New Delhi is the seventh two-plus-two partner for Tokyo.