India and Japan held the inaugural meeting of the India-Japan 2+2 Dialogue in New Delhi on November 30, 2019. During the 13th India-Japan Annual Summit held in Japan (October 2018), Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had jointly decided to begin a 2+2 Dialogue between the two countries in order to deepen bilateral security and defence cooperation. For the maiden meeting, the Indian delegation was led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Taro Kono led the Japanese side.
According to a statement issued by MEA before the dialogue began, aim of the 2+2 dialogue is to provide an opportunity for the two sides to review the status of and exchange views on strengthening defence and security cooperation between India and Japan so as to provide greater depth to the ‘India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership’. Both sides were expected to also exchange views on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and respective efforts under India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision’ for achieving shared objectives of peace, prosperity and progress to realize a better future for the people of the two countries and the region.
The Japanese ministers met Prime Minister Modi before the dialogue on November 30. At the 2+2 Dialogue, the ministers discussed a host of issues reaffirming their shared vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region in which the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are ensured, and all countries enjoy freedom of navigation and over-flights, as also commitment to advance bilateral security cooperation based on the 2008 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation and the 2009 Action Plan to advance Security Cooperation.
Welcoming the second ‘Dharma Guardian-2019’ and the second ‘SHINYUU Maitri-2019’ joint exercises conduced this year, the ministers agreed to coordination the first India-Japan joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan to promote bilateral cooperation. In the past, India has held joint fighter aircraft exercises with the US, UK and Australia. Japan recently bought Mageshima Island in East China Sea for joint exercises and defending Senkaku Islands in face of Chinese militarism. Both sides welcomed the Japan-India-Australia-US Foreign Ministerial consultations in New York during September 2019.
India and Japan are likely to sign the acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA) during the meeting between PM Modi and PM Abe scheduled at Guwahati, India in mid-December 2019. The ministers called for cooperation in maritime security and Maritime Domain Awareness, and welcomed setting up of Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) by India in December 2018. India looks forward to Japan deputing a liaison officer at the IFC-IOR. Both sides agreed to step up joint research in areas of unmanned vehicles and robotics.
Both sides reaffirmed importance of ASEAN centrality and unity in the Indo-Pacific. The Japanese side appreciated India announcing the ‘Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative’ while the Indian side welcomed Japan’s ‘Vientiane Vision 2.0’ – both for cooperation with ASEAN. Both sides condemned North Korea’s recent launches of ballistic missiles in clear violation of UNSC resolutions, and urged early resolution of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Both sides also reaffirmed the importance of realizing North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Views on recent developments in the South China Sea (CSCS) too were reviewed at the 2+2 Dialogue. Both sides reaffirmed importance of freedom of navigation and over-flight, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law including UNCLOS. With respect to ongoing negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC), they urged it should be effective, substantive, and consistent with international law including UNCLOS to ensure freedom of navigation without prejudicing rights and interests of stakeholders using SCS and freedom of all states under international law.
The Ministers condemned the growing threat of terrorism, calling upon all countries for resolute action in rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and eliminating financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists. They specifically noted the threat to regional security by terrorist networks operating out of Pakistan and called for resolute and irreversible action against them, as also full compliance with international commitments including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Recognizing the importance of continuing exchange of opinions in light of the success of this 2+2 Ministerial Meeting, it was decided to hold the next 2+2 Dialogue in Tokyo next year. India and Japan are two of the largest and oldest democracies in Asia. Both have a high degree of congruence of political, economic and strategic interests, and both view each other as partners that have responsibility for, and are capable of responding to global and regional challenges. China will remain the most significant foreign policy challenge for India, Japan and other countries in the Indo-Pacific. In this context the India-Japan Special Strategic Partnership is important.
There has been a remarkable transformation in the India-Japan bilateral relationship in the recent past, with both countries emerging as genuine strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific. India and Japan have agreed to develop the East Container Terminal at Colombo harbor in Sri Lanka. The India-Japan partnership is playing out in conceptual, strategic and in economic realms. Japanese assistance to India for connectivity projects in the North-East too meet strategic aspirations; Aizawl-Tuipang (NH-54) road in Mizoram strengthens the Kaladan Multi-Modal project traversing through Myanmar. Similarly, India-Japan collaboration on strengthening Tura-Dalu (NH-51) and Shillong-Dawki (NH-40) in Meghalaya has potential to improve connectivity with Bangladesh. The forthcoming Modi-Abe meeting this month at Guwahati may see Japanese involvement in more infrastructure projects like construction of the Dhubri/Phulbari bridge, which once completed will be the longest bridge in India.
The 2+2 ministerial dialogue reflects the growing relations between India and Japan, especially on strategic and security issues. Japan is the second country after the US with which India has a 2+2 Dialogue arrangement. There is news that an India-Australia 2+2 Dialogue is in the offing.