China sure to be high on agenda of Indian leader's talks in Japan

Talks with Shinzo Abe likely to address the issues both nations have with Chinese expansionism and cover regional partnerships

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 11:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 11:29pm

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Japan today for a five-day visit that analysts believe could usher in a new relationship, spurred by the actions of China in recent years.

Modi will arrive in Kyoto, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will host a banquet this evening before the leaders visit the Toji temple. Modi will also meet political leaders before travelling on to Tokyo for talks with officials in a visit that was extended by one day, hinting at the importance placed on the relationship.

Modi said he had high hopes for the outcome of the trip, posting on his Twitter account, "I see the Japan visit as an opportunity to take our ties with Japan to a new level and increase cooperation in various fields."

Abe returned the compliment, replying: "Your first visit to Japan as Indian PM will add a new chapter to our strategic partnership. Together we can do a lot for peace and prosperity in the world."

India has more experience in dealing with Beijing …

Neither leader mentioned their neighbour and largest regional rival, but China is sure to be high on their agenda.

"This is a very significant meeting and it is clear that Japan and India are becoming closer in the face of Chinese expansion," Kumao Kaneko, president of The Japan Council on Energy and Security, said.

"The two countries have a relationship that goes back more than 100 years and I see this as reviving the closeness of that alliance," Kaneko said. "And it has come about in the face of China's expansionist policies in east and south-east Asia."

The leaders will discuss security issues and concerns about Beijing's efforts to expand its control of areas at sea and on land. India has had a long-standing territorial dispute with China in the Himalayas, while Tokyo and Beijing continue to disagree on the question of the sovereignty of the Senkaku islands, which China knows as the Diaoyus.

"India has more experience in dealing with Beijing as it is physically adjacent to China, so Japan can certainly learn about New Delhi's diplomatic approaches," Kaneko said. "I feel that a closer political and security alliance will be of huge benefit to both."

China would be watching the outcome of the discussions carefully, Kaneko added. "They will be worried, I believe, but we must remember that it is not just India and Japan that are building closer ties to unite against China."

"There is also the US, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam and others who are quickly coming together.

"China now has to face more than one adversary and that will make it much more difficult for them in the South China Sea and other sensitive areas in the region.

"I feel that Japan and India should take the initiative in organising this alliance of countries and I think that both Mr Abe and Mr Modi, who are both forward-looking and slightly hawkish, are on the same wavelength."

An agreement is likely to be signed to export Japan's long-range US-2 search-and-rescue aircraft, while there will also be discussions on the provision of high-speed railway technology.

The other critical area of discussion will centre on Japan selling nuclear technology to India, which needs fresh additional energy sources.

The problem has been India's nuclear weapons programmes and its failure to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But Kaneko is confident Japan's concerns can be overcome so Tokyo can sign a deal similar to the one that the United States agreed with New Delhi in 2008 which permits India to import nuclear fuel and technology.

"There have been long negotiations on this issue and I believe it is high time that the issue was solved," he said. "This is Mr Abe's chance to do that and I think he will."