Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit India on Saturday, meeting his counterpart Narendra Modi for the first time, with discussions expected to focus on cementing security ties, boosting supply chain resilience and managing China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. The visit takes place under the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine . While Japan has joined the West in imposing sanctions on Russia and its president Vladimir Putin , India, on the basis of its close ties with Russia, has refused to condemn Moscow, the only member of the four-nation Quad security alliance to abstain. Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters that Modi had invited Kishida for the 14th India-Japan summit, which would “provide an opportunity for both sides to review and strengthen bilateral cooperation in diverse areas”. The last Japanese leader to visit India was former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down in 2020. With Kishida heading to India before visiting allies the United States and Australia, this signifies the importance Tokyo attaches to its ties with New Delhi, said former Indian ambassador to Japan , Deepa Wadhwa. “Though, it started when Shinzo Abe was the prime minister, there is now bipartisan support in Japan for deepening ties with India,” said Wadhwa, who served in Tokyo from 2012 to 2015. India is the largest recipient of Japanese overseas development assistance. It received over US$26 billion in infrastructure development and other areas between 2010 to 2020. Japan has also invested more than US$36 billion in the country. There are 114 Japanese companies in India engaged in a variety of sectors ranging from automobiles to electronic system design and manufacturing to textiles, chemicals and consumer goods. Both sides are now trying to develop their security relationship. Apart from the summit between the prime ministers, India and Japan also have a regular “2 plus 2” meeting of their foreign and defence ministers. James Brown, an associate professor of international relations at the Tokyo campus of Temple University, said Japan had realised it was “no longer enough to only have one military ally, the US”. “Tokyo has been working very hard to develop new security partners and there have been a number of visits to Japan by military personnel from other countries in the last couple of years, including Britain , Germany, France, the Netherlands and Australia,” said Brown. There are reportedly plans for the Indian Air Force to dispatch a unit of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft to Japan for joint exercises this year, pitting them against JASDF F-15 Eagle fighters in exercises from a base in Ishikawa prefecture, on the north coast of Japan. Pilots of Japan’s Air Self-Defence force will hope to use the manoeuvres to get a better understanding of the aircraft and its capabilities – which China also operates – in case they meet it in combat in the future. The JASDF first conducted exercises with Indian Air Force units in India in December 2018, although those drills and similar manoeuvres the following year solely involved transport and logistics. The two governments had planned to carry out drills with fighter jets in India in June 2020, but that was postponed until July 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic . Convergence on China? Brown said Japan wanted to engage India more deeply as an ally, in large part because it is a huge and rising economy “and in common with Japan, it is having its own territorial problems with China”. Indian troops have been locked in a stand-off with their Chinese counterparts since May 2020 at their disputed border in the Himalayas , a situation that has echoes in Japan as it fends off China’s presence in the East China Sea, where both sides have a territorial dispute over a group of islands. While they are administered by Japan and known as the Senkakus, Beijing claims them as the Diaoyu archipelago and has sent more Chinese government ships and aircraft to the area in the last five years. However, India is in talks with China about potentially hosting a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi next week. If the visit materialises, it would signify changing winds in the bilateral relationship that has so far been dominated by the border stand-off. Both India and China have taken similar positions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and this has led to a softening of public sentiment towards each other, with suggestions that both could work together to bring about peace gaining traction online. ‘Alternative to China’: India-UAE-Israel deals set scene for Western Quad Wadhwa said she expected Ukraine to be discussed at the summit and Modi would take the opportunity to explain India’s stance to Kishida. Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia programme and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Centre think-tank said invariably Ukraine would come up but that the summit would have a broad agenda overall. “China will loom large over these talks. As Quad partners, I imagine there will be some discussion on the latest developments ... particularly the signature project of the Quad to this point which is vaccine cooperation,” he said, referring to a plan for India to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines, the US and Japan paying for them and Australia distributing them. During the talks, Kishida may propose an approach to China that was outlined in an editorial in the business paper Sankei Shimbun earlier this month. It suggested that Japan and India cooperate on infrastructure projects to provide an alternative to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative to boost global trade and infrastructure. Japan is also involved in building the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail. The 508.17km project, with an estimated cost of US$15 billion, is being financed with a 50-year loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. It was inaugurated by Abe and Modi in September 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2030. Other announcements on cooperation in infrastructure development could include projects in India’s northeast region that connects Bangladesh and Myanmar . This could act as a link for greater access to the Southeast Asian countries. Why India isn’t joining other US allies in condemning Russia over Ukraine Said Wadhwa: “The summit will give out the clear signal that despite the pandemic, a new leadership in Japan and the global challenges, Indo-Japanese ties have remained on track.” Kishida will head to Cambodia after his India visit while Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are expected to hold a virtual summit on Monday. Quad leaders are also set to hold an in-person summit in Japan later this year, probably in May or June.