Kishida says India ‘indispensable’ in ensuring free Indo-Pacific

March 20, 2023

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right), during his meeting with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi Monday, has called India ‘indispensable’ to ensuring a free Indo-Pacific.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right), during his meeting with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi Monday, has called India ‘indispensable’ to ensuring a free Indo-Pacific.

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday thanked his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida for inviting him to the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima.

“Prime Minister Fumio Kishida invited me to the G7 Leaders’ Summit which will be held in Hiroshima in May. I thank him for this,” Modi said.

The prime minister held wide-ranging talks with Kishida to expand India-Japan strategic partnership for a peaceful, stable and prosperous post-COVID world. The Japanese premier arrived earlier Monday on a two-day official visit.

Welcoming his Japanese counterpart, PM Modi said, “In the last one year, PM Fumio Kishida and I have met several times and every time I’ve felt his positivity and commitment to the India-Japan bilateral relationship. His today’s visit will be beneficial to maintain this momentum.”

Modi added that he is happy to be able to welcome Kishida again in September this year. “In September this year, I will again get the opportunity to welcome PM Fumio Kishida to India for the G20 Leaders’ Summit,” Modi said.

Japan and India are holding the presidencies of G7 and G20 respectively this year. In his statement after the talks, Modi said the meeting aims to give a voice to the global South and strengthen the India-Japan relationship.

Kishida on Monday called India vital to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific after talks with his counterpart touching on shared concerns about China.

Speaking in New Delhi after meeting Modi, Kishida laid out plans for billions of dollars in investments in infrastructure and other sectors across the region.

“I have described Japan’s plan to develop a free and open Indo-Pacific. To achieve this, India is an indispensable partner,” Kishida said.

“Japan will strengthen coordination with the US, Australia, UK, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. Of course, India is indispensable.”

India, Japan, the United States and Australia make up the Quad alliance, which positions itself as a bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region under President Xi Jinping.

Before holding talks with Modi at the Hyderabad House, Kishida paid his respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

The Japanese PM was received by union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar at the Palam airport. Kishida’s visit is seen as a great opportunity to review bilateral ties between the two countries. This is his second visit to the country as the prime minister of Japan.

On Sunday, Kishida said the aim of his visit would be to further deepen the ‘special strategic and global partnership’ between the two countries.

“This year, Japan holds the presidency of the G7, while India chairs the G20. I intend to engage in a thoroughgoing exchange of views with Prime Minister Modi on the question of what role Japan and India should play within the international community,” he said.

Later Monday, Kishida will deliver an address on a new plan for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. Former Japan PM Shinzo Abe initially discussed Indo-Pacific cooperation on his trip to Delhi 15 years ago.

In December Japan, officially pacifist since 1945, revamped its defense policy after warning that China, with which it has a fraught history, posed the “greatest security challenge ever”.

Japan is also boosting military spending and is carrying out more joint exercises with other countries, including India, which has also deepened defense cooperation with Western nations.

In June, Kishida had said Japan would help train 800 maritime security personnel and provide at least $2 billion to other countries to buy patrol boats and build up infrastructure as part of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy.

Kishida said Monday that FOIP’s scope would expand to include new areas like climate change, cybersecurity and food security. It would also direct public and private capital worth $75 billion towards Indo-Pacific infrastructure by 2030.

Kishida’s visit came less than a fortnight after Modi hosted his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese for talks that also covered worries about China.

Albanese, who is also forging closer ties with the United States and Britain under the separate so-called AUKUS alliance, is due to host all Quad leaders in May.

The Quad members deny hostile intentions and stress that they are not a military alliance, but China has described the grouping as an attempt to encircle it.

Kishida had been expected to press Modi to take a tougher line on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which India — a major buyer of Russian arms and oil — has refused to condemn.

There are fears that China may begin providing military assistance to Russia — despite denials from Beijing — and Xi was in Russia for talks with his “old friend” President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Kishida said that there was a “lack of guiding perspective that is acceptable to all about what the international order should be.

“This was clearly demonstrated by the considerable discrepancies in the attitudes across various countries to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” he said in his speech.

He added that he had invited Modi and the leaders of other countries in the region — including South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam — as well as Brazil to a G7 summit in May.

Modi and Kishida also discussed deeper cooperation on clean energy, digital trade and infrastructure.

In March 2022, in his first visit to India, Kishida said Japan would realize 5 trillion yen in public and private investment to India over the next five years. — Agencies

March 20, 2023
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