NEW DELHI – Japan and India have agreed to bolster cooperation on security and economic issues, according to a joint statement Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Indian counterpart signed Wednesday in New Delhi.
Noda and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy will conduct joint exercises next year to beef up maritime security in the Indian Ocean, and protect a major sea lane Japan uses to import crude oil from the Middle East, according to the statement.
Noda’s trip to New Delhi is part of Japan’s efforts to strengthen ties with India ahead of the 60th anniversary next year of the establishment of diplomatic ties and amid China’s growing military and economic might in the region.
The two leaders also agreed that Tokyo will invest $4.5 billion over the next five years to promote the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project, aimed at developing an industrial zone that spans six Indian states.
On the economic front, Noda and Singh agreed to boost trade and investment based on a free-trade agreement between the two nations that took effect in August.
They also agreed to try to resume talks on a bilateral pact on civil nuclear energy cooperation. The talks were suspended after the Fukushima disaster.
“Amid global economic uncertainties, ensuring the stability of the financial markets is all the more important for the stable economic development of the two countries,” the statement said.
As for natural resources, Noda and Singh expressed hope that Japanese and Indian companies will form joint ventures to produce and trade rare earth metals.
The visit is the first by a Japanese prime minister to India since December 2009, when Yukio Hatoyama went. Singh visited Japan in October last year, and accepted Noda’s invitation to visit again in 2012.
Senior officials from Japan, the United States and India held their first trilateral meeting last week and are thought to have discussed maritime security.
Currency swaps boosted
Japan and India agreed Wednesday to a fivefold increase in the size of their currency swap arrangement to $15 billion to ease tensions over capital outflows from India amid uncertainty over the global economy.
The agreement, reached at a summit between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, allows the Bank of Japan, acting as an agency for the finance minister, and the Reserve Bank of India to offer dollar funds to each other when necessary in exchange for their respective currencies.
The previous accord between the two Asian economic powers was signed in 2008 to provide up to $3 billion. It expired in June.
The deal comes amid rising fund withdrawals from India and other emerging markets amid fears of a global slowdown due to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Risk aversion has led to a nearly 20 percent fall in the Indian rupee’s value against the dollar since July, the Finance Ministry said.