National / Politics

Indian leader Modi arrives for summit with Abe

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at Kansai International Airport on Saturday for a five-day visit in which he is expected to seek stronger security and economic ties with Japan in the face of China’s rising territorial ambitions and military might.

Calling Japan and India “two major maritime democracies in Asia,” government officials in Tokyo said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 59, and Modi 63, are expected to affirm their willingness to cooperate to ensure a “peaceful and stable maritime order” to curb Beijing’s increasing activity in the East and South China seas, as well as the Indian Ocean.

During the visit, Modi is scheduled to hold a summit on Monday with Abe, whom he has met twice in his previous visits to Japan in 2007 and 2012. The two sides are likely to agree to launch a consultative framework for security talks involving their foreign and defense ministers, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

Abe and Modi are also expected to agree to continue joint maritime drills in addition to trilateral drills conducted with the United States, possibly on a regular basis.

Since Japan is the first country Modi chose to visit on a bilateral basis since taking office in May, this indicates “his high expectations for Japan,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

Abe and Modi are expected to strengthen security ties by upgrading their bilateral dialogue on diplomacy and defense to the ministerial level. The talks are currently conducted at a vice-ministerial level.

Another issue on the defense agenda is a plan for Japan to supply India with its US-2 amphibian search and rescue aircraft, a deal the two nations have been discussing since last December. The Abe administration eased the nation’s long-held ban on weapons exports, including technology transfers, in April.

China has been challenging Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are being administered by Tokyo but are claimed by Beijing as Diaoyu and by Taiwan as Tiaoyutai.

India, meanwhile, has grown concerned about China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean, as well as their long-standing border disputes and Beijing’s growing ties with Pakistan.

On infrastructure, Abe will likely try to pitch Japan’s shinkansen technology for India’s plan to build a high-speed railway between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

On the more touchy issue of atomic energy, however, the two leaders are expected to have trouble signing an accord on peaceful use of nuclear power because Japan wants nonproliferation guarantees. While the deal would pave the way for Japan to export nuclear reactors, Tokyo wants it to specify that the deal can be suspended if New Delhi conducts nuclear weapons tests.

India is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Abe and Modi will likely agree to jointly produce rare earth metals for export to Japan, allowing its manufacturers to reduce their reliance on China for the strategically important minerals, which are needed for making high-tech products ranging from hybrid cars to mobile phones.

Modi, as an official guest of state, is also slated to meet with Emperor Akihito on Tuesday, visit historical sites in Kyoto and give lectures in Tokyo.

Modi was sworn in as prime minister in May after a general election in which his Bharatiya Janata Party gained an outright majority in India’s lower house of parliament. He was elected chief minister of Gujarat state in western India in 2001 and received high praise for economic policies that promoted development and growth in the state.

Before he left India, Modi sent out a series of tweets in English about his hopes for the summit.

“I see the Japan visit as an opportunity to take our ties with Japan to a new level & increase cooperation in various fields,” Modi tweeted on Tuesday.

In another, he added: “Japan’s friendship with India is time tested. We are 2 vibrant democracies committed to advancing peace & prosperity in the world.”

Modi also reckoned he was looking forward to meeting Abe, tweeting: “Am particularly excited to meet PM AbeShinzo. I deeply respect his leadership & enjoy a warm relationship with him from previous meetings.”

Modi then subsequently re-sent his messages after having them translated into Japanese.

“Friends from Japan asked me to talk to the people of Japan directly in Japanese. I also thank them for helping with the translation,” Modi explained.

Using English, Abe tweeted back: “India has a special place in my heart. I am eagerly waiting for your arrival in Kyoto this weekend.”

“Your first visit to Japan as Indian PM will add a new chapter to our strategic partnership,” Abe added. “Together we can do a lot for peace and prosperity in the world.”

Information from Kyodo added