In talks Monday, Japan and India agreed to boost security and economic ties amid China’s increasing territorial ambitions and military strength.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his visiting Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, signed a joint declaration to further strengthen their strategic partnership after a summit at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo.

“I have been always saying Japan-India relationship holds the greatest potential,” Abe said at a joint news conference with Modi after signing the declaration. “Hand in hand with Prime Minister Modi, I’d like to elevate our bilateral relationship to a special strategic and global partnership by enhancing relations fundamentally in every field.”

Modi said his visit to Japan this time highlighted a mutual trust and signified deeper relations between Japan and his country. Japan is the first country outside the Indian subcontinent he has visited on a bilateral basis since he took office in May.

“Japan occupies an extremely high position in our foreign policy,” Modi told reporters at the news conference. “The reason is Japan has played a very important role in the development and growth of India.”

Modi also noted his country and Japan as peaceful states and democracies would exert influence in the world and region by cooperating in various fields.

Abe and Modi agreed to work harder to launch a “two-plus-two” security consultative framework involving their foreign and defense ministers.

They also agreed to continue joint maritime exercises in addition to trilateral drills conducted with the United States on a regular basis.

Japan’s sovereignty has been challenged by China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, a group of uninhabited islets that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu, and by Taiwan, where they are known as Tiaoyutai.

For its part, India is becoming more concerned over China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean, and also ongoing border disputes in the Himalayan region.

The two leaders agreed to speed up discussions on the conditions for Japan to supply maritime search and rescue aircraft to India, a deal in the works since last December.

The Abe administration in April eased the nation’s long-held ban on weapons exports, including technology transfers.

On the economic front, Abe announced a target to double Japan’s investment and the number of Japanese companies operating in India within five years. He also expressed his intention to carry out about ¥3.5 trillion of private and public investment and financing, including its Official Development Assistance, to the South Asia nation in five years.

Furthermore, Abe and Modi agreed to strengthen cooperation on rare earth minerals. The move will likely allow Japan to reduce its reliance on China for the supply of such metals, which are necessary to manufacture high-tech products including mobile phones and hybrid cars.

Japan and India also vowed further cooperation on shinkansen technology for its high-speed railway project linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

At a luncheon with Japanese and Indian business leaders earlier in the day, Modi called for further cooperation from Japan in industrial research and development, including the area of clean energy.

“I would like to work together with Japan in the field of research and development. We should (cooperate) continuously,” Modi said.

He stressed his desire to promote clean energy in India. “I don’t want to create energy by destroying nature,” he said in reference to using coal and other fossil fuels.

In developing environmentally friendly energy, “Japan’s cooperation will play significant roles,” Modi said, adding that providing clean energy to the 1.2 billion people living in India will also help fight global warming.

Regarding the sensitive issue of the peaceful use of atomic energy, the leaders did not strike any agreement but welcomed efforts made so far.

A pact would pave the way for Japan to export nuclear reactors to India.

They apparently couldn’t bridge gaps over the terms of such an accord, in which Japan wants to specify that the deal can be suspended if India conducts nuclear weapons tests.

India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology.

Earlier in the day, Abe’s Cabinet ministers paid courtesy calls to Modi. Among them were Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi, transport minister Akihiro Ota and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.

Modi arrived at Kansai International Airport on Saturday for a five-day visit.

On Sunday, the Indian leader toured Kyoto, where he visited historic Buddhist temples and met officials from the city and prefectural governments. Modi was accompanied by Abe on his visit to the 1,200-year-old Toji Temple. During his visit to the Kyoto University Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, he was briefed about its research by Shinya Yamanaka, the facility’s director and Nobel Prize laureate.

Modi is scheduled to meet with Emperor Akihito as well as to give lectures in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Modi was sworn in as prime minister in May after a general election in which his Bharatiya Janata Party won an outright majority in the country’s lower house of parliament.

He became chief minister of Gujarat state, in western India, in 2001 and received high praise for economic policies that prompted development and growth in the state. He previously visited Japan in 2007 and 2012.

(Information from Kyodo added.) 

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