NEW DELHI – Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman agreed Monday to start talks on a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement.
The two nations will seek to counter China’s growing influence in South Asia through an agreement known as an ACSA, which allows them to share defense capabilities and supplies including fuel and ammunition.
During talks in New Delhi, they also confirmed steady progress in preparing for the first joint exercise of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force and the Indian Army, set for this autumn.
“Security cooperation between Japan and India is vital for regional stability, and we will continue to deepen our partnership,” Onodera told reporters after the meeting.
The two countries also agreed that Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force will participate as an observer in joint training by the air forces of the United States and India, and that both Tokyo and New Delhi would ensure U.N. sanctions against North Korea are fully implemented to compel its complete denuclearization.
At the beginning of the meeting — the first between the Japanese and Indian defense chiefs since last September — Onodera, apparently with China in mind, said he will make efforts to promote fundamental values such as freedom of navigation and the rule of law.
Japan is striving to bolster cooperation with Asian and African countries based on its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” a policy promoted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and endorsed by the United States. Tokyo and Washington are keen to counter China’s growing influence in the region, in part through its “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative to connect countries along the ancient Silk Road.
Arriving in India on Sunday, Onodera paid a courtesy call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and signed the book of condolences for former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died Thursday, before meeting with Sitharaman.