National / Politics

Abe considering visit to India in December in bid to draw Modi back to RCEP

Jiji

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering visiting India in mid-December for talks with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, sources familiar with bilateral relations said Tuesday, following New Delhi’s decision to withdraw from a sweeping free trade agreement.

Abe is planning to stay in India for three days from as early as Dec. 15, the sources said.

But his schedule may change if the ongoing parliamentary session in Japan is extended from its planned end of Dec. 9.

Abe plans to call on Modi to reconsider his plan to withdraw from talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement that was set to involve 16 Asian and Oceanian countries.

The 15 remaining countries aim to sign the agreement in 2020, but Tokyo still hopes the deal can include India.

The two leaders are expected to conclude a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement to allow the Self-Defense Forces and the Indian military to share food and ammunition, according to the sources.

The agreement is designed to strengthen security cooperation between Japan and India amid China’s active maritime expansion.

The trip would be Abe’s first visit to India since September 2017. Modi visited Japan in October last year. The visits are part of the two leaders’ “shuttle diplomacy.”