By Yomiuri Shimbun
Asia News Net
China’s active expansion of its maritime presence is a matter of concern common to Japan and India. We want to see Japan-India cooperation in maritime security steadily bolstered.
Japan’s Defence Minister General Nakatani visited India and conferred with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar. During their meeting, the two ministers agreed to call on China to resolve disputes peacefully based on international law. They took into consideration China’s disregard for an arbitration court ruling that denied its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
Nakatani emphasised that “the countries involved are required to comply with the ruling”.
The South China Sea is an important marine transport route for both Japan and India. It is unacceptable for China to change the status quo unilaterally by force, such as by building man-made islands.
It is highly significant that Japan and India, which share such values as the rule of law and freedom of navigation, have confirmed such a position.
China’s air and naval forces have repeatedly undertaken self-centered activities in the East China Sea. Also in areas around India, China has been carrying out what it calls a “String of Pearls” strategy by developing and expanding port facilities in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. During their meeting, Nakatani and Parrikar agreed to start maritime strategy discussions by defence officials of the two countries.
It will be significant for the two countries to exchange information and opinions and make an overall analysis of the Chinese military’s maritime activities.
It is also important for Japan and India to ramp up cooperation in the field of troop operations. In mid-June, Japan took part in the Malabar Exercise, a US-India joint naval drill held off the eastern coast of Okinawa Prefecture. The Maritime Self-Defense Force dispatched destroyers, patrol planes and other aircraft. Starting next year, the exercise will officially be upgraded to an annual trilateral drill. Japan and India are scheduled to expand ground and air troop exchange programmes.
These moves are expected to serve as a check on China.
Japan and India have negotiated over the export of cutting-edge MSDF US-2 rescue aircraft for several years, but have yet to reach an agreement. Mutual concessions are called for.
Regrettably, Nakatani’s visit to Sri Lanka was cancelled due to a worsening of the situation in South Sudan. The first bilateral defence ministerial meeting between the countries had been scheduled.
Maithripala Sirisena, who tends to lean further away from China than his predecessor, became president of Sri Lanka in January last year. He visited Japan in May and confirmed the importance of maintaining a maritime order during a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan has decided to provide two patrol boats for the Sri Lankan Coast Guard. MSDF vessels have made port calls in Sri Lanka twice so far this year. An MSDF goodwill exercise with the Sri Lankan Navy was conducted in May. Beefing up multilayered defence cooperation with South Asian nations will help establish peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and also serve the strategic interest of Japan.