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India 'indispensable' in ensuring free and open Indo-Pacific, says Japan PM

Japan to generate 75 billion dollars to work in the Indo-Pacific

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida at Buddha Jayanti Park, in New Delhi | PTI Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida at Buddha Jayanti Park, in New Delhi | PTI

The gift—a sandalwood Buddha—was apt. Especially, as India and Japan chose to focus on shared values during the 27 hour trip of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The two countries reiterated that they were on the same page on the free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. The signal is clear to China, that this is a band that sings in chorus.

“Strengthening this partnership is not only important for both our countries, it also promotes peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,’’ said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the joint press interaction. 

The Japanese Prime Minister for his part expounded on his vision for Free and Open Indo Pacific (FOIP). The birth of the FOIP had taken place in Delhi in 2016 when the then Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe spoke about it. 

“India is an indispensable partner,’’ Kishida said as he delivered the 41st Sapru House lecture.   

“I believe India and Japan are in an extremely unique position in the current International relations and further in the history of the world. India is the largest democracy in the world. I have always viewed with great respect the way such a huge and diverse country as India has developed a democracy,” he said.

Over a decade later, the concept has become stronger, especially with the rise of China’s assertiveness. Japan has now chosen to increase spending on defence. 

"In the International community, a big balance of power change is occurring, shifting dramatically. The International community has entered an era in which cooperation and division are intricately intertwined," Kishida said.

Japan would also generate 75 billion dollars through public and private funds to work in the Indo-Pacific and with other countries, he added. 

There were discussions on Ukraine. However the conflict did not come up as a point of difference as it did last year. Ukraine did not come up at the joint news conference of both prime ministers unlike last year where Kishida chose to raise it. “Russia’s invasion … shakes the very foundations of the international order and must be dealt with firmly,’’ he had said. It was clear that Japan had hoped to get India to take a stronger line. The position of Japan has not softened. 

It may not have been raised—to emphasize the different positions between the two leaders—but Kishida chose to speak his mind at the ICWA speech. “Japan will expand cooperation for FOIP. Russia's aggression against Ukraine obliges us to face the most fundamental challenge defending peace," Kishida said. He added later, “I reiterate that Japan strongly condemns Russia's aggression against Ukraine and will never recognize it.” 

On the agenda—apart from inking agreement on languages and the bullet train—was also “the importance of reliable supply chains in semiconductor and other critical technologies”.  

“Last year, we had set a target of Japanese investment of 5 trillion yen in India in the next five years, that is, three lakh twenty thousand crore rupees. It is a matter of satisfaction that there has been good progress in this direction,’’ said Prime Minister Modi.

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