• Friday, December 19, 2014

Freedom in the air

Japan, India hold security talks

BBC Online
Indian PM Narendra Modi (L) and Japan's Shinzo Abe (R) visited a temple in Kyoto over the weekend
Indian PM Narendra Modi (L) and Japan's Shinzo Abe (R) visited a temple in Kyoto over the weekend

Indian PM Narendra Modi is to discuss economic and security ties with Japan's Shinzo Abe, on his first major foreign visit since winning May's election.

The leaders are likely to accelerate talks on a nuclear energy pact and sign an agreement on rare earths.

The trip is being seen as an attempt by the two democracies to balance the rising weight of China across Asia.

Modi arrived in Japan on Saturday and visited the former imperial city of Kyoto over the weekend.

"I am confident that my visit will write a new chapter in the annals of the relations between Asia's two oldest democracies and take our Strategic and Global Partnership to the next higher level," Modi said ahead of his visit.

Media reports say Abe will tell Modi at Monday's talks that Japan aims to double its direct investment in India in five years from some $2bn (£1.2bn) last year.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) tries to play a soprano recorder before school children at a music class during a visit at Taimei Elementary School in Tokyo, September 1, 2014.

BALANCING TIES

The two leaders are also likely to discuss a civil nuclear energy agreement, though Japan wants clearer guarantees from India to limit atomic tests and allow closer inspection of its facilities to ensure that spent fuel is not used to make bombs.

Tokyo and Delhi are also expected to sign an agreement to allow import of rare earths from India as Japan looks to diversify supply away from China, reports say.

Some 2,000-2,300 tonnes of rare earths - some 15% of what Japanese companies use each year - will be imported from India, reports said, adding that imports could begin as early as February.

Japan has often accused China, the largest rare earths producer in the world, of squeezing supplies to score political points. Beijing says it restricts exports to conserve natural resources and reduce pollution caused by mining.

India and Japan are also likely to agree to hold regular joint training exercises in maritime defence, some of which will involve the US, reports say.

Modi has allowed foreign investment in India's railway projects and is also wooing Japanese investment for an industrial corridor between Delhi and Mumbai.

Over the weekend in Kyoto, Modi witnessed the signing of an agreement under which his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi will be developed as a "smart city" in partnership with the Japanese city.

Correspondents say the visit reflects Modi's attempt to balance ties with key world powers and to strengthen India's position in the international community.

The visit is taking place in the backdrop of China's growing clout in Asia, as both Delhi and Tokyo have a history of tensions with Beijing linked to territorial disputes.

Published: 10:46 am Monday, September 01, 2014

Last modified: 10:18 pm Monday, September 01, 2014

TAGS: India Japan Narendra Modi Kyoto

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