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PM puts forward plan for strengthening ties with Japan

Stressing the need for defence and strategic cooperation between Japan and India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday put forward a three-step plan for cooperation with Japan.

The prime minister suggested three areas of cooperation: strengthening regional mechanisms and forums, promoting wider and deeper regional economic integration, and enhancing regional connectivity and upholding the principles of freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce in accordance with international law.

"We see Japan as a natural and indispensable partner in our quest for stability and peace in the vast region in Asia that is washed by the Pacific and Indian Oceans," the prime minister said a day before his bilateral summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

He was addressing an event organised by the Japan-India Association, Japan-India Parliamentary Friendship League and International Friendship Exchange Council here.

The focus was on strategic partnership with Japan, which also has territorial disputes with China.

"This region faces multiple challenges, unresolved issues and unsettled questions. Historical differences persist despite our growing inter-dependence; prosperity has not fully eliminated disparities within and between states; and there are continuing threats to stability and security," Manmohan Singh said, without naming any country.

Calling for strengthening of regional mechanisms between New Delhi and Tokyo, Manmohan Singh said: "India and Japan are among the major actors in this region. It is our responsibility to foster a climate of peace, stability and cooperation and to lay an enduring foundation for security and prosperity.

"On this occasion, I am reminded of Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe's inspiring and visionary address to the Indian parliament in August 2007, when he spoke of the confluence of the two seas - the Pacific and the Indian Oceans - which has defined the new framework for our bilateral relationship.

"Prime Minister Abe and I will work together to strengthen our strategic partnership, impart new momentum to our economic cooperation and deepen our dialogue on shared regional and global interests," he said.

In recent years, the prime minister added, political and security cooperation between the two countries has gained in salience.

"Japan is the only partner with whom we have a 2-plus-2 Dialogue between the foreign and defence ministries. We have also begun bilateral exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force. We have shared interests in maritime security," he said.

The Indo-Pacific region had witnessed profound social and economic changes on "a scale and at a speed rarely seen in human history", he said.

Pointing out that Abe and he had a "rich agenda for discussion", Manmohan Singh said he was convinced that cooperation between "our defence and strategic communities will blossom further" under his (Abe's) leadership".

"Together, we seek a new architecture for the UN Security Council."

"India's own deepening engagement in the region is informed by this vision. Our Look East engagement began with a strong economic emphasis, but it has become increasingly strategic in its content. Our political relations have intensified with all countries and groupings like ASEAN," he pointed out.

"Our relationship with Japan has been at the heart of our Look East Policy. Japan inspired Asia's surge to prosperity and it remains integral to Asia's future. The world has a huge stake in Japan's success in restoring the momentum of its growth."