Maritime security, anti-piracy measures, freedom of navigation and maintaining the security of Sea Lanes of Communication to facilitate unhindered trade by the sea routes-are some of the issues that dominated the India-Japan Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Tokyo last night. The delegation level talks, led by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony and his Japanese counterpart Mr Yasuo Ichikawa, recognized the importance of sea lanes and decided to ‘actively pursue consultations and cooperation in the field of maritime security both bilaterally and in association with all other countries in the region’.
The Indian delegation included the Defence Secretary Shri Shashi Kant Sharma, the Indian Ambassador to Japan, Shri Aloke Prasad, the Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral RK Dhowan and GoC-in-C, Central Command, Lt Gen VK Ahluwalia.
Speaking at the meeting, Shri Antony said, Maritime Security challenges are becoming increasingly complex and varied. Shri Antony said India has substantially increased its anti-piracy deployment in the East Arabian Sea since November 2010. He, however, felt that concerted efforts of the world community, under a UN mandate, are necessary to effectively address the problem.
Shri Antony said anti piracy efforts need to be supplemented by adoption of better security measures by the world maritime community. ‘There is a need to not only have a legal framework for prosecuting the pirates, but concerted efforts are also necessary to track the money-trail and to stop it from being channelized for funding terrorist activities, worldwide’, he said.
Shri Antony expressed happiness at the fact that both navies are exchanging escort schedules of their naval vessels deployed in the region to coordinate the anti-piracy efforts. He expressed the hope that the respective organizations from both sides viz MLIT and DG Shipping would be able to establish a mechanism to share the escort schedules with the merchant ships flagged with them.
Shri Antony said the other serious issue in maritime security concerns the freedom of navigation and maintaining the security of the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) to facilitate unhindered trade by the sea routes. This is of vital importance to all countries which depend on maritime trade. ‘India supports freedom of Navigation in international waters and the rights of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS]. These principles should be respected by all’, Shri Antony said.
The two sides exchanged views on regional and international security and decided to step up defence cooperation and exchanges between the two countries. Shri Antony said India-Japan defence cooperation is ‘geared towards peace and prosperity of the region and is transparent’.
Discussing specifics of exchanges and defence cooperation, the two sides expressed satisfaction at the planned activities based on agreed annual calendars. The Japanese Defence Minister will visit India early next year. Both sides will implement the Japan-India Defence Policy Dialogue in Tokyo, also early next year. Both sides will implement Staff Talks between the Japan Ground Self Defence Force (GSDF) and Indian Army in 2012. Staff Exchanges between Japan Air Defence Force (ASDF) and Indian Air Force will be held in 2012 and be developed to Staff Talks at the earliest date.
Both sides will carry out mutual visits of vessels and aircraft as appropriate and conduct bilateral exercise between the Japan Maritime Self- Defence Force (MSDF) and Indian Navy. In 2012, vessels of both sides will make mutual visits and MSDF aircraft will visit India. Bilateral exercise will be carried out on these occasions. The two sides will implement exchanges on peacekeeping operations including exchanges between International Peace Cooperation Training and Exercise Unit of the Central Readiness Force of GSDF and Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK), India. There will be cadet exchanges between the National Defense Academy of Japan (NDA) and the National Defense Academy of India (NDA). The two sides will also implement exchange of ideas aimed at concrete collaboration, such as joint training for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The two countries resolved to continue to make active contributions to the peace, stability and prosperity of Asia as a whole.
Buoyed by the outcome of the talks, Shri Antony expressed confidence that in the coming years the India-Japan defence cooperation will scale new heights. He was speaking at a banquet hosted by Mr Ichikawa later in the evening.
Earlier, on arrival at the Ministry of Defence Headquarters in Tokyo, Shri Antony laid a wreath at the Memorial Zone. He was also presented a guard of honour prior to the talks.