Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's India visit, India and Japan are holding their inaugural 2+2 defence and foreign minister-level dialogue on 30 November 2019 which would focus on cooperation in building a free and open Indo-Pacific in view of China's growing footprint. Ahead of the talks, Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi and defence minister Taro Kono met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 30 November 2019.
- They would hold talks with their Indian counterparts, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and defence minister Rajnath Singh. The dialogue is a major step in taking forward the close bilateral ties.
- Japan is only the second country after the US with which India has such a dialogue format.
- The idea of holding such a dialogue was initiated during the summit meeting between Modi and Abe in Tokyo in October 2018.
- The two sides already have dialogue formats such as the Annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue, Defense Policy Dialogue and the National Security Advisers' Dialogue.
- The talks on 30 November 2019 will see the two sides speeding up negotiations for the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing agreement, or ACSA, which would allow them to share defence capabilities and supplies, including fuel and ammunition. The ACSA is expected to be signed during Abe's visit to India next month.
- The agreement would help Japan gain access to Indian facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and India could have access to Japan's naval facility in Djibouti.
- The talks also come as Japan is reported to have decided not to ratify the China-backed RCEP regional trade pact without India being on board.
- The 2+2 meeting provided an opportunity for the two sides to review the status of and exchange further views on strengthening defence and security cooperation between India and Japan so as to provide greater depth to the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership.
- The two sides also exchanged views on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and their respective efforts under India's 'Act East Policy' and Japan's 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision' for achieving their shared objectives of peace, prosperity and progress to realize a better future for the people of the two countries and the region.
What is the Indo-Pacific
- The cartography of the world can be broadly understood in three ways. One can make sense of the world through its geographical demarcations — land and water, plateaus and peninsulas, seas and oceans.
- Another way of perceiving the world is through its political boundaries — continents and states, islands and territorial seas, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones.
- A third way of interpreting the map is through an imagination of a space that transcends both of the above. In simple terms, a mental map carved out of a space.
- An imaginative space of such kind might not find itself on the geographical map, like the Af-Pak region, nor does it always fits into existing political dimensions, for example the Asia-Pacific region.
- The Indo-Pacific is one such mental map that has gained currency in recent times. Like every imagined space, there is disagreement over what characterizes the space and who imagines it.
- In terms of geo-spatiality, the Indo-Pacific is broadly to be understood as an interconnected space between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
- India’s imagination of the Indo-Pacific is an extension of its advances in the east through the Look East Policy, now the Act East Policy.
- While the United States has pushed for a more active Indian role in the region, India’s Indo-Pacific strategy has been more about dodging than distinctiveness.
- New Delhi, arguing for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and siding with the Quad nations initially, has been unable to determine whether its Indo-Pacific strategy is inclusive of China or set against it.