India and Japan hold security talks amid major Russian drills in disputed islands

Japan and India are holding security talks Thursday between their foreign and defence ministers in Tokyo, seeking to further strengthen their military ties amid growing tension from China and Russia in the region.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada met with Indian counterpart Rajnat Singh before they joined foreign ministers Yoshimasa Hayashi and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at the security talks later in the day. Japan and India held their first “2+2” security talks in 2019.

The meeting comes at a sensitive time when Russia is holding a major multinational military exercise in its far east, with China and India participating.

Tokyo has protested to Moscow about it including Russian-held disputed islands over which Japan claims sovereignty. Japan also raised “grave concern” about naval shooting drills jointly held by Russia and China off Japan’s northern coast over the weekend.

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Foreign Ministry officials said Japan has warned India against joining drills set on the disputed islands and that the Indian troops were participating only in ground exercises in other areas.

Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said Wednesday that Japan wants to step up joint military drills and cooperation in the development and transfer of military equipment and technology with India.

Japan hopes to expand military equipment transfers to back up its feeble defence industry as the country tries to bolster its military capability and spending to deter growing threats from China, Russia and North Korea.

Japan and India are discussing joint development of unmanned ground vehicle technology, Japanese officials said. Japan’s earlier plan to sell sea-landing planes to India has been held up, partly by the costs.

Japan also wants to reaffirm India’s support in promoting a “free and open Indo-Pacific vision” that Japan enables with the United States as part of the Quad framework that also includes Australia as a counter to China’s assertiveness in the region.

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