India, Japan step up maritime cooperation

India-Japan coastguard

Building upon the successful visit of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India from December 11-13, the two countries are poised to expand  maritime cooperation. Moving forward, a joint sea exercise between the Coast Guards of India and Japan will be held on January 15 off the southern coast of India.  

India and Japan aim to strengthen the bilateral relationship by refining the joint operating procedures between the coast guards of the two nations.  “A joint exercise between Indian and Japan Coast Guard named Sahyog-Kaijin-XV is scheduled to be held in the Bay of Bengal off Chennai on 15 January,” a statement from Coast Guard said.

‘Echigo’, the Japanese Coast Guard ship is visiting Chennai between January 11-16. One of the highlights of the exercise includes a “scenario of hijacking of a merchant vessel and subsequent rescue in a combined coast guard operation of both countries,” according to the statement.  Top naval officials from both sides will witness the exercise. The officials include the Director General, Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Bisht, and Vice Admiral Hideyo Hanamizu, Vice commandant of the Japanese Coast Guard besides other top officials.

The Japanese delegation would also meet dignitaries of Tamil Nadu during their visit.

China factor 

During Mr Abe’s visit, India and Japan made a strong statement on the South China Sea dispute that ended up riling China. It was for the first time that the two countries made a detailed mention of South China Sea in their joint statement. The joint statement clearly stated that India and Japan asked countries to “avoid unilateral actions” that could further escalate tensions in the region.

Explaining their position on the issue, the joint statement said, “In view of critical importance of the sea lanes of communications in the South China Sea for regional energy security and trade and commerce which underpins continued peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, the two Prime Ministers…called upon all States to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region.”

The assertive postures by China in the region has deepened a sense of insecurity among the other countries. China’s large scale expansion in the islands has become an issue of international concern with most major countries condemning its actions.

India has also come out with separate joint statements on South China Sea with the US and Vietnam, which pitch for joint efforts to ensure freedom of navigation. India’s growing interests in the region and the India-US-Japan trilateral is a cause of concern for China.

(Sridhar Ramaswamy contributed inputs for this article)

 

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