India and Japan took forward talks on an agreement to share military logistics for greater interoperability and declared that the two sides conducted a rare discussion on the South China Sea situation during a high-level visit by defence minister Rajnath Singh.
In a sign of increasing maritime cooperation between India, Japan and the US, it has also been announced that two annual joint exercises would be carried out. Besides the Malabar series of complex naval war games, the trilateral mine-countermeasures exercise (MINEX) will also be conducted annually now.
Singh also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a joint statement after the visit referred to a discussion on the South China Sea.
Recent statements by India have avoided a reference to the South China Sea situation even as other stakeholders have raised the matter. France, the UK and Germany last week expressed concern and called for safeguarding Freedom of Navigation in the region after China entered Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone to block exploration.
Singh, who is on a two nation visit to Japan and South Korea, discussed the upcoming Malabar exercise off the coast of Japan as well and took stock of the first Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue (2+2) that is planned ahead of the Japan-India Annual Summit this year.
Significantly, talks were taken forward on a military logistics sharing pact, which will be on similar lines of agreements with the US and France. “The ministers welcomed that negotiations on the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) have shown progress,” a joint statement issued after the talks said.
India has been in talks with friendly nations like Australia and Russia also for similar pacts that would allow warships and aircraft to take fuel and supplies from mutual military basis during operations, exercises and other deployments.