All Sunday papers reported from New Delhi on the first 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting between Japan and India convened in the Indian capital on Saturday. The participants agreed to deepen bilateral security cooperation, such as signing an acquisition and cross-serving agreement (ACSA) between the two militaries, promoting joint research on a new unmanned ground vehicle, and arranging a joint air drill involving fighter jets in Japan next year. A bilateral ACSA is likely to be signed when Prime Minister Abe visits New Delhi in mid-December. Nikkei said Tokyo now regards New Delhi as a “quasi ally” on par with Australia and the UK, adding that the next 2+2 will be held in Tokyo. Foreign Minister Motegi told the press afterward Tokyo is determined to promote “a special strategic partnership” by saying: “Japan hopes to deepen regional cooperation with India for a free and open Indo-Pacific zone.”
The dailies underscored these steps are intended to rein in China’s growing presence in the region. In fact, the participating ministers adopted a joint statement voicing the two governments’ commitment to creating a “free, open, encompassing, and rules-based” Indo-Pacific region. Mainichi speculated that the word “encompassing” was meant to soften Beijing’s opposition to a stronger defense partnership between Japan and India, adding that as New Delhi is reluctant to highlight a tough line toward China, there was no post-ministerial joint press conference, which has been a customary event when Japan held 2+2 sessions with the U.S., Russia, and other foreign partners.
In a related development, FM Motegi reportedly held a strategic dialogue with his Indian counterpart ahead of the 2+2 session and urged New Delhi to stay in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECEP) free trade framework.