Japan, India to hold talks on defence, trade during Abe visit

New Delhi, Jan 24: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives Saturday on a brief but hectic official visit that would see him hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on trade and investment and defence cooperation besides regional and global issues.

Abe, who arrives Saturday afternoon, will hold annual bilateral summit talks with Prime Minister Singh within hours of alighting.

With both countries in talks over purchase of Japan’s ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious search-and-rescue (SAR) aircraft, the visit could see progress in talks for purchase of the aircraft.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera had earlier this month held talks with his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony on the aircraft and on joint naval exercises.

India and Japan held their second bilateral naval exercise last month, off the coast of India. The first exercise was held in the summer of 2012.

US-2 is in service with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). It has a range of 4,700 km at a speed of 550 km/h. It weighs 47 tonne and has a maximum take-off distance of 280 m on water and is also capable of landing at extremely low speeds, according to reports.

India and Japan have a Joint Working Group on defence, established in May 2013 when Manmohan Singh visited Japan. The Joint Working Group held its first meeting in Delhi and is likely to meet again this year after Prime Minister Abe’s visit.

“There is a whole amount of defence related cooperation between India and Japan,” said Joint Secretary (East Asia), Gautam Bambawale.

Besides the annual summit meeting, India and Japan also have regular meetings at different levels – including between their foreign ministers and defence ministers annually. Japan is also the only country with which India has a two plus two dialogue, in which the foreign secretary and defence secretary of both sides meet regularly.

India-Japan bilateral trade last year stood at $18.5 billion. “We foresee vast potential for growth of this trade given the complementarities that exist between our two countries,” said India’s foreign officer spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.

Japan ranks fourth in terms of investments into India. Between April 2000 to 2013, approximately $15 billion were invested from Japan into India through FDI and equity flows, which accounts for seven percent of the total investment in India.

The presence of Japanese companies is also increasing in India. By 2015 the number is expected to reach 2,500. Currently around 1,050 Japanese companies have their representative offices or operations in India.

Japan has been extending Overseas Development Assistance through loans and grants to India, and currently there are 66 projects underway in India from using those loans and grants, Bambawale said.

Both sides have been in talks over a civil nuclear agreement, which is unlikely to be inked during Abe’s visit. “Those discussions and negotiations are ongoing,” he said.

Abe, accompanied by his wife Akie Abe, arrives late afternoon after which he will call on President Pranab Mukherjee and immediately afterwards attend a business meeting in the hotel. In the evening he will hold restricted and delegation level talks with the prime minister, during which the two sides are expected to ink several agreements.

He will attend a dinner banquet hosted by Manmohan Singh. On Sunday, he will attend the Republic Day parade as chief guest after which he would attend the At Home reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the evening. He leaves early Monday.

The visit comes days after the landmark visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko last year.

IANS