ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Tokyo-Delhi ties look up amid mutual concerns over Beijing
Publication Date : 27-01-2014
School children from Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state claimed by China, performed before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as India rolled out recently acquired US-made weapons at its 65th Republic Day, sending multiple signals to Asia's dominant power.
Abe was at the celebrations on Sunday as chief guest - the first time for a Japanese leader. His presence signalled a deepening of ties between India and Japan that have been warming in the past two years, against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive China.
Overlapping maritime territorial claims caused tensions between Beijing and Tokyo, while Beijing and New Delhi also have a simmering border dispute.
"China's rise, although (India and Japan) don't say it openly, is one factor for deepening ties," said Professor Srikanth Kondapalli of New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
A day earlier, Abe and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had pledged closer ties, with India inviting Japan to join in India-US Malabar naval exercises later this year.
The move is likely to invite a response from China, which had objected to a 2007 edition of the exercises that included participation from Japan and Australia.
Following their talks on Saturday, the two leaders had said in a joint statement that they were looking at deepening defence ties, and "reaffirmed their determination to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation".
"The relations between Japan and India have the greatest potential of any bilateral relationship anywhere in the world," Abe said on Saturday after his meeting with Dr Singh.
Every year on Republic Day, which marks the day its Constitution came into force, India showcases its latest weaponry, a fly-past of fighter jets and attack helicopters, as well as marching contingents, dancers and floats with different themes.
This year, Abe watched as the Indian Air Force displayed its recently inducted US-made transport aircraft, the C-130J Super Hercules, and the C-17 Globemaster, a heavy-lift long-range aircraft, among others.
He later watched a float showcasing Arunachal Pradesh. Beyond defence cooperation, Abe also pledged funds for the Delhi Metro and to continue talks on a civilian nuclear deal.