The prime ministers of India and Japan talked the language of strategy through a round of Chinese whispers. China was a key component of the discussions that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with Naoto Kan at the end of the former’s state visit.
China was an unsubtle subtext in the joint statement issued by the two governments. The two agreed to establish a “ministerial level economic dialogue” with a “strategic and long-term policy orientation.”
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the two prime ministers “exchanged views on China” and that their discussions covered strategic, security and economic issues. The two countries, she said, shared their experiences in handling China.
“We both wish to see the peaceful rise of China,” she said. The two sides discussed how China could be engaged and drawn into cooperation.
India shared with Japan its mechanism for border talks with China which Rao characterised as “well-functioning”. The joint declaration was shot through with issues in which Beijing weighed heavily. A source characterised the talks as being “one-third China, one-third nuclear” with the free trade agreement taking up the rest.
The two countries agreed to “steadily expand” security and defence cooperation, especially in maritime security. Rao said the discussions on maritime security would consider both “bilateral and multilateral” activities. The two welcomed the decision of the East Asia Summit to invite the United States and Russia into its ranks — a move widely seen as an attempt to constrain China.
Strikingly, the joint statement says the two countries would “explore” cooperation in the “development, recycling and re-use of rare earths and rare metals.” Rao insisted this was not aimed at a “third party,” but Japanese officials have been open in saying that China’s ban on rare earth exports to their country was a form of economic warfare against their country.
The declaration skated over the gap between the two sides over the issue of nuclear testing, but Rao emphasised both sides were pushing ahead with the talks. A third round of nuclear negotiatons is scheduled for the third week of November and would continue “the positive momentum,” she said.
Rao said there was “political resolve” by both sides to conclude a deal. This was affirmed by Japanese officials.