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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

World

Ties with China looming over Indo-Japan naval relations
Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times
Qingdao, April 23, 2014
First Published: 22:56 IST(23/4/2014)
Last Updated: 23:00 IST(23/4/2014)

The Indian Navy is willing but the reluctance of the government is preventing an upswing in Indo-Japan naval ties, Japan’s navy chief, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano said Tuesday, indicating that cagey Sino-Indian ties were weighing down naval relations between New Delhi and Tokyo.
“India has a very good navy and we want to engage more closely,” Kawano said.

Kawano said Japan was ready with its technology and equipment to cooperate with the Indian Navy. In fact, India is set to become the first country since the Second World War to buy the US-2 amphibious military aircraft from Japan.

That could be just the beginning, the Japanese navy chief said, adding: “We are very interested in helping India develop its naval technology.’’
Concerned about China’s rising naval power and fast expanding maritime reach, Kawano said he wants the navies of Japan and India to interact more frequently and develop close links in the Indian Ocean.

Asked about China’s fast expanding naval power, he said: “We are very concerned about it”. He said China will have a large armed force because it is a big country with more than 1 billion people but Japan too has lot of plans to expand the navy.

On India-Japan naval relations, Kawano said: “As I understand, the Indian Navy is keen and willing. But Indian politics is very complicated,” Kawano said, indicating that Japan was waiting for a broad positive response from the Indian government about deepening engagement between the armed forces.

Kawano spoke to HT on-board India’s first indigenous stealth frigate, INS Shivalik which sailed to the Qingdao port in eastern China to take part in a multi-lateral naval exercise to mark the 65th year of the founding of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy.

Admiral Kawano, who is the Chief of Staff, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force, said:  “We very frequently hold exchanges with the Indian navy. We want to do much more. We have been wanting to join very much the Malabar sea exercises with the United States and India. We also want to do a bilateral exercise with India,” Kawano said.

Besides India, ships from Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore participated in the exercise, held off the Qingdao coast on Wednesday.

Earlier, China snubbed Japan by not inviting Japanese ships to the exercise and announcing that the PLA navy chief, Wu Shengli, will not meet Kawano or any Japanese navy officials during the ongoing Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao. Tension is running high between the two countries over the ownership of a cluste of islands in the East China Sea.

In January, the Indian the defence ministry had given the go-ahead to invite Japan for the next Indo-US Malabar exercises, held off the Indian coast.

In 2007, China had formally protested when Japan was invited to the Malabar exercise, prompting a decision by the government that India would not take part in military exercises that could be perceived to be positioned against another country.

Admiral Kawano had visited New Delhi in January and had met defence minister, AK Antony and the then Indian navy chief, DK Joshi, discussing issues like combating piracy off the Gulf of Aden.


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