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Abe cozies up to India

By Zhang Yiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-27 0:58:02

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended India's Republic Day on Sunday as the chief guest during his three-day visit to India, a tour analysts said aims at pinning down China but hardly looks like succeeding.

Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to attend as chief guest at India's annual Republic Day celebrations involving a parade of military hardware in New Delhi.

Arriving in India Saturday, Abe and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh affirmed plans to "further strengthen" defense cooperation at a meeting, said a joint statement after the talks.

The two countries also agreed to carry out a trilateral naval drill with the US, Japan's Kyodo News reported, a move apparently aimed at curbing China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Abe told The Times of India Saturday that the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region is becoming ever more serious and hopes Japan and India will further strengthen cooperation in security.

"The Indo-Japan relationship is valued by successive Japanese prime ministers as economically India is a huge market and has promising development prospects for Japan, and in terms of politics and security, cooperation with India can serve the purpose of restraining China," Huang Dahui, director of the Center for East Asia Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

Japanese officials, at preparatory meetings with their counterparts in the ministry of external affairs, had indicated that in exchange for Tokyo's strategic and economic investment in India, it wanted Delhi to criticize China in the joint statement, Calcutta-based The Telegraph reported.

"But anything directly referring to China would have upset our friends in Beijing - and that is something we simply cannot afford," a senior Indian official told the paper.

"The two prime ministers reiterated the commitment of Japan and India to freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes," The Telegraph quoted the joint statement as saying.

"India's main purpose is to obtain practical interests from Japan and Abe's wooing of India to resist China is more of his own wishful thinking," Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

He noted that the big picture of bilateral relations between India and China stressing peaceful development has been already established, especially after last year when the two countries' leaders for the first time exchanged mutual visits with each other inside one year.

Abe hopes to wrap up the first overseas sale of military equipment by Tokyo in nearly four decades and open up the world's biggest arms market for his nation's defense manufacturers by selling ShinMaywa US-2i planes to India, Reuters reported.

Japanese officials say the proposed sale of ShinMaywa US-2i planes would not infringe Japan's self-imposed ban on arms exports as the aircraft given to India will be unarmed and can be used for civilian purposes.

Japan and India are also trying to finalize an agreement on civilian nuclear energy that would open up the Indian market to Japanese players. However, a Japanese official said a signing was unlikely during the visit.

Abe announced a total of about 200 billion yen ($1.92 billion) in loans to India mainly to help finance a project to expand the subway system in the capital.

The India visit is in line with what Abe described as global, strategic diplomacy. He has visited all 10 countries in Southeast Asia and traveled to three African countries and Oman.

Huang said that even though Japan has tried different means to pin down China - through strengthening its alliance with the US, containing China with neighboring countries and earning sympathy from the international community - it will fail in the end.

"Abe's standpoint has gained some audience among neighboring countries currently as they have not adapted to China's rapid development," Huang said. "But as time passes by, other countries will find that the China threat theory is ill-founded."

Agencies contributed to this story

Posted in: Asia-Pacific