Japan’s defence ministry on Monday announced that it was postponing a Japan-India joint fighter aircraft exercise, which was scheduled to take place in Japan, APA reports citing Sputnik.
It was concurred to precede with coordination in the last 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting in November 2019.
“In view of the significance of the exercise as it will be the first fighter aircraft training jointly held by Japan and India, the defence ministers of the two countries agreed to resume the coordination as soon as the COVID-19 situation gets resolved and embody the deepening of Japan-India defence cooperation in a tangible way,” a statement issued by Japan’s Ministry of Defence reads.
The joint fighter exercise with India will be the fourth such endeavour for Japan, following similar undertakings involving the US, UK and Australia.
Nevertheless, the two countries vowed to maintain a seamless defence posture and continue strengthening bilateral defence cooperation to uphold and reinforce a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Last week, Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono talked to his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh over the phone.
The two countries have been expanding their defence co-operation, including joint drills, for the past two years against the backdrop of the increasing presence of China in the Indian Ocean, which is considered India’s geopolitical sphere of influence.The two sides were also involved in advanced level talk on an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, a logistic sharing pact that allows for the sharing of food, fuel, transportation, ammunition and equipment.
Japan has been increasing security cooperation with India as a counter measure to China’s maritime expansion in the Indo-Pacific region.
Recently, China’s defence ministry announced the deployment of the Task Force of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in order to carry out anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean Region.
On the other hand, China has intensified its military activities in the South China Sea despite the ongoing pandemic. China claims ownership over significant patches of the South China Sea, while the US (India’s major defence partner) countered the claim, saying it prohibits freedom of navigation in the area. The US Navy deployed the USS Montgomery (LCS-8) and the replenishment ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) in the South China Sea last week.
China has also increased military activities across the Line of Actual Control since 25 April and on Sunday, Indian defence ministry confirmed that troops of the two countries involved in physical clashes in Sikkim and Ladakh sector in which several injuries were reported.