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International relations

India-Japan defense forces to exchange fuel and ammunition

Two nations explore ways to cooperate as China expands influence in Indian Ocean

Indian Navy marine commandos in Mumbai in December 2016. India and Japan are looking to strengthen ties between their armed forces as China expands its influence in the Indian Ocean.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- The defense ministers of India and Japan met in New Delhi on Monday, where they agreed to start negotiations as soon as possible on an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement for their armed forces.

The agreement would allow the mutual exchange of food, fuel, ammunition, and equipment, symbolizing a new stage in national security cooperation between the two countries.

Japan's Itsunori Onodera and his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman also discussed ways to bolster exchanges between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the Indian military. They agreed that the Air SDF will participate as an observer in the next joint air drills by U.S. and Indian forces, part of efforts to curb China's growing influence in the Indian Ocean.

Japan's Maritime SDF has been part of the Malabar naval drills with the U.S. and India every year since 2015. Japan and India agreed last year to strengthen cooperation between their land and air forces as well.

"We have made progress toward joint anti-terrorism exercises" between land forces, Onodera said after the Monday meeting.

The Japanese defense chief is visiting Sri Lanka next, where he will stop at the Hambantota port built and operated by a Chinese company, before returning home on Thursday.

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