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International relations

India and Japan sign military supply pact as China flexes muscle

Logistics agreement aimed at strengthening security in boost for 'Quad'

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a bilateral meeting in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI/TOKYO -- India and Japan have signed a pact for the reciprocal provision of supplies and services between their armed forces, a move that comes as China grows increasingly assertive in the Indo-Pacific region.

The countries announced the deal, inked on Wednesday, after a phone call on Thursday between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan's Shinzo Abe.

"They concurred that the agreement will further enhance the depth of defense cooperation between the two countries and contribute to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region," a statement issued by India's external affairs ministry said.

The move comes as Abe prepares to leave office next week on health grounds. The two countries have come closer under the leadership of Abe and Modi.

With regard to the "significant enhancement" of Japan-India relations in recent years, Abe stated that both prime ministers took actions "toward realizing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific," according to a Japanese government statement.

The military agreement "will also enhance the interoperability between the armed forces of India and Japan thereby further increasing the bilateral defense engagements under the Special Strategic [and] Global Partnership between the two countries," a separate statement issued by the Indian defense ministry said.

Earlier in June, India signed a similar deal with Australia -- an "arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support" that enables reciprocal access to each nation's respective military bases.

Both the pacts signed by India with Australia and Japan are also expected to strengthen the quadrilateral partnership or 'Quad' that includes the U.S. and is seen by analysts as part of efforts to contain China's influence in the Indo-Pacific. India has already inked such agreements with the U.S. and a few other nations.

"The pact completes logistics support network among the Quad," Pankaj Jha, a professor of defense and strategic studies at the O. P. Jindal Global University, told the Nikkei Asian Review, pointing out that India also has such agreements with countries supporting this quadrilateral partnership, including France and Singapore.

"It gives a larger outreach to India for launching operations and provides support to its naval expeditions in the Indo-Pacific region."

The Indo-Japan pact also comes amid a tense standoff between India and China along their Himalayan border, with the two countries accusing each other's troops of firing shots in the air on Monday night.

This was the first time in over four decades that shots were fired along their disputed border. Earlier on June 15, a hand-to-hand combat left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unspecified number of Chinese casualties.

Additional reporting by Rurika Imahashi

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