TOKYO -- Japan and India plan to hold a "two-plus-two" meeting of foreign and defense ministers here to discuss security cooperation as early as late April, as China ramps up activity in the East and South China seas.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi will participate in the talks with Indian counterparts Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh. The two sides are expected to affirm they will work together toward a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The meeting will lay the groundwork for security discussions when Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a planned visit to India during Japan's long Golden Week holiday, which runs from late April to early May. Both countries are members of the security grouping known as the Quad, alongside the U.S. and Australia.
This will be the two countries' second two-plus-two meeting, following the first in November 2019 in India, as Tokyo and New Delhi build closer ties with an eye toward China. The two sides signed an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement last year to share resources such as food and fuel between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the Indian military.
Japan has been focusing foreign-policy attention on the Quad, and looks to use the two-plus-two meeting to deepen its relationship with New Delhi. India, which traditionally avoids formal alliances and tries to keep its diplomatic relationships balanced, had been wary of being drawn into an effort to contain China.
Last month, Japan issued its first official development assistance to India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The islands are situated at the mouth of the Malacca Strait and offer a front-row view of the world's most important chokepoint. While the assistance is for the installation of a battery energy storage system and not related to Japan having a presence on the islands, analysts said that the collaboration between the two countries there was significant and symbolic of the deepening ties.
Japan has also been conducting road-connectivity projects in Northeast India, in states such as Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam and Tripura that border Bangladesh and Myanmar. The increased engagement in India's strategic peripheries could alarm China, analysts say.
The two-plus-two talks may end up taking place virtually instead of face to face. India's new daily coronavirus cases have soared above 100,000 to record levels, while Tokyo's central 23 wards are set to take extra measures to curb the spread of the virus between April 12 and May 11.