Dr. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary,
Ambassador Hemant Krishan Singh,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ten years have passed since Prime Minister Abe made a speech titled “Confluence of the Two Seas” at the Indian Parliament in 2007. Given the recent development of strategic and economic environment of the region, the approach to combine the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and view them as a whole has become more and more relevant today.
Japan and India are the two major democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. The two countries have the will, ability and responsibility to contribute to peace, stability, prosperity and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific.
Against this background, today’s conference is held at a very timely moment. I would like to express my deep appreciation to Ambassador Singh for the effort he devoted to organizing this conference.
Prime Minister Abe announced the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, known as TICAD VI, in Nairobi in August this year. This strategy is an evolution and development of the idea he stated in the “Confluence of the Two Seas.”
The “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” envisions a broad region which encompasses two oceans – the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to include not only Asia but also Africa. This aims to improve connectivity through free and open Indo-Pacific to promote stability and prosperity of the region as a whole.
India is located at a geographically and strategically key position in the Indo-Pacific. This position enables India to play an active role in this region. Japan on its part has long been and will continue to be a provider of security in the region based on its security policy, “Proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation.” The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and a platform for global cooperation. Japan is also a provider of capital, goods and know-how which help this region to be an economic powerhouse.
The bilateral relationship between Japan and India was elevated to the Special Strategic and Global Partnership when Prime Minister Modi visited Japan in 2014. When Prime Minister Abe visited India last year, the two Prime Ministers decided to develop this partnership into an action-oriented partnership. They announced “Japan and India Vision 2025” and pledged to work for peace, security and development of the Indo-Pacific region.
Under the renewed and enhanced partnership, Japan and India will be able to promote the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.” In Japan-India Summit meeting in Vientiane last month, Prime Minister Abe stated that he hoped Japan and India would coordinate closely to make this concept a reality.
Let me then elaborate the way our two countries can cooperate in promoting the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
Japan and India agree that assuring maritime security across the Indian and Pacific Oceans is a prerequisite to economic prosperity in the broader Indo-Pacific region. The two countries have shared values and views including the rule of law, the importance of international law in particular UNCLOS, peaceful resolution of disputes without use or threat of use of force, freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters. Japan and India should be united and raise the voice in international arena to ensure that these values and views will prevail in this region and across the globe. I am happy to see Japan and India are on the same page in this regard.
Under this shared value and views, the two countries are closely cooperating in various ways to ensure maritime security in the region. When Prime Minister Abe visited India last year, it was decided that Japan would participate in the India-U.S. Malabar Exercises on a regular basis. This year, the Malabar Exercise successfully took place in the Sasebo Port and the maritime area east of Okinawa in June. To further develop dialogue and exchanges between the two countries on maritime security, the second Japan-India Maritime Affairs Dialogue was held in November last year. In addition, when the Defense Minister of Japan visited India in July this year, the two Defense Ministers agreed to explore the setting up of a Maritime Strategic Dialogue between the two Defense Ministries. The two countries also contribute to anti-piracy activities off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in their respective capacity. I am pleased to note our cooperation in maritime security domain is progressing steadly.
Improving connectivity of the Indo-Pacific will lead to stability and prosperity of the region. Japan recognizes the importance of enhancing its cooperation with India to augment connectivity in India and the region. I believe that it will benefit all the relevant parties if Japan and India explore ways to coordinate in supporting infrastructure development in Indian neighbors such as Myanmar or Sri Lanka for example. I hope concrete joint projects will be implemented in the future.
India has historically a strong connection with Africa, especially with countries located on the east coast and Prime Minister Modi is promoting active diplomacy toward Africa. There is a vast potential for bilateral cooperation between Japan and India in the development of African countries. Developments of infrastructure, business environment and human resources as well as promotion of trade and investment are among the possible areas of cooperation. When Japanese companies expand their business in Africa, it would be useful for them to collaborate with Indian companies. Exploring ways to facilitate matching of Japanese and Indian companies should be on our agenda. I would like to press ahead this agenda vigorously.
Beyond this bilateral context, it is also important to strengthen coordination and cooperation with other partners for the peace and stability of the region. A Japan-India-U.S. Trilateral dialogue among the Foreign Ministers of the three countries was held for the first time in New York last year. I firmly believe the strategic value of this trilateral and welcome recent positive developments. We look forward to continuing high level exchanges among the three countries with a view to creating tangible results. The result-oriented approach is also the key in this cooperation. With regard to regional frameworks, Japan strongly supports India’s membership of the APEC as it would contribute to the economic integration in the region. We expect India to play further active role in the East Asia Summit. I hope to have more policy coordination between India and Japan together with other likeminded countries of EAS. As a dialogue partner of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Japan is keen to see how this association evolves.
While Japan and India as well as our partner countries are determined to contribute to peace and stability of the region, they also face challenges. Unilateral action to change the status quo by force or coercion is a great concern for all of us. The arbitration award in the case between the Philippines and China for the South China Sea issue will be an important test case to judge whether the rule of law prevails in the region. Japan and India must continue to make clear that this award be complied with for the sake of the rule of law.
Another challenge is the threat of terrorism. Japan strongly condemns the terrorist attack on the Indian Base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, and extends its sincere condolences to those who lost their lives and their bereaved families, and expresses its heartfelt sympathy to those who were injured. Japan condemns terrorism in all forms regardless of its purposes, and strongly reiterates that no act of terrorism can be justified. Japan expresses its solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism.
North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes are serious security threats in the region, too. Japan, India and other major powers should be united in urging North Korea to fully comply with its international obligation and abandon its nuclear weapons. We also expect India’s continuous support for Japan on the abduction issue.
This conference is very timely and relevant given the strategic and security environment surrounding the two countries and the region today. I expect that discussions of this conference will contribute not only to further deepening the bilateral relationship but also to promoting peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
Thank you very much.