Chief of Japanese Air Force Gen Izutsu Shunji is in India to explore ways to further deepen bilateral defence cooperation, a visit that comes three weeks after the Malabar naval exercise comprising the Quad member nations. Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Thursday held wide-ranging talks with Gen Shunji, the Chief of Staff of Japan Air Self Defence Force, focussing on further enhancing cooperation and interoperability between the two air forces, officials said. The Japanese military officer also called on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and held separate meetings with Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh and Vice Chief of the Army Staff Lt Gen S K Saini.
“Ways to boost defence cooperation between the two countries figured in the meetings," said an official without elaborating. Last month, India hosted the Malabar exercise. Following India’s invitation, Australia also participated in the exercise effectively making it a drill by all the Quad member nations. The Quad, comprising India, the US, Australia and Japan, is aimed at ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific, a region that witnessed increasing Chinese military assertiveness in the recent years.
India and Japan have regularly been discussing the evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific, and have signalled to expand cooperation to deal with common challenges. The defence ministry, in a statement, said Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria and Gen Shunji recognised the progress made in defence ties between India and Japan and discussed avenues to further enhance it.
“They also discussed scope for enhancement of joint exercises and training between the two air forces. A broader cooperation for strengthening collective response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief contingencies was also discussed," it said. Gen Shunji, who arrived here on Wednesday, was also accorded a guard of honour at IAF headquarters.
The defence and strategic ties between India and Japan have been on an upswing in the last few years. In September, the two countries inked a landmark agreement that allowed their militaries to access each other’s bases for logistics support. The pact was signed in the backdrop of growing concerns over China’s military muscle flexing in the region.
In June, the Indian Navy carried out a maritime exercise with the Japanese navy as part of efforts to bolster military cooperation.