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India and Japan pledge to work as `partners against proliferation’

Saturday 30 April 2005, by BARUAH*Amit

To step up energy cooperation and hold annual summit at the level of Prime Minister

NEW DELHI: Setting aside differences on the nuclear issue, India and Japan on Friday pledged to work as "partners against proliferation." Their Prime Ministers agreed to hold annual summits while committing the countries to step up cooperation in the strategic energy sector.

In a joint statement and "eight-fold initiative" issued after talks between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Junichiro Koizumi, Japan explicitly supported India’s participation in the East Asian Summit scheduled for December in Malaysia.

"While expressing their positions on the approaches towards the shared goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the two Governments affirm that they will seek to promote commonalities and identify areas of convergence for mutual cooperation in a constructive manner, contributing to the advancement of overall bilateral relations," it said.

The leaders held that their "global partnership" reflected a broad convergence of their long-term, political, economic and strategic interests, aspirations, objectives and concerns. "India and Japan view each other as partners that have responsibility for, and are capable of, responding to global and regional challenges... "

Mr. Koizumi’s talks, preceded by a successful India visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao earlier this month, had India and Japan stating they had a "common interest in and complementary responsibility" for promoting security, stability and prosperity in Asia. Dr. Singh and Mr. Koizumi directed that the Joint Study Group on furthering economic relations, to be set up in June, submit its report "within a year," and consider the feasibility of an "economic partnership agreement."

Apart from holding a high-level strategic dialogue at the official level, the leaders wanted greater cooperation in the security arena.

"The Indian Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard will commence efforts to establish a framework for effective cooperation. The two leaders, in view of the importance of maritime security, also instructed the Indian Navy and the Self Defence Force of Japan to enhance their cooperation, including through exchange of views, friendship visits and similar activities".

As part of the "eight-fold" initiative to strengthen their global partnership, India and Japan agreed to launch an oil and natural gas cooperation dialogue between the Petroleum Ministry and its Japanese counterpart.

Stepping up their focus on energy security, the two countries would cooperate in exploration and production of hydrocarbons, downstream projects including in third countries, as well as improving Asian oil markets and increasing investments in Asian energy infrastructure.

Interestingly, no specific agreements were signed, with the entire visit focussed on the joint statement and the eight-fold initiative.

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