09/02/2014, 00.00
JAPAN - INDIA
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Modi-Abe meeting "opens a new phase for Asia and the world"

The two leaders, both nationalist and hostile to China, sign strategic agreements in every sector, including defence and high-speed trains. Both praise the new, stronger bilateral relationship that could become the greatest ever.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - With the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Emperor of Japan, scheduled for this afternoon, Japan "discovers a new, vital ally. Akihito's blessing to the agreements signed yesterday with the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opens a new and revolutionary phase for Asia and the world," wrote the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese paper in an editorial this morning, in a comment on the state visit by India's new prime minister to Japan.

Modi arrived in the country on Saturday and is scheduled to leave tomorrow. It was the first visit made by the nationalist leader outside the Indian subcontinent.

The meeting between the two leaders, both elected after an election centred on nationalist themes, took place at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, the main accommodation for visiting state dignitaries.

After a morning of work, Modi and Abe held a press conference in which they spoke enthusiastically about bilateral relations.

"I have been always saying Japan-India relationship holds the greatest potential," Abe said. "Hand in hand with Prime Minister Modi, I'd like to elevate our bilateral relationship to a special strategic and global partnership by enhancing relations fundamentally in every field."

Modi said his visit to Japan this time highlighted a mutual trust and signified deeper relations between Japan and his country.

"Japan occupies an extremely high position in our foreign policy," Modi explained. "The reason is Japan has played a very important role in the development and growth of India."

In fact, the agreements signed by the two go beyond words. Abe and Modi agreed to work harder on a "two-plus-two" security consultative framework involving their foreign and defence ministers.

They also agreed to continue joint maritime exercises in addition to regular trilateral drills conducted with the United States.

On the economic front, Abe announced a target to double Japan's investment.

The two prime ministers also agreed to strengthen cooperation on rare earth minerals, and vowed further cooperation on shinkansen technology for a high-speed railway project linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

In addition, Mr Abe pledged a total of 3.5 trillion yen (US$ 33 billion) in Japanese investment over the next five years.

According to several analysts, all of these agreements have an anti-Chinese orientation, starting of course from bilateral defence.

Both nations have territorial disputes with China, and consider a regular partnership with the United States as a means to maintain US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Abe and Modi agreed to strengthen cooperation on rare earth minerals. The move will likely allow Japan to reduce its reliance on China for the supply of such metals, which are necessary to manufacture high-tech products

Investments in the subcontinent was also discussed. China has promoted very generous bilateral relations with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan - the so-called "string of pearls" - but now, with India's help, Japan will try to take its place.

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