India, Japan agree to further intensify strategic ties, sign 15 agreements

The varied stance of US President Donald Trump over the South China Sea may also have influenced the mention of the dispute between India and Japan.

"You must be very clear that boundary of the India-China border area has not been totally delimited and we have disputes in the eastern section of the boundary". The two countries have made a decision to seek synergy between India's "Act East" Policy and Japan's "Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure", by closely coordinating, bilaterally and with other partners, for better regional integration and improved connectivity as well as industrial networks based on principles of mutual consultation and trust.

"We are now trying to seek a solution through negotiations that is acceptable to both sides".

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The joint statement said, "the two Prime Ministers welcomed the India-Japan cooperation on development of India's North Eastern Region (NER) as a concrete symbol of developing synergies between India's Act East policy and Japan's Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy".

A joint statement, issued by India and Japan on Thursday following talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, had announced the setting up of the Act East Forum and referred to plans to take up infrastructure projects such as road connectivity and electricity in India's northeastern states.

There are also reports that the two sides are working on an India-Japan Coordination Forum for Development of North East to focus on strategic projects such as connectivity and road network development. "I read the joint statement carefully but I have not found the statement mentioned the term China at all", she said.

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According to strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney, since Trump has effectively given China a "free pass" on how to act on South China Sea, India and Japan are in a more hard position to address the issue.

In the past, the Modi government has issued direct mentions of the South China Sea dispute in its past joint declarations, specifically with the USA in 2014, under the presidency of Barack Obama. There are three areas where there is a convergence of interest between India and Japan so as to counter China is - South China Sea, Indian Ocean, and South East Asia.

Addressing a joint press event with Abe, PM Modi said India-Japan ties were not limited to bilateral or regional spheres. "We hope the normal development of the relationship can be conducive to regional, peace and development and play a constructive role in this process", she said.

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