India, Japan to hold naval exercises soon

Iran Materials 6 March 2007 14:43

( IRNA ) - India and Japan, by holding joint military exercises, will raise their strategic partnership to a higher level.

"It will be a very large exercise," said Japan's Ambassador to India Yasukuni Enoki in an interview with Indian leading English daily `Asian Age'.

India and Japan have held joint coast guard maritime search and rescue and anti-piracy exercises since 2000, but this is the first time their navies will participate in a joint exercise.

The envoy did not specify how soon the exercises would be held, but he hinted that the US could take part in the exercises. The US participation is expected to give a push to the nascent India-Japan-US trilateral cooperation.

" Asia is huge enough to allow every variety of dialogue mechanism," he insisted. According to certain reports appearing in the Japanese media, the India-Japan-US joint military exercises could be held as early as April.

"Maritime security of the Indian Ocean and security of the line of communication, particularly with oil...crude oil transport, is very much in the area of common interest od Asian countries," Enoki said Monday.

"It is quite new, for example, to hold friendship joint exercises between Japanese vital defence vessels on their way back from the Arabian Sea. As you know, Japan is now deploying some vessels for logistical purposes in other countries such as the US and the UK for their peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan," he said in response to a question on the India-Japan maritime cooperation.

He explained that there was ample scope for India and Japan to collaborate in security of sea lanes.

" Japan is still under constitutional constraint, there is very clear limit for Japan to exercise, to play a meaningful military role in this region. But there is ample room even under this constitutional constraint for both India and Japan to work together," the envoy said.

India and Japan, he added, could also play a "a big role" together during tsunami and other natural disasters.