Tokyo– India and Japan on Thursday called for a peaceful, stable, free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region following the Ninth India-Japan Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono here.

“Our Special Strategic and Global Partnership has acquired a broader significance in the current global context,” Sushma Swaraj said while jointly addressing the media with Kono.

“Our growing convergence on economic and strategic issues is important for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.

Kono said India was Japan’s most important partner in its Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“Our Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and India’s Act East Policy should be further merged,” he said.

The remarks assume significance given China’s belligerence in the South China Sea and attempts to increase its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.

India and Japan, along with the US and Australia, are also part of the recently revived quad that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

In her address, Sushma Swaraj said that in Thursday’s Strategic Dialogue, she and Kono discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Stating that India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy in the world, she said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is strongly committed to improving the “ease of doing business” and has “set into motion many far-reaching changes to build infrastructure, reform the business environment and promote education, skills and economic development”.

“In my discussions with Foreign Minister Kono, I emphasized that in India’s transformational journey, we regard Japan as a natural partner.”

Sushma Swaraj said that India welcomes Japanese entrepreneurs with new opportunities in flagship initiatives such as Smart City, Digital India, Start-Up India and many others.

“Foreign Minister Kono and I had very productive discussions on how India and Japan are today working closely to build robust ties in high speed rail, information and communications technology, innovation, space science, healthcare and food processing, to name just a few.

“We also exchanged views on some new areas of focus in our engagement, such as skills development, Japanese language training in India and the possibility of Indian professionals working in Japan under the Technical Intern Training Programme.”

She said that both sides appreciated the growing people-to-people ties between the two countries and “also expressed our satisfaction over growing role of states in India and prefectures in Japan as active stake-holders in our partnership”.

Stating that both sides exchanged views on some important global issues where India and Japan have growing convergences, she said: “We shared the view that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is a global scourge that requires global action in the spirit of azero tolerance’, including by rooting out terrorist safe havens, disrupting terrorist networks and financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists.”

Sushma Swaraj also said that both sides emphasised the need for concerted global action to deal with other common challenges such as climate change.

She said she believed the Strategic Dialogue has laid a sound foundation for the annual bilateral summit between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to be held later this year.

Following the talks, the two sides signed loan agreements on projects being implemented in India with Japanese aid, including on connectivity in northeastern India, Mumbai Metro Line 3, construction of Chennai Sea Water Desalination Plant and Himachal Pradesh forest ecosystem management.

Earlier, Sushma Swaraj addressed the Indian community at the Vivekanand Cultural Centre here during which she lauded the contribution of the diaspora in strengthening India’s relations with Japan and creating a positive image about India in Japan.

She met former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is Chairman of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, and discussed ways to take the bilateral relationship forward. (IANS)

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