New Delhi– India and Japan on Monday reaffirmed their commitment for greater bilateral defence cooperation and ensuring a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region at the annual defence ministerial meeting here.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held talks with her Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera who is on a two-day visit to India at the invitation of the Indian Defence Minister, and reaffirmed the commitment to further strengthen defence and security cooperation under the “Japan-lndia Special Strategic and Global Partnership”.

Sitharaman will be visiting Japan next year for the next edition of the meeting.

“The Ministers recognised that the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are crucial for ensuring the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, and had a frank exchange of views on the current security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including developments in the Korean Peninsula,” an official communique said at the conclusion of the meeting.

It said the Ministers agreed that both sides will seek to realise the 7th Defence Vice Minister/ Secretary-level Defence Policy Dialogue and the 6th Vice Minister/ Secretary-level “2+2” dialogue in Tokyo in 2019.

The Ministers also welcomed the progress made in preparing for the first-ever bilateral joint exercise in counter-terrorism between the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) and the Indian Army to be held later this year.

The Ministers expressed satisfaction at the success of Japan-India-US trilateral maritime exercise “Malabar 2018” in June this year as well as the start of the constructive, trilateral discussion toward the next round of the exercise.

The two Defence Ministers underlined the need to continue bilateral joint exercises, including those in areas of anti-submarine warfare and mine-countermeasures.

Following the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) helicopter crews’ visit to India’s Sarsawa Air Force Station in December last year, the two sides affirmed JASDF’s participation as observers in the next round of Exercise Cope India “to add further momentum to air-to-air exchanges”.

The Ministers welcomed the regular exchange of students between the defence educational and research institutions of the two countries, including the National Defence College of India, and the National Institute of Defence Studies of Japan, and reaffirmed that they would be continued.

It said the constructive engagement between the Acquisition, Technology and Logistical Agency (ATLA) of Japan and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has resulted in the signing of a project arrangement between the two countries on cooperative research in the field of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)/ robotics, marking the start of the first bilateral cooperative project.

Sitharaman briefed Onodera on the setting up of two Defence Industry Corridors in India and invited participation of Japanese enterprises. (IANS)