Japan, India leaders build ties amid trade, security worries

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Yamanakako village, Yamanashi prefecture, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP/Kyodo News/Suo Takekuma)
Updated 28 October 2018

Japan, India leaders build ties amid trade, security worries

  • Modi has been urging countries in the region to unite against protectionism and cross-border tensions
  • India and Japan are also set to hold the first joint military exercises involving ground forces next month

TOKYO: The leaders of Japan and India are reaffirming their ties amid growing worries about trade and regional stability.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived Saturday, was meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a resort area near Mount Fuji on Sunday. Modi is also visiting a nearby plant of major Japanese robot maker Fanuc.
Relations with China are a major issue shared by Modi and Abe, as their cooperation may balance China's growing regional influence and military assertiveness.
"The India-Japan partnership has been fundamentally transformed and it has been strengthened as a 'special strategic and global partnership,'" Modi told Kyodo News service. "There are no negatives but only opportunities in this relationship which are waiting to be seized."
Modi chose Japan among the first nations to visit after taking power four years ago. He has been urging countries in the Indo-Pacific region to unite against protectionism and cross-border tensions.
In another sign of closer relations, India and Japan are also set to hold their first joint military exercises involving ground forces, starting next month.
Abe has just returned from China, where he met President Xi Jinping and agreed the two nations were "sharing more common interests and concerns."
President Donald Trump's policies that have targeted mostly China with tariffs, but also Japan and other nations, accusing them of unfair trade practices, are working to prod India and Japan to promote their economic ties.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said the leaders had lunch at a hotel in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo, and exchanged a wide range of views on pursuing "a free and open" Indo-Pacific region. Abe told Modi about his recent trip to China, and both sides agreed on the need to cooperate closely on getting North Korea to drop nuclear weapons development, the ministry said in a statement.
Japan's investment in India still has room to grow. Japan is helping India build a super-fast railway system.
Abe has made bolstering and opening the nation's economy central to his policies called "Abenomics," and has encouraged trade, foreign investment and tourism.
Although Japan has long seen the US as its main ally, especially in defense, Abe is courting other ties. He has also been vocal about free trade, which runs counter to Trump's moves to raise tariffs.
Earlier this year, Japan signed a landmark deal with the European Union that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade. European and Japanese leaders pledged to strengthen their partnership in defense, climate change and human exchange, to send what they called a clear message against protectionism.
Abe and Modi will hold a more formal summit Monday in Tokyo.


Pakistan extends military chief’s tenure amid Kashmir row

Updated 25 min 27 sec ago

Pakistan extends military chief’s tenure amid Kashmir row

  • The extension, which had been widely expected, was also confirmed by the military’s spokesman
  • The Pakistani military has long played an outsized role in national life

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan extended its military chief’s tenure Monday, ensuring stability in what is arguably the country’s most powerful position as tensions soar with rival India and Washington is expected to announce a withdrawal deal in Afghanistan.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed as chief of army staff for another term of three years,” read a statement signed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and released by his office. “The decision has been taken in view of the regional security environment.”
The extension, which had been widely expected, was also confirmed by the military’s spokesman.
The Pakistani military has long played an outsized role in national life, ruling the country for roughly half its 72-year history and offering the muscular reassurance against nuclear arch-rival India that many Pakistanis see as vital to their identity.
Bajwa was appointed to lead the military in 2016, taking over from the hugely popular General Raheel Sharif, who won the hearts of millions with his bruising campaign against Islamic militants.
Bawja’s extension marks the second time in nearly a decade that the country’s top general had their traditional three-year term extended.
It comes as tensions have skyrocketed with New Delhi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy earlier this month.
US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals over the weekend to come back to the negotiating table, conveying to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan the importance of “reducing tensions.”
Both India and Pakistan have controlled portions of the former princely state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.
Earlier this year they again came close to all-out conflict, after a militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, igniting tit-for-tat air strikes.
The Pakistani military is also believed to be playing a vital role in ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban that aim to secure a withdrawal of American troops in exchange for insurgent promises that Afghanistan will not be used as a safe haven for groups such as Al Qaeda or Islamic State.
Pakistan was the Taliban’s chief sponsor when it took power in neighboring Afghanistan during the 1990s.
Its influence over the group, which has waged an insurgency since it was ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001, is seen as key in facilitating a political settlement with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
Talat Masood, a military analyst and retired general, said the need for continuity was at the heart of the decision.
“I don’t think Pakistan would have thought of a change in command in these circumstances,” he told AFP.
The understanding between Premier Khan — branded by his opponents as the army’s “blue-eyed boy” — and Bajwa “has been excellent,” he added.