Japan’s billion boost for free open Indo-Pacific but Ukraine looms large

NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi and his visiting Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, reaffirmed commitment to a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific with the latter calling India an indispensable partner and announcing $75 billion to bolster Japan’s free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) policy, even though Ukraine again loomed large as Kishida used his policy statement to target Russia.
While he did not name China anywhere in his Indo-Pacific statement, Kishida referred to the Ukraine conflict seven times as he condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine saying Moscow’s aggression had “obliged” the world to face the most fundamental challenge of defending peace. The Indian side was silent on the Ukraine issue but Kishida recalled Modi’s this-isn’t-the-era-of-war remark in a media statement and Japan authorities said after the meeting that both leaders agreed any effort to unilaterally change the status quo anywhere in the world can’t be condoned.
Kishida said he and Modi had agreed to uphold the international order based on the rule of law. There were talks related to Chinese assertiveness over lunch, and while the Ladakh stand-off didn’t figure in the discussions, Japanese officials said Modi and Kishida concurred that any unilateral action meant to disturb the status quo in both South and East China Seas would be unacceptable.
“The 2 leaders agreed they had a shared responsibility of maintaining and strengthening the international order, based of the rule of law,” said Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s cabinet secretary for public affairs who accompanied Kishida.
Kishida officially invited Modi for the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May and Modi said he was looking forward to welcoming the Japanese PM in September.
In person, again while talking about Russia and Ukraine, said the world was at a turning point of history that was marked by a lack of “guiding perspective” about what the international order was meant to be like as there were differences “in attitudes” to Russian aggression.
Significantly, Kishida had last week welcomed the arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court, which is not recognised by India. Despite their common interests in the Indo-Pacific, India’s position on Ukraine remains markedly different from Japan and other Quad members as it refuses to categorically condemn Russia’s military actions. Diplomatic sources said Japan wants India to be more forthcoming on the Ukraine issue and that the two sides agreed to remain in touch on developments related to the conflict.
Modi and Kishida also discussed in detail defence and economic cooperation. Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said Modi emphasised on “co-innovation, co-design and co-creation” in defence and welcomed investment in India’s defence sector.
While listing additional measures to strengthen Japan’s FOIP, Kishida said the policy will be based on four pillars, including “principles for peace and rules for prosperity, addressing challenges in an Indo-Pacific way, multi-layered connectivity, and extending efforts for security and safe use of the sea to the air”. In a remark aimed at China, he warned connectivity that relies solely on one country could be a breeding ground of political vulnerability. Modi and Kishida discussed ways to help Sri Lanka, where India and Japan are among major lenders, to deal with its financial crisis. Without naming China, as he spoke about freedom of the seas, Kishida also said states should make territorial claims based on international law and not use force to back their claims.
The leaders agreed to continue cooperation for the development of India’s north-east under the Japan-India Act East Forum. Kishida said Japan will promote the Bay of Bengal-north-east India value chain concept in cooperation with India and Bangladesh for the development of the entire region.
Asked about the announcement of $75 billion for the Indo-Pacific, a Japanese spokesperson said it wasn’t meant to counter any country but reflected Japan’s commitment to FOIP. Kishida had said in his speech that Japan would mobilise a total of more than $75 billion in public and private funds in the Indo-Pacific region by 2030 in infrastructure “and grow together with other countries”.


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