Print Friendly, PDF & Email





Ahead of the annual summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December, India and Japan held the first ever ministerial level 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi. This dialogue which involves the Defence and Foreign Ministers on both sides is seen as an endorsement of the special strategic partnership between both the Nations.

2+2 Dialogue:

  • Till now India and Japan had a 2+2 dialogue at the secretary-level.
  • Now they decided to have a 2+2 dialogue mechanism between Defence and Foreign ministers.
  • This is aimed at giving political muscle to the existing diplomatic, security and defence cooperation.
  • Both sides believe that the new era of India Japan relations will be strengthened by the 2+2 dialogue.
  • So far, India only had a 2+2 dialogue between Defence and Foreign Ministers with the US.
  • The decision to hold a ministerial level 2+2 dialogue was taken this summer during a telephone call between India’s new foreign minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono.
  • The inaugural US-India 2+2 dialogue was held in September 2018.
  • The mechanism itself is quite significant. Japan is only the second country (after the United States) with which India has such a dialogue format.
  • The India-Japan 2+2 dialogue is an endorsement of the special strategic partnership between New Delhi and Tokyo.
  • More broadly, the dialogue has been driven by the mutual desire to frame an Asia that is not dominated by a single country and to see the emergence of a multipolar Indo-Pacific that is free, open, and inclusive.
  • India and Japan have both approached the emerging Asian strategic framework with that goal in mind and both want an inclusive approach in the region. Both see China’s approach in the region as being exclusivist. There is a clear clash between these two visions of the region.
  • The idea of such a 2+2 meeting was initiated during the summit meeting between Modi and Abe in Tokyo in October 2018.
  • The joint statement following the summit meeting recognized the need for such a dialogue. This would be in addition to existing strategic dialogue formats such as the Annual Defense Ministerial Dialogue, Defense Policy Dialogue, the National Security Advisers’ Dialogue.
  • Most recently, the India-Japan defense ministerial level dialogue held in September also acknowledged the importance of a 2+2 ministerial level strategic dialogue.
  • Similar, but lower level, India and Japan dialogues have gone on for close to a decade now. The two have had a 2+2 foreign and defense dialogue led by secretary level officers from 2010. This dialogue was established as per the Action Plan to Advance Security Cooperation agreed between the two countries in December 2009.
  • Discussions on global commons including maritime, outer space, and cyber space have been key themes in this dialogue.

First India-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting

It was affirmed that this dialogue will further enhance the strategic depth of bilateral security and defence cooperation. Acknowledging emerging security challenges, the Ministers reiterated their commitment to advancing bilateral security cooperation based on the 2008 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation and the 2009 Action Plan to advance Security Cooperation. Recalling that the two sides had a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region in which the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are ensured, and all countries enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight, emphasized that further strengthening of bilateral cooperation was in mutual interest of both countries and would also help in furthering the cause of the peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Bilateral Cooperation

  • The Ministers welcomed the progress made in deepening bilateral defence cooperation last year. In this regard, the welcome of the recently conducted second “Dharma Guardian-2019” and the second “SHINYUU Maitri-2019”. They also concurred to proceed with coordination for the first India-Japan joint fighter aircraft exercise in Japan.
  • The Ministers welcomed the significant progress made in the negotiations of Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) since the announcement to commence the negotiations in October 2018.
  • Acknowledging the importance of ensuring maritime safety in achieving a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific, the Ministers expressed their intention to further promote cooperation in the field of capacity building in maritime security and Maritime Domain Awareness including through cooperation with other countries.
  • Emphasized the need to further strengthen the defence equipment and technology.
  • Appreciated the existing exchange programs between the defence educational and research institutions of the two countries and expressed their desire to continue and expand the exchange programmes.

Multilateral Cooperation

  • Recalling the Japan-India-US Summit Meetings in November 2018 and June 2019, the Ministers acknowledged the trilateral cooperation with the US. The Ministers expressed their satisfaction at trilateral cooperation represented by the “Malabar 2019” held from September-October 2019 off the coast of Japan, mine-countermeasures exercise (MINEX) held in Japan in July 2019 and “Cope India 2018” in which Japan participated as an observer in December 2018.
  • The Ministers welcomed the recent Japan-India-Australia-US Foreign Ministerial consultations in New York in September 2019.

Regional and International Affairs

  • A frank and fruitful exchange of views on the regional issues of mutual interests particularly on the security situation in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of supporting ASEAN centrality and unity for promoting peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.
  • The Japanese side appreciated India’s announcement of “Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” at the recent 14th EAS to create a safe, secure, stable, prosperous and sustainable maritime domain and confirmed their willingness to discuss concrete cooperation based on the Initiative.
  • The Ministers exchanged views on the recent developments in the South China Sea.
  • The importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including those reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • It condemned in the strongest terms the growing threat of terrorism and acknowledged that it constituted a major threat to peace and security in the region.
  • It was emphasized the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence.

Overall, the India-Japan ministerial level 2+2 strategic dialogue is an important initiative emphasizing the deep interest in both India and Japan to further strengthen their security and strategic engagements. The two countries have built a strong strategic partnership in the last decade. While China may have been a factor, building this relationship was easier because of the absence of any baggage, unlike, for instance, with the United States.  But India and Japan also need to build a larger coalition if they are to balance China effectively.