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Japan seeks to upgrade security talks with India amid China muscle-flexing : sources

Japan is arranging with India to upgrade security talks involving vice foreign and defense ministers to a ministerial-level dialogue in light of China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean, government sources said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to agree with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on the upgrading of the so-called two-plus-two dialogue during his trip to the South Asian nation starting Wednesday, the sources told Kyodo News.

Tokyo put forward a similar proposal in 2014, but it did not come to fruition as New Delhi opted to avoid irritating Beijing, a diplomatic source said.

Given the recently deepening security cooperation among Japan, India and the United States, Japan has judged that the time is ripe for pushing for the new framework again, the government sources said.

In August, India agreed to launch ministerial two-plus-two talks with the United States. Japan, for its part, regularly joins the annual Malabar maritime exercises conducted by the Indian and U.S. navies in the Indian Ocean.

But it remains unclear whether Abe and Modi can reach an agreement due to a lingering cautious view within the Indian government about sending foreign and defense ministers abroad at the same time, one of the sources said.

The first Japan-India vice ministerial-level two-plus-two meeting took place in July 2010 in New Delhi and the most recent fourth talks were held in March in Tokyo.

On Thursday, Abe is scheduled to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a new high-speed railway connecting the western Indian cities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad, using Japanese bullet train technology.

During the summit with Modi later that day, Abe is likely to encourage India’s introduction of shinkansen technology to other railway systems, the sources added.

Abe also wants to discuss with Modi possible Japanese exports of nuclear power equipment and technology to India now that a civilian nuclear cooperation pact between the nations has taken effect in July, they said.

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