PM Narendra Modi outlined India’s concerns on Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in a meeting with Japanese foreign and defence ministers, Toshimitsu Motegi and Taro Kono, reiterating that joining the free trade pact in its present form would be detrimental to Delhi’s interests.
Japanese officials on Sunday said Tokyo was working with other RCEP countries to address issues raised by India. After the first 2+2 dialogue between the two countries, Japan said it remained committed to enhancing connectivity as a part of its Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy not just outside India but also in India, including in the north-east.
On Arunachal Pradesh, though, Japan said it was moving carefully because of the “current status’’ of the state. While there was no detailed discussion on Kashmir in the 2+2 talks, Japan said it was looking at the situation “carefully” and that it wanted differences between India and Pakistan resolved through talks.
Motegi and Kono had called on Modi ahead of the 2+2 dialogue and the upcoming annual summit meeting of Modi and his counterpart Shinzo Abe. Both referred to the RCEP joint statement which said India had outstanding issues and that all participating countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way.
“RCEP was briefly touched upon (in the meeting with Prime Minister). Prime Minister expressed India’s position and we explained our position, which reflects in the joint leaders’ statement at the RCEP leaders’ summit. The summary of the statement… we noted was that the 15 participants ‘will work together’. I don’t want to join any speculation but I believe that all RCEP countries are working to address issues raised by India,’’ Japanese foreign ministry deputy press secretary Atsushi Kaifu, who accompanied Motegi to India, said.
Japan sees free trade as one of the pillars of its Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy and is keen that India joins RCEP. The official underlined Japan’s commitment to working with India for regional peace and prosperity by enhancing connectivity. When asked about Japan’s role in infrastructure development in the north-east, Kaifu said connectivity inside India was equally important and that the north-east was a focus area.
“Both sides are interested in enhancing connectivity, including in the north-east. But due to current status of that area, we are discussing issues (involving infrastructure) very carefully,” the official said. He was responding to a query on whether India and Japan would work together in Arunachal Pradesh which is claimed by China.
On the bilateral defence logistics pact or Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement which the two countries are negotiating, the official said the countries were looking to finalise some issues related to the agreement as soon as possible and expressed hope that the negotiations would conclude soon.
When asked about Kashmir, Kaifu said Japan was aware of the “long-standing differences’’ between India and Pakistan and wanted these to be resolved through dialogue.