India and Japan have signed a key agreement for reciprocal provision of supplies and services between their defence forces, which is expected to drive closer military cooperation and contribute to regional security.
The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and India's armed forces was signed by Japanese ambassador Satoshi Suzuki and defence secretary Ajay Kumar in New Delhi on Wednesday.
"The agreement establishes a framework such as the settlement procedures for the reciprocal provision of supplies and services between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Indian armed forces," said a statement from Japan's foreign ministry.
The agreement is expected to facilitate "smooth and prompt provision of supplies and services" between the two sides, promote closer cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and India's armed forces, and enable them to actively contribute to international peace and security, the statement said.
During a 30-minute phone conversation on Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi welcomed the signing of the agreement and said it would promote closer cooperation between forces on the ground.
It had earlier been expected the pact would be signed during a summit between Abe and Modi this year. However, the holding of the summit has been thrown into doubt by Abe's decision last month to step down on health grounds.
The agreement will cover the reciprocal provision of supplies and services during joint exercises and training missions, UN peacekeeping operations, humanitarian relief operations, operations to cope with disasters in the territory of both parties or a third country, and evacuation of nationals of India and Japan from overseas in exigencies.
The supplies and services covered by the pact include food, water, transportation, including airlift, petroleum, clothing, communications and medical services, use of facilities, spares and components, and repair and maintenance services.
The agreement will remain in force for 10 years and will be automatically extended for periods of 10 years unless one of the parties decides to end it.
India has similar agreements with the US, Australia, France, Oman and Singapore.
Abe, Japan's longest serving prime minister, listed actions taken by India and Japan for realising the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and the elevation of the special strategic and global partnership between the two countries among the key achievements in bilateral relations.
According to a readout from Japan's foreign ministry, the two leaders made it clear that the change of leadership in Japan wouldn't affect the overall arc of bilateral relations.
"Both Prime Ministers affirmed that the basic policy of Japan-India-emphasis remains unchanged, and concurred with each other that the two countries continue to work closely in such areas as security, economy, and economic cooperation including the high-speed rail project," the readout said.
Abe and Modi built a good working relationship and helped drive bilateral ties in a number of areas, especially economic cooperation, maritime security and the Indo-Pacific.
Referring to the significant enhancement of bilateral relations in recent years, Abe said both prime ministers "took actions towards realising the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and the special strategic and global partnership between Japan and India was elevated to greater heights".
Abe, while explaining his decision to step down, expressed "gratitude for the friendship and the relationship of trust" built with Modi and noted the memories from their mutual annual visits. Modi expressed his appreciation for all the efforts by Abe and recalled the time they spent together, the readout said.
Modi also reiterated his appreciation of Abe's leadership for advancing the relationship between India and Japan.