• Former CNS Admiral Karambir Singh conferred Order of the Rising Sun
  • Ambassador Suzuku Hiroshi pips the decoration

 By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. 10 November 2023. This was another feather in the cap of Indo-Japan traditionally strong relationship and growing geopolitical significance of this bond.  Suzuki Hiroshi, Ambassador of Japan to India, recently hosted a ceremony to felicitate Admiral Karambir Singh, Former Chief of the Naval Staff and Chairman of the National Maritime Foundation, on receiving the Decoration of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star on the Japan Self-Defense Forces Day 2023.

Defence cooperation between India and Japan has been on a continuous rise with 2+2 Dialogue, annual defence ministerial meet, the Tokyo Declaration for India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership with the Memorandum of Defence Cooperation and Exchanges, having provided significant impetus to these initiatives. It may be recalled that two key agreements on Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation and Security of Classified Military Information have been in place since 2015. The signing of an agreement on the mutual provision of supplies and services between the Indian Armed Forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces on 9 September 2020 gave a new impetus to defense cooperation relations. The agreement was put into operation during MILAN 2022 in March 2022 and has since been used in all exercises and visits by ships, aircraft and contingents.

Admiral Singh was decorated with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to strengthening the relationship between India and Japan on national defence. In the context of the dynamic development of Japan-India security relations for the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including in the field of maritime security, Ambassador Suzuki praised the significant contribution made by the Admiral Singh in improving the interoperability between Japan and India and to enhancing the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan.

Ambassador Suzuki in an emotive address stated, “ Prime Minister Abe had a strong belief that India and Japan should take the leading role in preserving the peace and freedom in the Indo-Pacific region and the world. He had this belief because Japan and India share the fundamental values, freedom, democracy, and rule of law. With this belief, he was convinced that the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean must continue to be open and free, free for navigation, free for overflight, free for commerce. The vast expanse of this region must provide the foundation for peace and posterity of this Indo-Pacific region and for the entire world.”

Keeping in sync with this the Joint Working Group on Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation (JWG-DETC) has held seven meetings, the first B to B interaction between Defence companies of India and Japan was held in Tokyo and the visits of Japanese companies to Indian defence industry complexes were organized. The second B to B forum of Indian and Japanese defence industries was held on the side-lines of Aero India 2019 and since then the two nations have institutionalised Staff Talks between all three Services as well as an annual dialogue {High Level meeting (HLM)} between the two Coast Guards.

The Ambassador added, “This was the vision of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. So, in 2007, he visited Delhi and delivered an address in the India Parliament, entitled “Confluence of the Two Seas”. And subsequently in 2016, he officially launched his vision of “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” in Nairobi on the occasion of a big international conference for African development, TICAD. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is no longer with us. However, there is a silver lining. His vision continues to live on. And Admiral Singh had a major contribution in realizing his vision of Free and Open Indo-Pacific, closer to reality.”

A look into this growing relationship will reiterate the positive impact of High-Level visits frequently held between the two countries.  General Izutsu Shunji, COS JASDF visited India in Dec 2020 and Adm Hiroshi Yamamura, Chief of Staff, JMSDF along with six member delegation visited India on an official visit from 25-27 Feb 2022. Gen Koji Yamazaki, COS, Joint Staff visited India to participate in the second and third edition of Raisina Dialogue in April 2022 and again in March 2023. Lt Gen Ogasawara Takuto visited India and attended the Bangalore Air Show from 12-14 Feb 23. As for the in Visits Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of the Air Staff visited Japan from 16-20 May 22. Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff visited Japan from 05 – 09 Nov 2022 for 18th WPNS. Air Marshal PM Sinha, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, AOCINC WAC visited Japan 22-24 Jan 23 to participate in exercise Veer Guardian 23. Vice Adm Sandeep Naithani AVSM, VSM, the Chief of Materiel visited Japan from 26 to 31 Mar 23. Maj Gen Rajesh Arun Moghe, Senior directing Staff, NDC, Directing Staff and 13 student officers visited Japan from 03-10 Jun 23 as part of a Foreign Country Study Tour. Director General Virendra Singh Pathania, PTM, TM, DG ICG visited Japan from 11-15 Sep 22 to attend 20 th ICG-JCG High Level Meeting held at JCG Headquarters, Tokyo on 12 Sep 22.

The event was attended by military ataches of many countries, posted in their respective embassies/high commissions at Delhi. The Ambassador thanked Admiral Karambir Singh , “As we have explained just now, under the strong leadership of Admiral Singh, the interoperability between the Japan  Maritime Self-Defense Force and the IndianNavy has been dramatically enhanced. And through this, the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces, has been improved greatly. So, thanks to your leadership right now, today, our two nations enjoy a very close security partnership. In particular, in the maritime security domain, our partnership is making dynamic progress. After Prime Minister Abe passed away, Admiral Singh is a torch bearer of realizing the vision of Free and Open Indo- Pacific.” This is faith at the highest level and proof of dependability the two nations have in each other.

It may be noted that in addition, to the service to service talks other engagements and exercises (both bilateral and multilateral) have been on the rise. A large number of Subject Matter Expert Exchanges have been taking place regularly between all three services in consonance with discussion at the respective staff talks. The Indian Navy Participated with two ships and a P8I in exercise Malabar held off Yokosuka in Nov 22. Bilateral Fighter Exercise Veer Gurdian was held in Hyakuri Airbase Japan in January 2021. The Indian Airforce participated with its Su30 MKI aircraft in the inaugural edition of the exercise. The Army to Army exercise; Exercise Dharma Guardian was held at Japan for the first time ever since its inception in 2018. The exercise was conducted in Shiga prefecture of Japan near Kyoto in February 2023. Exercise Shinnyu Maitri was also conducted between the transport wings of IAF and JASDF in March 2023. Indian Navy and JMSDF regularly undertake bilateral exercises such as JIMEX, Bilateral Maritime Exercises and Passage Exercises. In addition, they also participate in various multilateral exercises demonstrating a very high level of interoperability. JMSDF ship JS Yuudachi and high level delegation also participated for the first time in MILAN 2022 held off Visakhapatnam in February /March 2022. JS Uraga and JS Awaji made a port call at Kochi on 14 – 16 Feb 23. JS Makanami called at Mumbai from 18-20 Feb 23 and JS Suzutsuki called on Kochi from 07-09 Mar 23. JS Samidare made a port call to the Vishakhapatnam from 05-08 Jul 23 for JIMEX -23.

Admiral Karambir Singh thanked the Ambassador and the people of Japan for this honour and reiterated his commitment of taking the defence cooperation and bilateral ties between India and Japan to the pinnacle of partnership with the aim of keeping the global commons and Indo-Pacific safe. Ambassador Suzuki optimistically added, “We all know that this vision cannot be realized overnight. But I sincerely hope that under your excellent guidance, we will come to see more leaders like you, professional, visionary, with strong leadership, to make things happen. Once again, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for your great contributions to Japan, India’s special partnership, which is truly strategic and global. In closing, I would like to congratulate you once again on receiving the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.”

Taking the relationship ahead Gen Koji Yamazaki, COS, Joint Staff visited India to participate in the Raisina Dialogue 2023 from 03-05 March 2023. The first Bilateral Fighter Exercise Veer Guardian was held in Japan in January 2023. General Morishita Yasunori, the Chief of Staff, JGSDF visited NewDelhi from 24-28 Sep 23 for the IPACC 23.

The two countries advocate dialogue, consultation and fairness in their approach to global issues and emphasize global development with peace and harmony being central to it. But the two believe that national safety is top priority and the two friendly countries stand by each other when it comes to this need.

Editor ADU attended the evening on an invitation from the Japanese Embassy at New Delhi.