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Boosting strategic cooperation to be focus of Rajnath’s 5-day visit to Mongolia, Japan

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NEW DELHI, Sept 4: Defence minister Rajnath Singh will embark on a five-day visit to Mongolia and Japan beginning Monday with an aim to expand India’s strategic and defence ties with the two countries in the backdrop of evolving regional security matrix and geo-political turmoil.

Singh’s visit to Mongolia from September 5 to 7 will be the first-ever tour to the East Asian country by an Indian defence minister.

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In Japan, Singh and External Affairs minister S Jaishankar will join their Japanese counterparts under the framework of ‘2+2’ foreign and defence ministerial dialogue, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

From Mongolia, the defence minister will travel to Japan for a two-day visit from September 8 to 9. The ‘2+2’ dialogue is set to take place on September 8.

The dialogue is taking place over five months after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited India for the annual India-Japan summit.

At the summit in New Delhi, Kishida announced an investment target of five trillion Yen (Rs 3,20,000 crore) in India over the next five years.

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In the 2+2 dialogue, the two sides are expected to deliberate on ways to further expand bilateral cooperation in the areas of defence and security besides taking stock of the developments in the Indo-Pacific, the people cited above said.

The Japanese delegation will be headed at the talks by Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada.

The ‘2+2’ dialogue with Japan was initiated in 2019 to deepen bilateral security and defence cooperation further and bring greater depth to the special strategic and global partnership between the two countries.

India has the ‘2+2’ ministerial format of dialogue with very few countries including the US, Japan, Australia and Russia.

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India has been ramping up strategic ties with its key partners in the backdrop of the geo-political turmoil, largely triggered by the Ukraine crisis, China’s aggressive posturing in the Indo-Pacific and escalating tension between Beijing and Taipei in the Taiwan Strait.

Announcing Singh’s visit to Mongolia, the defence ministry said it will further consolidate the defence cooperation and strategic partnership between the two countries.

It said he will hold bilateral talks with Mongolia’s Minister of Defence Lt Gen Saikhanbayar and call on President U Khurelsukh and Chairman of the State Great Khural (parliament) G Zandanshatar.

“The two democracies have a common interest in fostering peace and prosperity in the entire region,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said India and Mongolia share a strategic partnership and defence is a key pillar of this partnership.

The bilateral defence engagements with Mongolia have been expanding over a period of time to include wide-ranging contacts between the two countries, including joint working group meetings, military-to-military exchanges and capacity building and training programmes.

“During bilateral talks, the two defence ministers shall review the bilateral defence cooperation between India and Mongolia, and explore new initiatives to further strengthen bilateral engagements. The two leaders will also exchange views on regional and global issues of shared interest,” the ministry said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to Mongolia in May 2015, bringing a renewed vigour to the ties in diverse areas including defence and security.

During the visit, India announced a USD 1 billion line of credit to Mongolia for infrastructure development and upgraded their ties to the strategic partnership.

Joint India-Mongolia military exercise ‘Nomadic Elephant’ is held annually.

The last two editions of the exercise were held at Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) in September 2018 and in October 2019 at Himachal Pradesh. (PTI)

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