On closer ties with India, Japan plays down China factor

Tokyo, May 29 (IANS) With growing talk about India and Japan getting closer, especially on a strategic partnership to keep China in check, Japan Wednesday tried to play down the issue saying that nothing of the sort was happening.

"India and Japan are getting closer with or without any third nation. India and Japan have a lot of common interests. There is a natural attraction between both countries," Tonohika Taniguchi, councilor and a member of the Japanese prime minister's strategic team, said here Wednesday as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got down for a bilateral summit with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during his three-day visit.

Manmohan Singh's visit to Japan comes just a week after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited India.

Taniguchi said that India and Japan getting closer was "not a diplomatic pseudoism".

India and Japan have indicated enhanced cooperation on strategic issues, economic cooperation and other partnerships.

Both countries have run into territorial difficulties with China. While Japan and China are locked in a stand-off on the ownership of the Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) islands, India has territorial issues with China along its land border. Chinese troops had last month intruded 19 km inside Indian territory along the Line of Control (LOC) in the Ladakh sector.

Taniguchi, however, said that no comparisons could be drawn about India and Japan's disputes with China.

"I have to be cautious about comparing it (Ladakh intrusion) with Senkaku. India's case is different from the situation that Japan faces. We do not have a land border with China," he said.

Taniguchi said that not only were India and Japan's bilateral relations growing but a trilateral involving them and the United States was also taking place.

He said that Japan had no issues with India cooperating with China. "It is more than welcome. It is the same for Japan's relationship with China," he said.

Saying that the "bilateral relationship was enriched" between India and Japan, Taniguchi said that this had grown faster in the last couple of years.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)