Japan plans to allow the exports of lethal military equipment, including missiles and jets, to India and 11 other countries, a move that could bolster efforts by New Delhi and Tokyo to cooperate in defence manufacturing.
Regulations will be eased by March next year to allow the exports to India, Australia and some European and Southeast Asian nations, according to a report by Nikkei. Japan established a principle for transfer of defence equipment and eased regulations that prohibited their export in 2014. However, it still bans exports of lethal weapons.
The development comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida agreed to enhance bilateral security and defence cooperation, including in defence manufacturing, during a meeting on the margins of the Quad Leaders Summit in Tokyo on Tuesday.
India is among the few countries with which Japan has signed a key agreement for reciprocal provision of supplies and services between their defence forces in order to drive closer military cooperation and contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific. The Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and India's military was signed in September 2020.
The Japanese government also aims to "enhance deterrence against China by cooperating with countries that have signed individual security agreements with Tokyo", the Nikkei report said. These countries include Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, Britain, Germany, France and Italy.
According to the 2014 principle, defence exports to countries that don't jointly develop arms with Japan are limited to equipment for rescue, transport, warning, surveillance, and minesweeping missions. The new rules on defence exports will be part of the Japan government's policy on economic and fiscal management and reform, to be finalised in June.
The principle for defence exports will be revised after Japan's National Security Strategy is framed by the end of this year.
India and Japan now have strong security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and much of the cooperation has been driven by shared concerns about China's aggressive posture across the region.
Indian officials have said Modi had discussed with Kishida the issue of co-development and co-production of defence equipment in India.
Japan is also working on plans to develop new combat jets and anti-aircraft missiles with Britain and the US.