India and Japan have finalised a landmark cyber-security agreement providing for enhancing cooperation on 5G technology, artificial intelligence and critical information infrastructure as the two strategic partners vowed to further broadbase their joint efforts in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. After a meeting between foreign ministers of the two countries in Tokyo on Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the two sides have firmed up the pact which will promote cooperation in 5G technology, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and key areas of cyberspace among others.
The firming up of the deal comes in the midst of growing concerns in India over cyber attacks from China, particularly after India banned over 100 mobile apps with Chinese links following the bitter border standoff between the two countries in eastern Ladakh. Separately, a meeting of the union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved signing of the agreement with Japan.
Following talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi, it was also announced that Japan agreed to be the lead partner in the connectivity pillar of the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI).
The IPOI is an India-backed framework aimed at making meaningful efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific, a region where China has been expanding its military assertiveness triggering global concerns. Jaishankar, in a tweet, said further expansion of India-Japan collaboration in third countries with focus on development projects also figured in the talks.
“Recognising the increasing role being played by digital technologies, the two ministers highlighted the need for robust and resilient digital and cyber systems and in this context, welcomed the finalisation of the text of the cybersecurity agreement,” the MEA said.
“The agreement promotes cooperation in capacity building, research and development, security and resilience in the areas of Critical Information Infrastructure, 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), among others,” it said.
The cooperation between India and Japan on 5G technology comes in the backdrop of growing reluctance by a significant number of countries globally to allow Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to roll out 5G services in their territories.
The US has already banned Huawei over concerns of security, and Washington has been pressuring other countries to restrict the operations of the Chinese telecom major. The 5G is the next-generation cellular technology with download speeds stated to be 10 to 100 times faster than the current 4G LTE networks.
A statement issued after the Cabinet meeting said the cyber-security pact will also provide for sharing strategies and best practices to promote the integrity of the supply chain of information and communication technology (ICT) products.
“India and Japan commit to an open, interoperable, free, fair, secure and reliable cyberspace environment and to promote the Internet as an engine of innovation, economic growth, and trade and commerce that would be consistent with their respective domestic laws and international obligations,” it said.
It said the pact will enhance cooperation in the area of cyberspace and emerging technologies and provide for protection of critical infrastructure and sharing of information on cyber security threats and malicious cyber activities as well as on best practices to counter them.
In course of the 13th India-Japan foreign ministers’ strategic dialogue, Jaishankar and Motegi deliberated on a broad range of areas including maritime security, trade and investment, manufacturing, connectivity and infrastructure and reform of the United Nations, the MEA said. However, it is learnt that one of the key priority areas was Indo-Pacific.
“They emphasised that a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region must be premised on diversified and resilient supply chains; and in this context, welcomed the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative between India, Japan, Australia and other like-minded countries,” the MEA said.
It said the two ministers also concurred that the Indo-Pacific has acquired greater salience in recent times and underscored the need for India and Japan to work together for the benefit of the region.
“Reaffirming the similarities in their respective Indo-Pacific visions, that are based on rule of law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Japanese side agreed to be the lead partner in the connectivity pillar of the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative and jointly take both countries’ respective visions for the Indo-Pacific forward,” the MEA said.
At the East Asia Summit in Bangkok last year, Modi proposed setting up of the Indo-Pacific Ocean’s initiative to conserve and sustainably use the maritime domain and to make meaningful efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain.
In the talks, the two ministers exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest and agreed that the strong and enduring partnership between the two countries will play a pivotal role in overcoming challenges posed by the COVID-19, the MEA said.
The Japanese foreign ministry, in a statement, said the two ministers reaffirmed the importance of implementing Japan-India cooperation in third countries such as ASEAN and Southwest Asian countries and making steady progress on the high-speed rail project.
It also referred to the signing of exchanges of notes in late August for Japan’s COVID-19 measures for India, namely a 50 billion yen emergency assistance loan and a 1 billion yen grant aid for the provision of medical equipment.
The statement said Motegi expressed his hope that the assistance will contribute to developing the health and medical systems of India, including the COVID-19 response.
The Japanese foreign ministry said Jaishankar and Motegi exchanged views on cooperation for realising a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and affirmed their intention to continue boosting the bilateral cooperation, including the IPOI promoted by India.
“The ministers exchanged opinions regarding the issue of North Korea. Minister Motegi asked for understanding and cooperation towards the early resolution of the abductions issue and Minister Jaishankar expressed his support,” it said. It said the two ministers affirmed that the two countries will cooperate toward realising UN Security Council reforms as early as possible.