After years of negotiations, India and Japan inked a landmark agreement that will allow their militaries to access each other's bases for logistics support, a key development that comes in the backdrop of growing concerns over China's military muscle flexing in the region.
The acquisition and cross-servicing pact was signed by Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Japanese Ambassador Suzuki Satoshi, the defence ministry said.
The agreement provides for creation of an enabling framework for closer cooperation and interoperability, besides allowing militaries of the two countries to use each other's bases and facilities for repair and replenishment of supplies, the official said.
The signing of the agreement comes at a time India is locked in a bitter border row with China. In June, India and Australia sealed a similar Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) while resolving to scale up their overall defence cooperation.
India has already signed similar agreements with the US, France, and Singapore. India has been signing MLSAs with nations primarily eyeing deeper maritime cooperation, which is important considering China's rapid military expansionism in the Indo-Pacific, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea.
The pacts with the US and France provide for accessing various crucial bases by Indian military in Djibouti, Guam, and the Reunion Islands, among others.
India is also expanding overall strategic cooperation with Japan in the Indo-Pacific region under the framework of four nation coalition 'Quad'.
In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
The US has also been pushing for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China's growing clout in the region.