The visiting Chief of Staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force, Gen Izutsu Shunji, and the Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, on Thursday discussed ways to enhance cooperation and interoperability between the two sides

Gen. Shunji’s visit comes close on the heels of last month’s Malabar trilateral naval exercise involving India, Japan and the US, which was joined this year by Australia. It also comes in the wake of efforts by India, Australia and Japan to forge alternative and resilient supply chains.

Both Japan and India are also grappling with China’s assertive actions. Japan has described China’s growing maritime activities in waters around the country as a threat, while India and China are locked in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

Shunj, who is visiting India at the invitation of the IAF chief, also met defence minister Rajnath Singh, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, the navy chief and the vice chief of the army.

On arrival at the Air Headquarters, Shunji was presented a guard of honour.

“In subsequent discussions, the IAF chief and Shunji] recognised the progress made in defence ties between India and Japan and discussed avenues to further enhance cooperation and interoperability between the two air forces,” an official statement said.

They discussed the scope for enhancing joint exercises and training between the two air forces. “A broader cooperation for strengthening collective response to humanitarian aid and disaster relief contingencies was also discussed,” the statement said.

Shunji’s visit amid the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic “reaffirms the deep rooted commitment to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the air forces”, it said.