Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (2L) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (2R) as India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (R) and Japan's Defence Minister Taro Kono (L) pose during their bilateral talks in New Delhi

India and Japan have moved closer to inking an agreement to allow armed forces of the two nations to use each other's military bases as well as to provide logistical support to each other – a move aimed at countering China's muscle-flexing in Indo-Pacific.

New Delhi has also sent out a message to Beijing as it joined Tokyo to stress “freedom of navigation and overflight as well as unimpeded lawful commerce” in the South China Sea, which has been at the centre of an escalating conflict between China and its maritime neighbours in South East Asia.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hosted their counterparts in Japanese Government, Kono Taro and Motegi Toshimitsu, in New Delhi for the inaugural India-Japan 2+2 dialogue on Saturday. They called for “early conclusion of the negotiations” for the proposed bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), according to a joint statement issued by the two sides after the meeting. The agreement may be signed when Prime Ministers of the two nations, Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe, will hold the annual summit a couple of weeks later – possibly in a city in the north-eastern region of India.

“India’s relationship with Japan was a key component of our vision for Indo-Pacific for peace, stability and prosperity of the region, as well as a cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy,” Prime Minister said, when Japanese Defence Minister and Foreign Minister called on him on Saturday, shortly before joining their counterparts in Government of India for the 2+2 dialogue.

The ACSA will set a framework between the armies, air forces and navies of India and Japan to provide supplies and services to each other on the principle of reciprocity.

The agreement will require armed forces of India and Japan to help each other with logistic supports, including food, water, billet, transport (including airlift, if necessary), petroleum, oils, lubricants, clothing, communications, medical services, base support, storage, use of facilities, training services, spare parts and components, repair and maintenance and airport and seaport services, senior officials aware of the facts told the DH.

The agreement is perceived as a move by India and Japan to step up security cooperation in Indo-Pacific region, in response to military muscle-flexing in the region by China.

China is learnt to be pressing the ASEAN hard to agree on a Code of Conduct, which could restrict US, Japan, India and other nations outside the region from engaging in maritime security cooperation with South-East Asian nations as well as exploring resources in the South China Sea.