Both leaders discussed the COVID-19 situation in their countries

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga on Monday discussed the COVID-19 crisis and underscored the importance of close cooperation between their countries to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic.

A readout by the Japanese foreign ministry on the telephonic talks said Prime Minister Suga expressed serious concerns about China's continued and "strengthened" unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas.

A statement issued by India said the two leaders discussed the COVID-19 situation in the respective countries and exchanged views on various regional and global challenges posed by the pandemic.

They highlighted the importance of close India-Japan cooperation to overcome these challenges, such as by working together to create resilient, diversified and trustworthy supply chains, ensuring reliable supply of critical materials and technologies, and developing new partnerships in manufacturing and skill development to deal with the crisis, it added.

"Spoke to PM @sugawitter of Japan on phone. We reviewed the progress in various ongoing bilateral initiatives. We also discussed our cooperation in diverse areas including high technology, skill development and in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic together," Modi tweeted.

They appreciated the support and facilitation provided to resident citizens in each other's country during the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to continue such coordination.

The statement said Modi also thanked PM Suga for providing assistance to India for combating the pandemic and expressed hope that he will receive him in India at the earliest in the near future once the COVID-19 situation stabilizes.

The Japanese readout said the "summit telephone talk" lasted for approximately 25 minutes during which Suga wished for India's early recovery from the current spread of COVID-19 and that the two leaders agreed to work in closer cooperation towards containing the pandemic.

The two leaders emphasized on the need for early operationalisation of the Specified Skilled workers agreement in order to synergize their strengths and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes, the statement said.

They also highlighted the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project as a shining example of their cooperation and welcomed the steady progress in its execution.

"The two leaders confirmed the importance of Japan-India bilateral cooperation and multilateral cooperation, including Japan-Australia-India-US quadrilateral cooperation, towards realising a free and open Indo-Pacific," it said.

The readout from the Japanese government said the two leaders shared the view to continue their effort on building a rules-based free and open international order.

"Prime Minister Suga expressed serious concerns about China's continued and strengthened unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, including the Coast Guard law," it said.

On his phone call with Modi, the Japanese leader tweeted "we confirmed that we will work in close collaboration to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and had fruitful discussions on regional issues and Japan-India cooperation in order to realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific."

The readout said Suga hoped to further develop cooperation with India in areas such as cyber, digital, health care and connectivity.

He also mentioned possible collaboration in areas like 5G, submarine cables, strengthening of industrial competitiveness, diversification of supply chain, development of India's north-eastern region.

It said the two leaders welcomed the steady progress on the high-speed rail project including the 12th Joint Committee Meeting on the project for the construction of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor.

"The two leaders shared the view to realize Prime Minister Suga's visit to India at a mutually convenient timing while taking into account the COVID-19 situation," it said.

Suga had called off a scheduled visit to India later this month in view of the coronavirus situation.