Abe hopes to conclude Japan’s first defence sale in 40 years

 25 Jan 2014 - 7:06

Activists of Communist Party of India hold placards and posters with the photographs of the Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as they protest against the nuclear plants, in Mumbai yesterday.

NEW DELHI: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits India this weekend, hoping to wrap up the first overseas sale of military equipment by Tokyo in nearly four decades and open up the world’s biggest arms market for his nation’s defence manufacturers.
Abe’s visit to India will underline growing business and political ties between the two nations as they close ranks against mutual rival China, with the initial focus on the sale of amphibious search and rescue aircraft to India.
Japan and India are also trying to finalise an agreement on civilian nuclear energy that would open up the Indian market to Japanese players, officials said, reflecting another shift in Tokyo’s policy on a sensitive issue. However, a Japanese official said a signing was unlikely during the visit.
Japanese officials say the proposed sale of ShinMaywa US-2i planes would not infringe Japan’s self-imposed ban on arms exports because the aircraft to be given to India will be unarmed and can be used for civilian purposes.
Still, it will give India considerable aviation reach across the seas and could raise China’s ire.
“We have been discussing with Japan the possibility of purchase of the aircraft,” said Gautam Bambawalle, the top Indian foreign ministry official dealing with North Asia.
“It will take a bit of time because defence equipment is difficult to transfer, and also the terms and conditions take time to work out.”
The plane, built by ShinMaywa Industries, could be outfitted for firefighting or as a kind of amphibious hospital and costs an estimated $110m per unit. ShinMaywa estimates that there could be a global market of about 100 amphibious planes for which it could compete.