Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for Japan on Wednesday as part of India's increasing eastern orientation of foreign policy.
The trip takes place amidst wide-ranging media speculation that India and Japan, two of China's major neighbours, plan to work together to "balance the mounting influence of China" in Asia.
Before departing, Singh said he the journey was part of India's increasingly Eastern orientation in foreign policy, and a quest for greater engagement with countries in the larger East Asian region.
"I will have the opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe ways to reinforce the strategic focus in our global partnership, to move to a more comprehensive economic engagement and to develop mutually beneficial co-operation over the entire range of the relationship, including security and terrorism, energy, transport, science and technology and culture," Singh said at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
As part of an evolving regional and international environment, India and Japan see their long-term political, economic and strategic interests converging, he added.
Chinese observers said Wednesday that economic and trade cooperation will top the agenda of the Indian prime minister's Japan tour, but that issues relating to China's development would undoubtedly play a part in their strategic considerations.
In the years since the end of the Cold War, economic relations between India and Japan have developed rapidly, with both sides hoping to expand bilateral trade and business, said Sun Shihai, a researcher of South Asia affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Japan's investment in India has undergone steady growth with the three new metro lines in Delhi being this trend's most visible example of the trend.
Statistics show that Japan is the fourth largest investor in India with a total direct investment of more than US1.8 billion from 2005 to 2007.
Japan's development aid to the South Asian country has also increased, as the Far East Asian powerhouse seeks to explore the vast Indian market, Sun said. In turn, India is seeking capital and technology from Japan, he added.
"There is no doubt that India and Japan are increasingly concerned about China's growth in the region, but you can't simply say the two countries are trying to work together to contain China," Sun told China Daily.
"India, which has a strategic partnership with China aimed at peace and common prosperity, is not willing to send a signal that its alliance with Japan threatens Beijing," Sun said.
When President Hu Jintao visited India last month, he agreed with Singh that as the biggest developing countries worldwide, relations between China and India are "of global and strategic significance."
The two countries agreed they are neither rivals nor competitors, but partners seeking mutual benefit and co-operation, according to a joint declaration.
China, India and Japan should work together in promoting regional stability and prosperity, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular news briefing on Tuesday.
(China Daily December 14, 2006)