India and Japan on Saturday launched their much-anticipated ‘2+2’ dialogue featuring the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries to add strategic heft to their special relationship in the wake of growing Chinese assertiveness on regional affairs.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar headed the Indian delegation at the meeting while the Japanese side was led by Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Defence Taro Kono.

The dialogue was held in pursuance of the decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during the 13th India-Japan annual summit held in Japan in October 2018. So far, India holds a dialogue in this format only with the US.

Soon after their arrival in India Saturday morning, the two Japanese ministers called on Prime Minister Modi and discussed various issues. Welcoming the visiting ministers, Modi expressed confidence that the dialogue would further deepen bilateral strategic, security and defence cooperation between the two countries.

Stressing the importance of all-round development of India-Japan relations for the benefit of the whole world, the PM observed that regular high-level exchanges between the two nations were testimony to the depth and strength of the relationship.

The dialogue was aimed at further deepening bilateral security and defence cooperation, the External Affairs Ministry said. It would provide an opportunity to the two sides to review the status of and exchange further views on strengthening defence and security cooperation between India and Japan so as to provide greater depth to their ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’.

The two sides would also exchange views on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region and their respective efforts under India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Vision’ for achieving their shared objective of peace, prosperity and progress to realise a better future for the people of the two countries and the region.

The dialogue is being held a fortnight before Modi and Abe hold the annual summit between the two countries. The summit is likely to be held in Guwahati in line with the Modi Government’s policy to hold such high-profile meets outside Delhi to give glimpses of India’s rich cultural history to visiting dignitaries.

The Japanese PM may also visit Imphal in neighbouring Manipur, once a battlefield between Japan and the Allied forces during World War II and pray for peace.