India and Japan today inked two strategic agreements including one that will enable Tokyo to import rare earth minerals, a move which will help it to reduce its heavy reliance on China for the key material that is vital for producing a range of high-tech products.
The agreements, both of which were supposed to be signed during the now cancelled trip of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were inked by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and India's Ambassador to Japan Deepa Wadhwa here.
The conclusion and signing of these agreements will further enhance and strengthen the India-Japan strategic and global partnership, a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Under the signed agreement, Japan will import over 4,000 tonnes of rare earths a year from India. This is its second deal this month to diversify supply from China for the metals used in mobile phones and hybrid cars to missile guidance systems.
Japan has in the past imported all its rare earth requirements from China but has been scouting for alternatives after political turbulence hit its ties with Beijing. India is expected to begin exporting rare earths to Japan as early as next spring, officials of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.
With rare earth production at full throttle, India could supply around 4,100 tons annually, equivalent to around 10 percent of Japan's peak annual demand. The production and exports will be conducted by a joint venture between Japan's Toyota Tsusho Corp. and India's state-run Indian Rare Earths Ltd.
The other deal - Social Security Agreement will immediately benefit about 30,000 citizens of both countries. About 22,000 Indians working in Japan and about 8,000 Japanese are employed in India and their social security contributions won't be deducted in both countries.
Prime Minister Singh was forced to cancel his visit after the Japanese government decided to dissolve the lower house of parliament for an election next month.