Japan will sell about 15 amphibious military planes to India in a move signalling the end of the country’s self-imposed military technology export ban that has been in place since the Second World War.
The agreement, confirmed on Tuesday by India’s officials, will see Japanese defence technology manufacturer ShinMaywa Industries deliver at least 15 planes, worth $110m (£66m) each, to India.
India will thus become the first foreign country to buy military technology from Japan in nearly 70 years.
"It’s a strategic imperative for both sides, and it has been cleared at the highest levels of the two governments," said an Indian military source.
However, several details need to be sorted and negotiations will resume in March on joint production of the plane in India and other issues.
According to sources, India might establish a dedicated plant to assemble the aircraft under a licence of an Indian state manufacturer.The plan is to deliver two aircraft from Japan and then assemble the rest of the planes with an Indian partner, the military source said.
For the moment, a stripped-down civilian version of the US-2i search and rescue plane is being offered to India, to get around Japan's self-imposed ban on arms exports. A friend or foe identification system will be removed from the aircraft, another defence official said.
The plane, having a range of over 4,500 km (2,800 miles), will enable India to reach far into Southeast Asia from its most probable base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands chain near the western tip of Indonesia.
The deal lays the ground for a broader Japanese thrust into India, the world's biggest arms market dominated for long by Russia but also now buying hardware from Israel and the United States.
"There is a whole amount of defence-related cooperation, between India and Japan," said Gautam Bambawalle, an Indian foreign ministry official responsible for North Asia.
"We want Japanese technology, we want Japanese capital investment into India."
India's navy is also interested in Japanese patrol vessels and electronic warfare equipment as Tokyo moves further along in easing its ban on military exports, the Indian officials said.