By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and India agreed on Monday to strengthen strategic ties as Asia's second and third biggest economies keep a wary eye on a rising China, and agreed to accelerate talks on the possible sale of an amphibious aircraft to India's navy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi also agreed to speed up talks on a so-far elusive deal on nuclear energy cooperation.
"The two prime ministers reaffirmed the importance of defense relations between Japan and India in their strategic partnership and decided to upgrade and strengthen them," Abe and Modi said in a statement after a summit in Tokyo.
Modi, on his first major foreign visit since a landslide election win in May, arrived on Saturday for a five-day trip aimed at capitalizing on a personal affinity with Abe to bolster security and business ties in the face of an assertive China.
In a sign of their close ties, the two leaders greeted each other with a bear hug when they met on Saturday in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto for an informal dinner. Modi is one of three people that Abe follows on Twitter, while the Indian leader admires Abe's brand of nationalist politics.
"The 21st century belongs to Asia ... but how the 21st century will be depends on how strong and progressive India-Japan ties are," Modi told Japanese and Indian business executives earlier in the day.
Sino-Japanese ties have also been chilled by a row over disputed isles, feuds over the wartime past, and mutual mistrust over defense policies as China seeks a bigger regional role and Abe loosens the constraints of Japan's post-war pacificism.
(Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)