Japan, India sign controversial civilian nuclear cooperation pact

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 7:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 11:00pm

Japan and India signed a civilian nuclear cooperation pact on Friday, paving the way for Japan to export nuclear power equipment and technology to the fast-growing South Asian country in a deal with a non-member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Strong India, strong Japan will not only enrich our two nations. It will also be a stabilising factor in Asia and the world
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The two countries signed the pact after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi held talks in Tokyo. India has not joined the NPT regime that is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Some civil groups in Japan oppose the pact, saying that it goes against nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament goals that Japan pursues as the sole victim of a nuclear attack. They are also concerned about the safety of nuclear power generation in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in March 2011.

As a way to make sure that the nuclear cooperation will not be diverted to military use, the deal includes a separate document that allows Japan to halt its nuclear cooperation if India breaches its commitment made in September 2008 to a “moratorium on nuclear testing.”

India tested nuclear explosive devices in the 1970s and 1990s.

Japanese officials stress that the nuclear pact ensures India’s peaceful use of nuclear energy. The government is set to seek approval for the treaty at the Diet session next year.

The signing comes as India, whose economy grew 7.6 per cent in 2015, hopes for Japan’s help to meet the increasing need for stable power supply. India aims to increase the proportion of nuclear power generated electricity to 25 per cent of the total by 2050, from 2 per cent now.

Japan, looking to tap into the Indian market with its population of 1.2 billion, is promoting exports of infrastructure products, including nuclear plants, as part of its growth strategy.

The two leaders agreed in principle in New Delhi last December to conclude the deal following the start of negotiations in 2010.

Abe and Modi held talks also to discuss the railway project using Japanese shinkansen bullet train technology, including finalising the schedule for construction, Japanese officials said prior to the meeting. The 500km railway will link Mumbai and Ahmedabad in western India.

On Saturday, the two leaders will take a shinkansen train to Kobe in western Japan and visit a factory of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a maker of shinkansen cars, according to the Indian government.

The meeting is also part of an effort to forge closer bilateral economic and security ties in light of China’s rising assertiveness in the South and East China seas and Indian Ocean as well as its growing clout in the region.

With eye on China, India and Japan bolster defence and business ties

Abe hopes to enhance cooperation with India in defence, counterterrorism and the capacity building of Southeast Asian countries, Japanese officials said.

Ahead of the summit, Modi attended a luncheon hosted by Japanese business groups and called for more investment by Japanese companies. He promised his country will address companies’ concerns such as over transparency of administrative procedures and strict regulations in a “proactive” manner.

For India, good relations with Japan and cooperation with China are not mutually exclusive

“India and Japan will have to continue to play a major role in Asia’s emergence. The growing convergence of views between Japan and India under a special strategic and global partnership has the capacity to drive the region’s economy and development and stimulate global growth,” Modi told Japan’s business leaders. “Strong India, strong Japan will not only enrich our two nations. It will also be a stabilising factor in Asia and the world.”