India and Japan are set to resume nuclear negotiations next year, with New Delhi hoping that the forthcoming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda this month will give a push to the talks that were stalled after the Fukushima disaster.
Noda touches down here Dec 27 on a three-day visit for annual summit talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This will be Noda’s first visit to India since becoming the prime minister of Japan in September this year.
During their talks Dec 28, the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide spectrum of issues, including the prospects of civil nuclear cooperation, jointly combating piracy and terrorism, economic ties, climate change and the evolving East Asia architecture, well-placed sources told IANS.
The two leaders are expected to review the status of civil nuclear negotiations for which three rounds have been held but which came to a halt after the March 11 Fukushima radiation disaster and the political uncertainty that ensued in that country.
India is hoping that talks at the summit level will push the process of concluding a nuclear deal with Japan, a leader in civil nuclear technology that depends on nuclear power for around 40 percent of its energy needs. The successful talks can set the stage for a revival of nuclear negotiations early next year, said the sources.
After the Fukushima disaster, there have been positive developments which have brightened the prospects of revival of nuclear negotiations. Early this year, Japan removed seven Indian entities from its Foreign End User List this year, which included Indian Rare Earths Limited.
During his talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Tokyo in October, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba had conveyed Tokyo’s readiness to resume nuclear talks. The two countries ‘will move forward in talks on the civilian nuclear cooperation pact while paying consideration to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,’ Jiji Press quoted Gemba as saying after talks with Krishna.
Early this month, the Japanese parliament Diet approved atomic energy agreements with Jordan, Vietnam, Russia and South Korea, fuelling hopes in India of a likely nuclear deal with Tokyo next year. On Friday, Noda declared the Fukushima site to be stable, indicating Tokyo’s readiness to step up nuclear exports.
Nuclear negotiations with India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have been a sensitive political subject in Japan, the only country that has been targeted by nuclear weapons.
The growing strategic proximity between New Delhi and Tokyo, as evidenced by the India-US-Japan trilateral dialogue which will be held in Washington next week, and the desire of Japan, whose economy is not doing too well, to expand trade and investment with India could also prod Tokyo to step up nuclear negotiations with New Delhi to get a share of the $150 billion nuclear market. A nuclear deal with Japan is necessary for
India to implement the India-US nuclear deal as leading American nuclear companies like GE and Westinghouse are partly owned by Japanese companies.
The two sides have exchanged draft texts of a bilateral nuclear pact and are making progress on bridging differences, said the sources.
Japan has urged India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has made it clear that a nuclear test by India would lead to the termination of civil nuclear cooperation.
Given its history as a nuclear-averse pacifist nation and strong anti-nuclear domestic constituency, Japan is insisting on additional non-proliferation commitments, which are much beyond what India has agreed to in its 123 agreement with the US, said the sources.
However, Indian officials are hoping that a middle ground can be found which could accommodate the concerns and priorities of both sides.
(Manish Chand can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)