India-Japan nuke accord likely during Narendra Modi’s Tokyo visit

If concluded, this will be Japan’s first civil nuclear cooperation pact with a country that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Japan on 11-12 November. Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Japan on 11-12 November. Photo: Reuters

A long-discussed civil nuclear cooperation accord between India and Japan may be signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 11-12 November visit to the country, several media reports from Japan said on Monday.

If concluded, this will be Japan’s first civil nuclear cooperation pact with a country that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will pave the way for Japan to export nuclear technology to Asia’s third largest economy.

India signed a landmark nuclear deal with the US in 2008, clearing the path for the country to source nuclear power plants and technology from international markets. But with Japanese companies in possession of key elements such as safety components and the construction of domes of nuclear power plants, an accord with Japan is crucial for India.

During the last prime ministerial summit in New Delhi in December, India and Japan announced that they had reached a basic agreement on the pact.

During his two-day trip for the India-Japan annual dialogue, Modi will also have an audience with the Emperor of Japan, Akihito, an Indian foreign ministry statement said.

This will be the third summit between Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and will be an occasion for Modi and Abe to have “in-depth exchanges on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest to further deepen the broad-based and action-oriented partnership between India and Japan,” the statement added.

News reports from Japan said the civil nuclear pact will include a clause for the Japanese to halt cooperation with India if New Delhi conducts a nuclear test. This is to ensure that the nuclear technology transferred to India, a nuclear weapons state, is not used for military purposes.

One of the key issues in the negotiations has been how Japan, as the only country to have suffered nuclear bombings, can ensure India will not resume nuclear tests.

Japan will permit Indian power producers to reprocess spent fuel at designated facilities on condition that the country accepts comprehensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Such “advance consent” will be withdrawn if threats to national security or issues regarding the protection of nuclear materials arise, a report in the Mainichi newspaper said earlier in October.

“India has accepted the Japanese stipulation that nuclear tests be regarded as such a threat,” the report said, quoting unnamed sources.

Once the pact is signed, the Japanese government will seek swift approval from the Diet (parliament) to promote Japanese corporate participation in building nuclear power plants in India, it added.

A deal with Japan would benefit US firms like GE-Hitachi and Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric Company.

Besides nuclear cooperation, Modi and Abe are also expected to focus on ways to boost trade, including in high-technology areas, security and infrastructure.

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