New Delhi: India and Japan agreed to ease visa rules in a year to boost trade between the two countries that are also trying to broaden cooperation in defence and nuclear energy.

Closer ties: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right) with his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama on Tuesday. Kamal Kishore / PTI

Japan is among India’s biggest aid donors and bilateral trade has begun picking up in recent years with Tokyo easing sanctions it imposed after India tested a nuclear device in 1998.

Both countries are working on a trade agreement but procedural issues such as restrictive visa rules have slowed progress, officials said.

“I requested (Japanese) Prime Minister Hatoyama to ensure that Japanese visa system becomes more liberal to enable faster growth of trade, investment and people to people contact," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama wrapped up his three-day visit to India on Tuesday.

Singh said Hatoyama mentioned “restrictive features" in India’s visa system and he promised to look into it.

The two nations have targeted $20 billion (Rs93,400 crore) in trade by next year from more than $12 billion in 2008-09. Hatoyama also offered to consider selling nuclear power technology to India, but called on India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

India has so far rejected the demand for signing CTBT, but a US nuclear accord with India last year reversed more than three decades of US policy barring the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India since its first atomic test in 1974.

Hatoyama said Japan would examine the matter following assurances by Singh that India would not divert any imports from Japan for weapons purposes or to third party countries.

The two prime ministers also discussed cooperation in renewable energy, infrastructure projects, security and climate change. Japan and India already hold joint military exercises.

The two nations also agreed to work out logistical and funding issues related to the western Dedicated Rail Freight Corridor, aiming to start implementing its first phase next year.

The main loan needed for the 900km first phase between Rewari in Haryana and Vadodara in Gujarat is Rs17,700 crore, mainly from Japan.

The two countries aim to conclude a deal for the main loan by March, they said in a joint statement. Reuters

(‘AP’ and ‘PTI’ contributed to this story.)