India eyeing Japan's nuclear technology

India eyeing Japan's nuclear technology

India-Japan relationship received a boost following the visit of External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Japan last week. In many ways, it contributed to the strengthening of bilateral ties, particularly in trade and investment sphere. In view of the changing global profile of nations and the change in the neighbourhood, both Krishna and his counterpart, Hirofumi Nakasone, agreed to sustain and possibly expand the ‘canvas of cooperation’ in the bilateral and international domains.

The minister was accompanied by a delegation of senior officials. Apart from attending the third strategic dialogue between the two countries, Krishna held delegation-level talks with his counterpart on a wide range of bilateral and global issues, including the intensification of economic and commercial ties.

Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, both the countries agreed to look at ways to step-up trade and investment. Krishna and Nakasone also discussed the issue of reforming international institutions like the United Nations and financial bodies. India and Japan, both seeking permanent membership of the UN Security Council, are part of a four-nation group that is pushing for expansion of the powerful world body.

The economic component of the bilateral relationships also need fine tuning. Japan is likely to go the polls in September this year and the new government in India is smart enough not to miss the initiative with the Aso government. India is interested to have access to Japanese high-tech in a huge number of sectors, specially in the dual-use field and Krishna pushed this with the Japanese.

The FTA talks are still stuck, ostensibly stymied by obstacles on data exclusivity issues for pharmaceutical companies. However, there could be a revival of trade talks because the prime minister would like to see these trade deals done without delay. India got a briefing on a newly minted US-China-Japan trilateral grouping started by Washington.
Though the nuclear issue is very sensitive in Japan, India appreciated that Japan extended the necessary cooperation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in 2008, and therefore Krishna discussed with his counterpart the prospects of nuclear business between the two countries. Japan is one of the world leaders in civil nuclear technologies and depends on nuclear power for around 50 per cent of its energy needs. Japanese multinational Toshiba, which bought the US’ Westinghouse, is eyeing nuclear business opportunities in India, but the stringent regulations governing nuclear trade in Japan may come in the way. Change will come, albeit slowly, it is hoped.

Japan appreciates India’s ongoing observance of a voluntary moratorium on nuclear-weapon tests. Yet, Japan still ‘hopes’ that India would sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and ratify it. Japan is keen to cooperate with India for an early start of multilateral negotiations on a fissile material cut off treaty. Indeed, there is tremendous scope for lifting the bilateral relationship if Japan agrees early for cooperation in civil nuclear sector.

Other collaborations

Quite expectedly, the issue of working together actively for the accomplishment of the Dedicated Freight Corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) projects emerged prominently in the talks. The two foreign ministers reviewed the progress on the Dedicated Freight Corridor and $90 billion DMIC. Both of these are big-ticket infrastructure projects that Manmohan Singh is keen to push forward.

Japan has already committed to an ODA loan of Rs. 17,045 crore for the first phase of the Dedicated Freight Corridor from Rewari-Vadodara sector and had committed a similar loan for the rest of the stretch of the Western Corridor. Krishna discussed this too.
There is plenty of scope for collaboration in the field of education too. Bilateral collaboration for the IIIT in Hyderabad was also confirmed. Though there has been a qualitative up-gradation in bilateral ties, the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement has hit major roadblock over tariff issue. Early resolution of this issue will lift the economic component of the partnership to a higher plane. 

In continuation of the unprecedented Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, Krishna discussed with his counterpart follow-up measures for formulating an ‘action plan.’ A bilateral dialogue on maritime security, inclusive of anti-piracy cooperation, would start soon. Overall, the visit is a precursor to a new roadmap for the future relationship between the two countries.

(The writer, a Japan specialist, is a senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)

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