India, Japan to restart nuclear talks today

India, Japan to restart nuclear talks today

India will continue to stonewall pressure from Japan to convert its unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests into a bilateral commitment, even as the two countries are set to restart negotiations on a proposed agreement for cooperation in civilian use of atomic energy on Tuesday.

Over two years after the accident at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant prompted Japan to pause talks with India for a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement, the process is now set to resume. The negotiations, however, are likely to be tough, as New Delhi will resist Tokyo’s pressure to add a clause to the agreement providing for termination of bilateral cooperation in the event of a nuclear test conducted by India.

Sources told Deccan Herald that India would also insist on protecting its right to reprocess the fuel spent on nuclear reactors to be procured under the agreement with Japan.

Two officials of the Ministry of External Affairs—Joint Secretary (East Asia) Gautam Bambawale and Joint Secretary (Disarmament) Bala Venkatesh Varma—are in Tokyo to restart the talks.

India and Japan in June 2010 had started formal negotiations for a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. But Tokyo’s decision to initiate nuke talks with New Delhi sparked off strong reactions from anti-nuclear activists in Japan as India is one of the countries that did not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Being the only country in the world to have really experienced the devastations from atomic bombs, Japan has strong public sentiments against proliferation of nuclear weapons.

But Tokyo continued talks with New Delhi and the two countries had three rounds of negotiations before an earthquake and a tsunami along Japan's east coast hit the Fukushima plant. As the disaster triggered concerns over the safety of atomic power plants around the world, the erstwhile Democratic Party of Japan Government in Tokyo shut down 48 of the country’s 50 operational nuke energy facilities.

The previous government also adopted a policy of gradually diminishing Japan’s reliance on nuclear power to zero by 2030.