Campaign for Indo-Japan N-deal

The Japanese government may launch a campaign to raise awareness among the country’s people about India’s stand against nuclear weapon proliferation in order to set the stage for signing of the proposed bilateral deal for cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic power.

A spokesperson of Japanese Emperor Akihito on Monday said not many people in Japan were aware of New Delhi’s stand in favour of elimination of all nuclear weapons.

“The Lok Sabha of Indian Parliament every year in August observes silence to pay tribute to the victims of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This should be known to more people in Japan,” Japanese Emperor's press secretary Sakutaro Tanino told journalists on Monday.

Tanino, also special assistant to the Japanese foreign minister, is accompanying Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on the royal couple’s current visit to India. He was responding to a question on the negotiations between India and Japan on the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement.

The royal couple on Monday met President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed Indo-Japan relations, with particular focus on energy cooperation, people-to-people bonds and Japanese assistance to development projects in India. Though Tanino, Japan’s envoy to India from 1995 to 1998, maintained that the royal couple's visit had nothing to do with the nuclear cooperation agreement negotiations, he hinted that Tokyo might need to hard-sell the deal it wants with New Delhi.

India and Japan in June 2010 started negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. But the talks triggered 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 devastation of atomic bombs, Japan has strong public sentiments against nuclear weapon proliferation.

Tokyo, however, continued talks with New Delhi and had three rounds of negotiations before pausing it following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant mishap. The negotiations resumed on September 3 last year. Tanino said India, which had not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, shared a common position with Japan in favour of complete elimination of atomic weapons. He, however, noted that Japan was having a national debate on the use of nuclear power.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which took office in December 2012, is understood to be keen to reverse the decision of the erstwhile regime to lessen Japan's reliance on atomic energy.

Abe himself is expected to travel to New Delhi early next year as the chief guest for the Republic Day ceremony, and according to the sources, it might result in a significant breakthrough in the negotiations.

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