India, Japan May Strike Nuclear Deal Soon

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As India and Japan have decided to bolster defence ties in order to counter China’s growing influence in Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to visit Tokyo for a two-day trip.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that PM Modi will arrive in Japan on November 11 to attend an annual summit. Apart from discussing various bilateral issues with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, Modi will sign a civil nuclear deal during his stay in Tokyo. According to the Indian ministry, Modi and Abe will have “in-depth exchanges on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest”. The visiting Indian premier will also hold a separate meeting with Emperor Akihito.

In the past, the two Asian powers failed to sign the civil nuclear co-operation pact mainly because of some technical and legal differences. Currently, they try to resolve those issues through negotiations. Tokyo believes that the proposed agreement will allow it to export nuclear plant technologies to the South Asian nation. However, Tokyo is still non-committal on nuclear deal during Prime Minister Modi’s visit, with a senior Japanese official saying that the pact is still being studied.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Kyodo news agency has reported that the deal will be Japan’s first civil nuclear co-operation pact with a country that has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Tokyo has agreed to strike the deal with New Delhi only after Prime Minister Modi assured Premier Abe that India would never use the nuclear power plant technology for military purposes, Kyodo reported.

Speaking at a press conference a couple of days back, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said: “We expect (PM Modi’s) visit to advance the special strategic global partnership befitting a new era for Japan-India (relations) and further deepen the bonds and co-operative relationship between our countries.”

Hagiuda’s statement has a special significance, as China is at loggerheads with both India and Japan. While China’s consistent support to Pakistan has irked the top Indian political leadership, Beijing’s elevated activities in the East and South China seas (and in the Indian Ocean) has prompted Japan to bolster ties with India.

Last week, Japan said that it wanted India to speak up on the South China Sea (SCS). “We are encouraging India to speak up on issues related to SCS because maritime security is important,” said Yuki Tamura, the Deputy Director of Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Regional Policy Division.

A major takeaway from the Indian PM’s visit could be an announcement on the agreement under consideration for purchase of 12 Shinmaywa US-2 search and rescue aircraft from Japan.

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