Putting an end to all speculation, Japan and India signed a civil nuclear agreement in Tokyo on Friday.

Senior officials of the two friendly Asian nations signed the “historic” agreement in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. The agreement is historic in the true sense, as Japan is the only country to have come under nuclear attack had been wary of signing a pact with a non-NPT signatory (India). That is why the Japanese PM made clear that Tokyo would cease co-operation, if New Delhi conducted nuclear test. “This agreement is a legal framework that India will act responsibly in peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” said Abe.

Meanwhile, PM Modi thanked Japan for signing the nuclear deal with India. “Today’s signing of the Agreement for Co-operation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy marks a historic step in our engagement to build a clean energy partnership,” he said while speaking at a joint press conference along with Japanese Prime Minister Abe. Modi also expressed hope that co-operation between the two countries in this particular field would help both Japan and India overcome the challenge of climate change. “I also acknowledge the special significance that such an agreement has for Japan. I thank Prime Minister Abe, the Japanese government and the Parliament for their support to this agreement,” he told the press.

The Japanese PM, too, welcomed the agreement, saying that it “reflects a new level of mutual confidence and strategic partnership in the cause of clean energy, economic development and a peaceful and secure world”. Abe believes that the agreement will “open the door for collaboration between Indian and Japanese industries in India’s civil nuclear programme”.

Indian experts have opined that the deal will make it easier for American firms, like Westinghouse and GE Energy (which have significant Japanese investments), to build nuclear power plants in the South Asian country. They are confident that the deal will also help India get NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership. Before signing the accord with Japan, India had inked civil nuclear agreements with the US, Russia, Australia, Canada, France, Britain, South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Argentina.

Modi stressed that Japan is India’s important “strategic” partner, adding: “Our aim is to become a major centre for manufacturing, investments and for the 21st century knowledge industries. And, in this journey, we see Japan as a natural partner. We believe there is vast scope to combine our relative advantages, whether of capital, technology or human resources, to work for mutual benefit.” He claimed that the Indo-Japan strategic partnership “is not only for the good and security of our own societies”, but will also bring peace, stability and balance to the region.

Apart from the civil nuclear agreement, the two countries also signed nine other agreements in different areas, such as skill development, co-operation in the field of outer space, agriculture and food industries, investment in infrastructure projects, textiles, art and culture, and sports. India and Japan further agreed to explore the possibility of co-operation in developing Iran’s strategic Chabahar port (seen as a counter to China’s development of Pakistan’s Gwadar port).

Earlier, the two PMs attended the annual bilateral summit that discussed various ways to boost bilateral trade and defence ties. The visiting premier urged Japanese businessmen to invest more in the South Asian country, saying that his government was committed to make India the most “open economy” in the world.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]