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Japan-India Nuclear Cooperation

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Writer: Takako Hirose and Takeshi Yokoo
Civil nuclear cooperation is an important element of Japan-India cooperation and is expected to play a significant role for the prosperity of our two nations.  The world trend is to continue the use of civil nuclear power, while recognising its risks and trying to reduce them. Japan concluded bilateral agreements with UK, Canada, USA, France and Australia in the 1950s-1970s and agreements were concluded with China and Euratom in 1986 and 2006 respectively. Agreements with Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Jordan and Russia were signed before March 2011 and came into effect in 2011 and 2012. Negotiations with India, Turkey, South Africa and other nations started before March 2011, but were deferred mainly because of the inconclusive debates on Japan’s own energy policy.

The world trend is to continue the use of civil nuclear power, while recognising its risks and trying to reduce them

Since around the turn of the century, the peaceful use of nuclear power started to be recognised as one of the effective measures to pursue both combating global warming and pursuing economic growth and the movement toward its promotion had been spreading in the world. The Great East Japan Earthquake and the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that occurred in March 2011 triggered renewed discussions on the risks and merits of civil nuclear power, not only in Japan but also in many countries. As a result, Germany, Italy and some other nations decided to take the non-nuclear option in their energy policies. But USA, France and many other nations are going to continue their use of civil nuclear power, putting great efforts to further upgrade the safety. Emerging nations such as China, India are keeping their plans to increase civil nuclear power. Also, the projects to newly introduce civil nuclear power are still on-going in Vietnam, Turkey and other nations. It appears that the world trend is to continue the use of civil nuclear power, while recognising its risks and trying to reduce them.

Nowadays, large scale economic enterprises are to a large extent operated globally. Civil nuclear power is no exception. Import / export of materials as well as technologies and various international cooperation are almost indispensable in design,construction,operation andmaintenance of the facilities. To secure the peaceful purposes and non-proliferation, concerned nations are obliged to accept the IAEA’s safeguard, implement strict export control and conclude bilateral civil nuclear co-operation agreements. Japan opted for the use of civil nuclear power in the late 1950s and started its use in 1963, which was steadily increased until the first decade of the 21st century. In due course, Japan concluded bilateral agreements with UK, Canada, USA, France and Australia in the 1950s-1970s and agreements were concluded with China and Euratom in 1986 and 2006 respectively. More recently, Japan has been engaged in negotiations with later nuclear nations and also nations planning to introduce civil nuclear power, who expect Japan’s contribution to their development. Agreements with Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Jordan and Russia were signed before March 2011 and came into effect in 2011 and 2012. Negotiations with India, Turkey, South Africa and other nations started before March 2011, but were deferred mainly because of the inconclusive debates on Japan’s own energy policy. But, according to the media reports, negotiations are being resumed and fundamental agreement was reached with Turkey in March 2012.

India had long been outside of the global nuclear community due to being non-signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But, in seeking stronger relationship with India, USA signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India in 2007, on certain conditions including India’s acceptance of the IAEA’s safeguard, with which India complied. In 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to grant India a “clean waiver” from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with a non-signatory of the NPT. Following the decision of the NSG, India started negotiations with some nations and agreements with Russia, France, UK, ROK, Canada, Argentine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia have been signed. The cooperation with these countries is bound to promote India’s use of civil nuclear power.

India has become increasingly important for Japan especially in the 21st century. Japan’s “National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2011 and beyond” categorically mentions India as one of the most important countries together with Australia and ROK, both US allies, for “multilayered security cooperation”

During the talk with Prime Minister Noda in November 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed hope for sharing Japanese nuclear technology and experience, especially in the nuclear safety field. In response, Mr Noda stated that Japan wished to negotiate with India in a productive and cooperative manner so that both sides may reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. But, in the interview with Japanese reporters held on March 21, 2013 before visiting Japan on 26-28 of March to attend the Seventh Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue, External Affairs Minister Mr Salman Khurshid said that India is not in a hurry to conclude the nuclear agreement, stating that “India is ready to give Japan time to cope with its problems,” thus showing sympathy towards Japanese sensitivity to nuclear issues.

India had long been outside of the global nuclear community due to being non-signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But, in seeking stronger relationship with India, USA signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India in 2007, on certain conditions including India’s acceptance of the IAEA’s safeguard, with which India complied. In 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to grant India a "clean waiver" from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with a non-signatory of the NPT. Following the decision of the NSG, India started negotiations with some nations and agreements with Russia, France, UK, ROK, Canada, Argentine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia have been signed. The cooperation with these countries is bound to promote India’s use of civil nuclear power

India has become increasingly important for Japan especially in the 21st century. Japan’s “National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2011 and beyond” categorically mentions India as one of the most important countries together with Australia and ROK, both US allies, for “multilayered security cooperation.” No doubt “the Japan-US Alliance remains indispensable in ensuring the peace and security of Japan,” but the Japanese government is trying to widen and diversify cooperation with other countries. Japan perceives India as “share(ing) common interests in ensuring the security of maritime navigation from Africa and the Middle East to East Asia.” Within the constitutional limitation, Japan has extended defence and coastguard cooperation with India. Political dialogues have been regularly taking place; summit, two plus two dialogues et al.

The slow pace of the negotiation of the nuclear deal should be an irritant for India. Considering the patience as illustrated by Mr Khurshid and the increasing importance Japanese government attaches to India, the negotiation is expected to proceed further. Civil nuclear cooperation is an important element of Japan-India cooperation and is expected to play a significant role for the prosperity of our two nations.


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