Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought Japan's support for India's civilian nuclear programme during an address to the joint session of the Diet, Japan's Parliament, on Thursday. Japan, the only country on which nuclear bombs have been dropped, is a key member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India seeks a waiver of NSG legislation to permit it to begin civilian nuclear deals with NSG nations.
The nuclear issue is one of the main points on the Prime Minister's agenda during his visit, and his forceful exhortation in the Japanese Parliament seems to have ensured that Japan will announce its stand on Friday - the penultimate day of the PM's tour. "Like Japan, India sees nuclear power as a viable and clean energy source to meet its growing energy needs," Singh said in his address to the House of Representatives and House of Councillors.
After stressing India's need for nuclear energy, he said: "We seek Japan's support in helping put in place innovative and forward-looking approaches of the international community."
Singh then deviated from his pre-written speech to point out that "India's commitment to universal nuclear disarmament remains unshaken". The deviation seems to have been prompted by a remark of the Speaker of the lower house, Yohei Kono, asking India to "mutually cooperate to abolish nuclear weapons", and seems to have been aimed at pre-empting pressure from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting on Friday.
Singh was warmly received in the Diet, and his speech was preceded with and succeeded by a standing ovation. Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Minister for Economics, Trade and Industry Akira Amari were among those present. Singh's comments on India and Japan's shared values, their commitment to multipolarity in world affairs and efforts to promote peace and stability in Asia and the world also drew applause.
In his speech, Singh touched on terrorism, UN reforms and the need to enhance bilateral defence and economic cooperation. Describing terrorism as a common threat to peace and harmony in open societies, he said "We cannot prevail in the fight against terrorism unless we work together".
Besides energy security, both countries have an equal stake in promoting defence cooperation, including for protection of sea-lanes to secure trade and energy flows, Singh said. He emphasised that economic relations must remain the bedrock of Indo-Japan relations. He said the two countries share many complementarities, which they are seeking to use to forge a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
The speech addressed all the issues articulated in the eight-fold Initiative for Japan-India Global Partnership that was announced when Koizumi visited India in April 2005. Some major announcements are expected on Friday after the delegation-level discussions. But the most important announcement is likely to be of Japan's stance on the nuclear issue, and indications are that it will be positive.
Pointing out that the idea of a "new partnership" between India and Japan has "found its moment today", Singh said he was truly inspired by Japan's progress each time he visited this country.