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Nuke, defence partnership may boost India-Japan ties

india Updated: Dec 10, 2015 15:53 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times
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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit India from December 11 to 13.(AP photo)

A civil nuclear pact and an agreement to jointly produce US-2 amphibious military aircraft could add momentum to ties between India and Japan during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit during December 11-13.

Officials said “last mile efforts are still on” for concluding the deals. New Delhi sees the nuclear pact as a touchstone to measure the strength of its strategic ties with Japan.

The deal is crucial to India as it will help the country further its ambitious civil nuclear programme and enable it to improve ongoing civil nuclear cooperation India has with France and the US.

Japanese forging major Japan Steel Works (JSW) is a supplier of critical equipment for reactor pressure vessels for most firms worldwide. Indian officials hope Abe will give the necessary political push for this issue.

The nuclear issue, however, is sensitive in Japan, the only country ever to have suffered an atomic strike. Japan wants explicit commitments on testing clauses — that is, the deal will be called off in the event of a nuclear test by India.

Japan also wants a guarantee on non-proliferation actions and commitments similar to those India gave to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group for getting an exception from its guidelines in September 2008. It also calls for greater “oversight” on nuclear fuel in reactors under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safeguards.

The two sides are expected to discuss enhancing their defence ties. Sources said Abe was a keen supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative and this could lead to the two sides cooperating in the defence manufacturing sector.

“The US-2 deal could well be the first such effort where the aircraft can be co-produced in India,” said a source.

The ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft is designed for search and rescue operations and intelligence gathering. Japan has pitched the aircraft to the Indian military for some time now.

A consortium of Japanese firms is set to get the contract for the Mumbai-Ahmadabad high speed railway corridor. The construction of the project, expected to cost more than $14 billion, will begin in 2017. It is expected to be completed in 2023.

Japan also announced it would double its private and public investments in India to $35 billion under a bilateral investment promotion partnership over a period of five years during Modi’s visit to Tokyo last year.

Japan, in competition with China for high speed train technology, had sounded out India on giving yen loans for the project.

Infrastructure development, clean energy, terrorism and expansion of the United Nations Security Council are also on the agenda of the summit between the two leaders.

Other than Russia, Japan is the only country with which India has an annual bilateral summit.