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Modi, Abe seal historic civil nuclear pact: What it means for India

india Updated: Nov 11, 2016 17:46 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his ceremonial welcome in Tokyo on Friday.(PTI Photo)

After almost six years of protracted negotiations, India and Japan on Friday signed a pact on civil nuclear cooperation. This is the first pact Japan has entered with a country that is not a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The deal would help speed up India’s civil nuclear cooperation with the US. Though a US-based firm, Westinghouse is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Japanese firm Toshiba. Japan, the only country to have ever come under a nuclear attack, has remained wary of signing a pact with India, a non NPT country.

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After five years of discussions two sides concluded the pact last year and it was signed on Friday after the annual summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.

Japanese companies are world leaders in nuclear technology and most nuclear power plant equipment-makers, barring the Russians, are dependent on them.

Japan has a near monopoly over making reactor vessel with Japan Steel Works (JSW) leading the pack. In the fray are Chinese state-owned China First Heavy Industries, Creusot Forge, a subsidiary of France’s Areva group, Russia’s OMZ Izhora but JSW accounts for over 75% of the business globally.

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If Westinghouse is a Toshiba- subsidiary and even a General Electric reactor core is built by Hitachi. In other words, a pact with Japan would help the process of signing a nuclear cooperation agreement other countries easier.

The Japanese have upper hand in nuclear fuel fabrication and breeder technology. And the pact with Japan helps India advance the technology cooperation with Japan. A pact with Japan helps India bolster its non-proliferation credentials. Japan approving of Indian credentials is a shot in the arm for the country to stress on its non-proliferation track record when it is pulling out all stops to get an entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).