Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Japan visit may not seal civil nuclear deal

Negotiations underway on Tokyo’s insistence for a tougher safeguard regime & ‘no nuclear test’ clause in bilateral agreement.
Negotiations underway on Tokyo’s insistence for a tougher safeguard regime & ‘no nuclear test’ clause in bilateral agreement.

NEW DELHI: The India-Japan civilian nuclear deal may not be sealed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Japan that begins on Saturday although discussions are on to bridge the core differences between the two sides over the proposed treaty, officials familiar with the matter told ET.

Negotiations are on over Japan’s insistence on tougher safeguards and “no nuclear test” clause in the bilateral agreement, said officials, who did not wish to be identified. Modi will give a personal assurance to his counterpart Shinzo Abe to assuage Japanese concerns, particularly over nuclear tests, and pave the way for a breakthrough in the near future, an official said.

It was earlier hoped that the deal, negotiations for which were launched by the previous UPA government, would be clinched during Modi’s trip. However, it is not yet clear whether the logjam will be broken during this trip.

The prime minister’s statement prior to his departure to Japan appeared to indicate this. “We will explore how Japan can associate itself productively with my vision of inclusive development in India, including the transformation of India’s manufacturing, infrastructure sectors, energy and social sectors,” Modi said on Friday evening.

India and Japan started formal negotiations on the deal in June 2010. India has been pushing for an agreement with Japan on the lines of the 2008 deal with the United States under which India was allowed to import US nuclear fuel and technology without giving up its military nuclear programme. But Japan wants a guarantee that India will not conduct nuclear tests and allow more stringent inspections of its nuclear facilities to ensure that spent fuel is not diverted to make bombs, officials said.

Discussions were stalled following Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, but talks between the two sides resumed last September after former PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo in May 2013. Negotiations have continued at the same pace despite change of guard at the Centre in May this year.

Japan iPrime Minister Narendra Modi's Japan visit may not seal civil nuclear deals understandably more sensitive towards nuclear weapons as it is the only country in the world to have been nuked so far, officials in Tokyo said. Significantly, Japan’s parliament recently approved a proposed nuclear cooperation deal with Turkey.

The deal has a provision giving Turkey the right to enrich and reprocess fuel procured under the agreement with Japan. Abe shares a good chemistry with the Turkey’s President R Erdogan, as he does with Modi. Japan wants to add a clause in the text of the agreement that provides for automatic termination of the bilateral nuclear cooperation if India conducts tests.

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