World Bulletin / News Desk
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe have signed a civilian nuclear cooperation pact on the Indian premier’s first day of a visit to the region.
The pact is the first such deal with a nonmember of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and paves the way for Japan to export nuclear power technology and equipment to the fast-growing South Asian country.
Abe told a joint press conference Friday that the agreement is a legal framework that will ensure India will take responsible action regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
"It leads to India virtually taking part in the international regime," Kyodo news agency reported Abe as telling a joint press conference after the two leaders had held talks in Tokyo.
"It matches with our country's stance to promote nonproliferation and a world without nuclear weapons."
The deal includes a separate document to ensure that the nuclear cooperation will not be diverted to military use.
It allows Japan to halt its nuclear cooperation if India breaches its commitment made in September 2008 to a "moratorium on nuclear testing".
Modi's weekend visit to the country is expected to also see the endorsement of a sale of 12 seaplanes to the Indian Air Force -- the first overseas sale of military equipment since the Abe government lifted Japan’s longstanding prohibition against armaments exports.
Both deals reflect the priorities of the Abe administration, in boosting the economy by selling world-class Japanese technology, which in many areas is the best in the world.
Abe has led trade missions on nuclear reactors to Turkey among others.
The deals also reflect Abe's government’s long-standing courting of India as a potential strategic counterweight to China.
Concluding a nuclear power cooperation agreement is a necessary prerequisite to exporting nuclear reactors, but more importantly reactor parts and components for reactors.
Japan has near monopolies on several critical components that go into commonly built reactors.
The market for such components in Japan has all but dried up due to the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which shut down the entire industry.
Only three reactors have been allowed to restart operations.
At the same time, India is facing power shortages as its economy grows and it needs to accommodate a growing population. It has one of the most ambitious nuclear power programs in the post-Fukushima world with 18 reactors on the drawing boards.
The nuclear agreement has been in the works for several years. Ironically, talks were started under the premiership of Naoto Kan, who was in power when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed nuclear plants at Fukushima.
Kan has since turned into an anti-nuclear power crusader.
The principal hang up to the deal was the NPT, which New Delhi has declined to sign -- joining Pakistan, and Israel among the handful of non-treaty states. North Korea did sign but withdrew in 2003 as it embarked on its nuclear weapons program.
Tokyo maintains that New Delhi agreed to include a “termination” clause in the agreement, negating the document should India conduct any nuclear weapons tests.
In the past the Indians have balked at this language.
The Japanese side has trumpeted this apparent concession as a major victory yet Indian sources have maintained that New Delhi’s insistence on keeping the test option open has somehow been accommodated.
India declared a moratorium on nuclear bomb tests after it conducted a series of such tests in 1998.
Many of the details in the agreement are obscure or confidential. That includes New Delhi’s position on allocating blame in the event of an accident.
In most of the world the owners and plant operators are liable for damages in such circumstances. India extends liability to everyone in the supply train.
India’s expansive position on liability has deterred some vendors from attempting to enter the Indian market. However, the Indian government is sensitive to public opinion that was set in the wake of the Bhopal disaster -- a gas leak that led to the what has become known as the world's worst industrial disaster.
Over the weekend, the two sides are also expected to also sign an agreement to purchase for $1.5 billion 12 U.S.-2 seaplanes for air sea rescue (not to be confused with the American U-2 spy plane of the Cold War).
The U.S.-2 is reputed to be the only seaplane that can land in rough ocean waters.
It will be the first Japanese military equipment sale since the lifting of the export ban by the Abe government, and the first sale since the unsuccessful bid to build submarines for Australia -- a contract that went to France.Last Mod: 11 Kasım 2016, 17:14