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Indo-Japan nuke deal in limbo
Growing domestic opposition to a nuclear pact with New Delhi may mar the agreement
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Into rough weather

n The move has met with opposition from the survivors of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki
n Despite the hiccups, the two sides are looking at the possibility of a pact during PM’s Tokyo trip later this year

New Delhi, August 20
Amid growing domestic opposition to a nuclear pact with India, which is not a signatory to the NPT, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada is visiting New Delhi tomorrow for the fourth round of the strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna.

Civil nuclear cooperation and a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) between the two countries will figure prominently during the talks between the two sides.

However, a nuclear agreement between the two countries has again become a thorny issue, given the discontent in Japan over the talks initiated with India on the issue in June.

The move has met with opposition from the survivors of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue recently criticised the Japanese government over its handling of nuclear issues, in an obvious reference to the talks with India over the nuclear accord that will allow Tokyo to export nuclear power generating technology and equipment to India.

On the eve of his visit, the Japanese minister has gone on record to say that he would candidly convey to the Indian leadership ‘critical public opinions in Japan’ and urge New Delhi to make efforts toward nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Indian officials are, however, quite satisfied with the progress made by the two sides so far on the nuclear pact. Sources in the Indian establishment expressed confidence that New Delhi would be able to address the Japanese concerns amicably without yielding to Tokyo’s demand that the draft agreement include a clause that the deal would be off if India were to detonate another nuclear device. Despite the hiccups, the two sides are looking at the possibility of reaching a basic understanding during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Tokyo later this year for the annual summit with his Japanese counterpart.

Japan had supported a nuclear waiver for India at the nuclear suppliers’ group (NSG) meet in September 2008 but was still wary of cooperating with New Delhi in this field given the fact that it is the only country to have gone through the nuclear holocaust.

But Tokyo was being constantly nudged by the US and France to expedite a nuclear accord with India so that the General Electric Co. and French Giant Areva could use Japanese suppliers for nuclear projects in India. Also, Japanese companies like Hitachi and Toshiba don’t want to miss out on the huge nuclear market in India, said to be worth $150 billion.

Meanwhile, briefing reporters, Vishnu Prakash, spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry, and Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the ministry, said the two sides would hold another round of talks on the CEPA in Tokyo in early September.





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