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Nuclear deal: Japan to wait & watch
A.J. Philip
Tribune News Service

Tokyo, December 15
If India expected Japan to go gaga over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal cleared by the US Congress, it was a disappointment today. But if it expected only a measured response, there were enough indications that Japan would go about the issue in a positive, structured manner.

At a press conference jointly addressed by the Prime Ministers of India and Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said being the only victim of the nuclear bomb, “we do have our sensitivity and we hope India would respond to the concerns of the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”.

Mr Abe, who was answering a question from a Japanese journalist, said the Indian Prime Minister had told him that the demand for energy had been going up in India and tapping nuclear energy to meet such a demand had become essential. He had also told him that India was complying with all the appropriate IAEA safeguards.

The Japanese Prime Minister said when the issue comes up before the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and other forums, Japan would be actively involved in the discussions. He also said Japan would be discussing the issue further with India. Japan was still in the process of putting together its response to the issue.

For the Indian media accompanying the Prime Minister, it was a pleasant experience to be briefed by a senior Japanese official a little before Dr Manmohan Singh had a summit meeting with Mr Abe. An unusual practice, the primary aim of the briefing seemed to be to tell the journalists that his country’s stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal must be seen against the background of the fact that it was the only country to have been a victim of a nuclear attack.

“This gives rise to very complex national emotions…. In terms of national sentiments, our major premise is that it is essential that nuclear weapons must not be proliferated,” he explained. At the same time, he said there was a lot of scope for cooperation between the two countries in the area of civil nuclear energy once Japan made up its mind on the issue.

“We need some more time on this issue. But in all other areas, Japan is ready to engage with India,” he said, referring to the various proposals for enhancing the economic cooperation between the two countries and upgrade their ties to a strategic global partnership.

In other words, Japan’s support for the nuclear deal depended upon how the deal progressed after it was signed by the US President. There was no unconditional support to the deal. Nor was there any opposition.

On the repeated mention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his public engagements in Tokyo during the last three days that Japan had missed the bus in terms of the vast economic developments taking place in India and that countries like South Korea and China had established their strong presence there, Mr Abe said Japan had “little knowledge about India” until his predecessor visited the country last year. Since then the bilateral relations have been moving towards strategic and global partnership.

Mr Abe said the fact that the Indian Prime Minister was accompanied by 70 business leaders from his country augured well for strengthening bilateral trade and business. He hoped that in due course, there would be a turnaround in their business relations commensurate with the strong bonds that existed between the two countries.

Earlier, in his introductory remarks, Mr Abe underlined the importance Japan attached to its relations with India and said Japan would continue to cooperate and coordinate with India on reforming the UN.

When his turn came, Dr Manmohan Singh referred to the complete understanding Japan and India had on several issues. Describing the two as natural partners, he said they were united in countering terrorism in all its forms and decided to act in concert to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

In the joint statement the two leaders signed today, the two countries reiterated their commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation objectives and their determination to work as partners against proliferation. “While expressing their respective positions on the approaches towards the shared goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, they reaffirm that they will continue to promote commonalities and identify areas of convergence for mutual cooperation between them in a constructive manner, contributing to the advancement of overall bilateral relations”.

The two sides shared the view that nuclear energy could play an important role as a safe, sustainable and non-polluting source of energy in meeting the rising global demands for energy and that international civil nuclear energy cooperation should be enhanced through constructive approaches under appropriate IAEA safeguards. “The two sides will continue to discuss the international civil nuclear cooperation framework with respect to India”

They confirmed their intention to hold annual summit-level meeting in respective capitals as well as on the sidelines of multilateral events. The Indian side welcomed the Japanese plan to establish a consular post in Bangalore.

The two prime ministers urged their concerned agencies to develop an annual calendar of cooperation and exchanges relating to defence and security and to progressively enhance cooperative activities, including high-level exchanges and consultation between services.

Unequivocally condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, they stressed that there could be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism. They shared the view that international community must further intensify efforts and cooperation to fight this scourge. India and Japan would continue to work together through the Japan-India Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. They called upon all member states of the UN to work towards the expeditious adoption of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

While India appreciated the fact that it was the largest recipient of Japan’s overseas development assistance, Japan affirmed that India would continue to be a priority country for such assistance. They expressed their resolve to cooperate in realising the dedicated multi-modal high axle load freight corridors with computerised control on Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Howrah routes. They would also promote a Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor which would be supported by the freight corridor the two sides had in mind. A complete feasibility report of the project would be ready by October 2007.

The two countries would cooperate in setting up a multi-product special economic zone/cluster in India to locate investments from Japan, with facilities for manufacturing and processing industries, hotels and recreational units and educational and training centres.

They would collaborate in the development of the Indian Institute of Information Technology for Design and Manufacturing, Jabalpur. Setting up of a new IIT was also under their consideration. A forum of 10 business leaders from each country would be set up to generate ideas for furthering the goal of better business and trade relations. The two sides also reaffirmed their keenness to cooperate in such fields as space science, including lunar missions and x-ray astronomy, satellite remote sensing, satellite communication and disaster management support.

The two governments would work together to promote Japanese language studies in India, with a target of 30,000 learners at different levels 2010. They would also cooperate in the aviation sector.

Recalling the important role of Nalanda in the ancient period as a leading international university contributing to Buddhist and secular studies, the two sides would explore the idea of the re-development of Nalanda as a major centre of learning, with the establishment of an international university on the basis of regional cooperation.

Earlier in the day former Prime Minister and President of the Indo-Japanese Association, Mr Yoshiro Mori, and the President of Japan-Indo Parliamentarians’ Friendship League, Dr Taro Nakayama, called on Dr Manmohan Singh. He also had a 45-minute “restricted” meeting with his Japanese counterpart, who hosted a banquet dinner in honour of the visiting Indian Prime Minister.

Briefing newsmen late in the evening, Foreign Secretary Shivashankar Menon said the quality of the conversation the two prime ministers had was “exceptional”. He was very satisfied with the visit and it met the goal, which was to give a new life to a traditional relationship to make it contemporary. He said the high watermark of the visit was Prime Minister Abe’s statement that “we must work together to make India-Japan relations the most important bilateral relationship”.



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