Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan from November 10 to 12, Japan’s ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, spoke with The Indian Express on a wide range of issues — from nuclear cooperation to terrorism, and Shinkansen to the ease of business rankings. Edited excerpts:
What is the state of play on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal?
On the civilian nuclear agreement, we are working on it. Discussions are taking place on technical details right now. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, we hope to have good progress.
Have all the issues arising out of India’s non-NPT signatory status been resolved?
We have agreed on the important issues…on lot of issues, we have to be careful about screening and scrubbing. On major issues, I don’t see any major differences.
What is Japan’s position on India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG)?
We are working together with India to make sure that India becomes a member of NSG. So we are communicating and discussing with India to facilitate this process in order for it to become a member of NSG. We are supporting India’s bid to become a member of NSG. We are an important member. Japan continues to communicate with India to support this process.
But China has been blocking the consensus, along with some other countries. How do you propose the way forward?
How to get a majority support on this..in each international negotiation, important thing is to have a critical mass to get through a certain resolution. India is working very hard with almost all member-countries… that is a way forward. We are having regular contact and discussion with the main players in the NSG in trying to find a way to make sure that India becomes a member of NSG.
India has witnessed series of terrorist attacks this year, from Pathankot to Uri. How does Japan view this development?
Japan condemns very strongly terrorism in all forms and manifestations, and Japan is working internationally to tackle this menace. This year, Japan has the presidency of G-7 countries. It has taken the lead on fight against terrorism. Japan has also been a victim of terrorism…last July, in Dhaka, seven aid workers (were) killed, and in February Japanese journalists (were) killed by ISIS in Syria…. A few years ago, some Japanese engineers were killed in Algeria.
Japan is not immune to terror attacks. We are working with countries like India; Japan is communicating with India for information-sharing…
How does Japan view India’s diplomatic initiative to isolate Pakistan at the global level?
I cannot make any judgment about the effect of India’s diplomacy but what India is doing is raising awareness about terrorist threats and to the importance of working together on terrorism issues. Japan has expressed solidarity to India for efforts in countering terrorism.
How did you see the Pakistan defence minister’s comments threatening use of nuclear weapons, in the wake of the Uri attack, especially since Japan has suffered a nuclear attack?
I don’t know in which circumstance those statements were made. But, Japan, in principle, is against any threat of nuclear weapons. It is the only country to have suffered nuclear disaster…we have very strong views that nuclear weapons should not be used, and any threat in use of nuclear weapons are not justified.
What are your comments about the surgical strikes conducted by India?
These so-called surgical strike was made in response to an incident like Uri. India informed (us after the strikes) that it had information like that..at the same time, India government doesn’t have the intention to escalate unnecessarily, so this is what I understood at that time. We fully understand the background behind these surgical strikes. Indian government has made very considerable efforts to explain the event, I appreciate and understand.
Since Japan is one of the members of the 1267 sanctions committee at the UN, how do you see the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist?
We are not opposing this person’s inclusion in the list. We are member of the committee, (and) we have no objection.
How do you see the ease of business rankings by global agencies keeping India quite low, in the 130s?
The ranking is unfair. (The Narendra) Modi government has brought in GST and the bankruptcy law, these are two major achievements. I hope they will implement successfully…the Indian government is making efforts. Many Japanese companies have India as their favourite destination. It is an emerging big market, but some do have trouble, regarding tax issues and others. There is still room for improvement.
One of the showpiece projects between India and Japan has been the Shinkansen, the high-speed train project. What is the state of play?
On Shinkansen, some road map will be agreed. We are comfortable with the pace of the project, I am happy with the progress (made).
Another project, which has been highlight of the defence cooperation has been the US-2 planes. What is the progress on that?
On US-2, there is commitment by the two leaders. The Indian side understands the importance of search and rescue. We are hopeful of some progress. We have every intention to provide the best possible plane to India.
How has been Japan’s experience with the Japan-plus cell?
Japan plus is a very useful mechanism for future investors, it is accumulating experience and knowledge for future investors. It is very nice…it’s a collective effort. It is playing an important role, matching up future investors with relevant authorities.