Shinzo Abe arrives, all eyes on nuke deal

Both sides also working on signing a slew of pacts to push Japanese investments in India

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: December 12, 2015 12:56:28 am
Performers rehearse for Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi, Friday, ahead of PM Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s visit on Saturday. (Source: Express photo by Vishal Srivastav) Performers rehearse for Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi, Friday, ahead of PM Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe’s visit on Saturday. (Source: Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Amid last minute negotiations on the civilian nuclear deal between the two countries, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived here on Friday afternoon for the 9th annual Indo-Japan summit talks scheduled for Saturday.

Abe was received by Minister of State (Finance) Jayant Sinha and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on him on Friday evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Abe on Saturday.

In a series of tweets on Friday, Modi said, “India is all set to welcome its great friend & a phenomenal leader, PM @AbeShinzo. His visit will further deepen India-Japan relations.”

Abe last visited India in January 2014, when he was chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.

Top sources told The Indian Express that officials are working on a possible breakthrough on the “tracking” of nuclear fuel — a sensitive subject for both India and Japan.

The template being looked at is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have its “eyes” on the nuclear fuel used in the Indian reactors.

It is learnt that the US had suggested a system, whereby the international agency can track nuclear fuel entering the reactor and being used.

Japan, the only country in the world to have been a victim of a nuclear bomb, is extremely sensitive to nuclear proliferation and fuel tracking is central to their concerns. India, on the other hand, views it as an intrusion.

“It is the last mile of negotiations…if all goes well, there could be some good news tomorrow,” a source told The Indian Express on Friday night, adding that “tracking” of nuclear fuel had emerged as one of the most difficult issues in the nuclear negotiations between the two countries. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar travelled to Tokyo to negotiate the details last week.

The nuclear deal with Japan is key to operationalisation of the nuclear deals with the US and France, since the American and French nuclear companies are not only owned or operated by Japanese firms, but also use the reactors made in Japan.

Sources said that the two sides are also discussing the process of decommissioning the nuclear power plants, in case India tests a nuclear device. Although India has declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, Japan wants an exit route — since India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

After his talks with Modi on Saturday, Abe will visit Varanasi, the PM’s parliamentary constituency, where he is scheduled to attend ‘Ganga Aarti’ at Dashashwamedh Ghat. Modi will accompany Abe during his four-and-a-half-hour-long visit to Varanasi. The Japanese PM had accompanied Modi during his visit to Kyoto last year.

The two sides are also working on signing a slew of pacts — from railways to smart cities — in a bid to push Japanese investments in India.

Last year, when Modi and Abe had decided to elevate the relationship to “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”, Japan had announced doubling of its private and public investment in India to about USD 34 billion over a period of five years.

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