Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

Abe visit: Indo-Japan nuclear pact unlikely

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Posted: January 23, 2014 1:08 am

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday for the third time in the past eight months, New Delhi and Tokyo are engaged in negotiations on whether to keep the ‘termination clause’ in the main text of the proposed civil nuclear cooperation agreement or in the annexure. The clause allows the proposed deal to be terminated if either side conducts a nuclear test.

Given this sticky issue between negotiators from both sides, no nuclear agreement is expected to be signed during Abe’s visit from January 25 to 27, sources said. Singh met Abe in Tokyo in May last year, and again in Brunei in October on the sidelines of East Asia summit.

However, sources said there will be a reference to the “progress” made during negotiations on the proposed nuclear deal. On civil nuclear cooperation, the two PMs had confirmed in May that the two countries would accelerate negotiations for the early conclusion of a bilateral agreement.

On defence, the two leaders had decided to establish a Joint Working Group on the US-2 amphibian aircraft, but sources said it is too early to have any agreement on this.

With Japan pushing India to include the termination clause in the main text of the proposed agreement, the demand goes a step further than what New Delhi has agreed to with the US in the Indo-US nuclear deal. According to that deal, in case of a nuclear test,the two countries would hold consultations for one year and then decide on termination.

Delhi treats the Indo-US nuclear deal as a ‘template’ for its dealings with other countries. India has also offered to include the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s commitment to the Nuclear Suppliers Group in September 2008 as an annexure to the main text of the agreement with Japan.

Japan reasons that since it has been the victim of a nuclear bomb in the past — that too at the hands of the US — the Indo-US template is difficult for them to accept. Japanese negotiators want India should go a step further with Japan than it has with the US. The right to reprocess spent fuel is another point of contention between the two countries.

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