Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who reached Tokyo on Monday on a three-day visit,is set to give a clear message to his hosts that India is prepared to enter into a full-blown security relationship with Japan.
While this is bound to be read as a signal to China,official sources said,India is not looking to forge any anticipatory alliance against its northern neighbour. We are all independent powers working together in areas we have congruence, added sources.
But what the Indian side is keen to convey is that there are no roadblocks on the Indian side to engage with Japan in all security spheres. To the extent,the sources said,Singh will indicate Indias willingness to cooperate in the Asia-Pacific,where Chinas aggressive posture has become a cause of worry.
Both countries are also set to firm up a set of bilateral military exercises,but with one rider that these will be strictly bilateral. It may be noted that while Japan was keen to join the Indo-US Malabar exercises this year,the Defence Ministry turned it down saying it did not want to convey an impression of a military alliance.
New Delhi has,however,agreed to third country participation if the exercise is held off the coast of Japan.
The fact is that the heavy lifting on taking the security relationship to the next level has to be first done in Tokyo. While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated that he is keen to initiate a constitutional amendment,which will allow Japan to export military hardware,the process is only like to move after the Upper House elections in July.
Official sources explained that due to Fukushima and its past of having been the only country to have faced a nuclear attack,Japan has set very high standards of non-proliferation requirements. The Indian side,on the other hand,is making the case that signing an agreement with India will further the non-proliferation cause.
The commercial necessity of this agreement is the fact that Japan is the largest maker of steel domes for nuclear reactor vessels. Most major companies like Areva ,GE and Westinghouse have supply lines running into China. While ways have been found around this hurdle,an agreement would be the best way forward for the industry.
The same is the case with the Indo-Japan civil nuclear conversation,where Tokyo has to take some difficult domestic decisions. However,the sources said,Singh has made it clear to his officials that India should not be seen pushing the issue beyond Japans comfort levels. Given the sensitivity attached to this issue in Japan,the Indian side is willing to wait.
The economic relationship is one area where India is keen to press ahead. Its learnt that both sides were discussing the possibility of,at least,initiating a detailed project report on a high speed train between Delhi and Mumbai. However,these talks were moving rather slow as India also has offers from other countries like France and China.