A DAY after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsed his Japanese counterparts idea of a new Indo-Pacific strategic axis,the two countries Wednesday agreed to form a joint working group to set up the sale of the first platform with defence uses out of Japan the US2 amphibious aircraft.
The JWG will also examine the possibilities of co-production of these aircraft in India,which would make it the symbol of Japans entry into the defence market after decades of a self-imposed ban on such exports.
The two leaders also agreed to revive talks on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement,which has been stuck for about two years,by directing their officials to accelerate the process.
The negotiations will be accelerated for an early conclusion of an agreement for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after bilateral deliberations.
Further,the Japanese side indicated support for Indias full membership to international export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers group,where its delegation had raised some doubts about Indias domestic export lists.
Both sides expressed their commitment to continue to work to prepare the ground for India to become a full member in the international export control regimes, said the joint statement issued after the talks.
It also said that both leaders recognised the importance of an effective national export control system conforming to the highest international standards.
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai later elaborated that the Indian side had briefed partners including Japan on the updated SCOMET list,and that the language in the joint statement should be read as an endorsement of Indias efforts domestically as well as support to its bid for full membership to the NSG.
The SCOMET list includes items that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. Sources added that the Japanese government had shied away from a more definitive formulation because the Abe government is still working to achieve domestic consensus for bi-partisan support for engagement with India,a non-NPT country,on nuclear issues.
In fact,even as Singh and Abe were holding talks at Kantei,the Japanese PMs secretariat,a small crowd of noisy protestors had gathered outside with placards saying,Stop nuclear export. The Abe government has,in fact,entered into nuclear agreements with the UAE,Turkey and Vietnam within the NPT framework.
On the sale of US-2 amphibious aircraft,Mathai said it was an aircraft with dual-use qualities and could land on the high seas.
The aircraft is not an offensive platform and is largely used for search,rescue and reconnaissance purposes. While the Navy had issues with the pricing,the government appears to have taken a strategic decision to work out the sale given the significance it holds for Japans first foray into this sector.
The two sides also signed an agreement for 71 billion yen (about $0.7 billion) for the second phase of the Mumbai Metro. They also agreed to carry out a joint feasibility study for a high speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
The two leaders also asked their officials to draw up a roadmap for increasing the speed of passenger trains from 160 kmph to 200 kmph on the Delhi-Mumbai route. These are being called semi-high speed trains for which feasibility studies have already been completed.
Singh also raised the issue of improving trade between both countries which now stands at a low $18 billion despite the two having entered into a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement.
Mathai,however,explained later that with Japan it will have to be an investment-led process and that the Indian side has been assured on several occasions during this visit that Japanese businesses are now prepared to take the big plunge into the Indian market.