India moved a step closer Wednesday to acquiring Japanese nuclear technology and equipment when its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and his Tokyo counterpart, Shinzo Abe, signed a joint statement to promote talks to conclude a cooperation pact to this end.
In addition to talks on nuclear power cooperation, the statement issued in Tokyo also supports expanded joint naval exercises.
“I’m very pleased that I’m able to hold a summit with you . . . as the prime minister of Japan again,” Abe said at the outset his summit with Singh, going on to praise him for developing a strategic and global bilateral partnership.
“Our discussion was guided by the fundamental belief that at the time of global uncertainty, change and challenge, India and Japan are natural and indispensable partners,” Singh told reporters after the meeting.
The cooperation pact is expected to allow Japanese firms to export nuclear technology and equipment to India, which is struggling to meet energy demand to sustain the country’s rapid economic growth.
However, because India is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there is concern that it could use Japanese technology and equipment to further develop its nuclear weapons.
Japanese diplomats say New Delhi has pledged strict nonmilitary use of Japanese nuclear know-how and hardware. A future pact would lay out specific conditions and measures to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear exports, they say.
“The two prime ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” the joint statement said.
The two leaders, however, did not discuss the specific conditions and measures to be included in the nuclear cooperation pact to prevent Japan’s atomic technology from being diverted for non-peaceful purposes, a Japanese official who attended the talks said.
“That’s exactly what we will negotiate from now,” the official said.
Singh also reiterated his country’s commitment to its unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear weapons tests.
The two countries meanwhile agreed to promote talks on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, a proposed international pact prohibiting further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.
Pressure to restart the nuclear cooperation pact talks, which were stymied by the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011, increased due to India’s growing energy demands and Abe’s ambition to export more Japanese infrastructure technologies, including nuclear reactors and related equipment.
During their talks, however, Abe and Singh did not touch on the safety issues raised by the Fukushima crisis, according to the Japanese official.
At a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office, the two leaders meanwhile agreed to conduct more frequent and regular joint sea exercises by the Indian Navy and the Maritime Self-Defense Force. They also hailed drills held last year by the two nations’ coast guards.
Singh told reporters later that it is particularly important to “progressively strengthen” Japan-India defense ties.
The two countries will work together to secure “the freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce based on the principles of international law,” Singh and Abe said in their statement.
Abe also pledged to continue providing official development assistance “at a substantial level” to India, including for social infrastructure.
Since his first stint as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, Abe has regarded India as a key strategic partner for Japan, particularly as a counterbalance to China’s growth.
While the two leaders dedicated most of Wednesday’s statement to bilateral affairs, they also reaffirmed cooperation on issues related to Afghanistan, North Korea, climate change and revamping the United Nations Security Council.
The two leaders also reconfirmed plans to arrange a visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to India at the end of November or early December.
Singh began his four-day visit to Tokyo on Monday and is expected to fly out of Haneda airport Thursday morning.