Japan, India to sign nuclear cooperation pact in mid-November

JIJI, Kyodo

Japan and India are looking to sign a bilateral nuclear cooperation pact when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Tokyo later this month, sources have said.

The treaty will allow Japan to export nuclear power plants to India, giving a boost to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to promote infrastructure exports as a way of fueling economic growth, the sources said Monday.

This will be the first time for Japan to conclude a nuclear cooperation pact with a nation that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The move may draw criticism from the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for hindering nonproliferation efforts.

Abe and Modi reached a basic agreement on concluding the pact when they met in New Delhi last December.

At that time, Abe told Modi that Japan will suspend cooperation under the pact if India conducts another nuclear test.

Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama visited India on Friday to put the finishing touches on the treaty.

Japan and India started negotiations on the pact in 2010, but the talks were suspended following the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

The two countries resumed the negotiations in 2013 after Abe took power in December 2012. The focus of the talks was on ways to prevent India from carrying out nuclear tests or utilizing Japanese nuclear technology for military purposes.

Meanwhile, the two countries are also eying expanded cooperation to boost tourism numbers.

High-ranking officials are discussing ways — including using Bollywood, India’s popular Hindi film industry — to increase the number of visitors to India by at least fivefold over the current number over the next five years.

During the first India-Japan Tourism Meet last week, Suman Billa, joint secretary of India’s Ministry of Tourism, expressed disappointment at the current state of bilateral tourism and suggested initiatives such as bolstered marketing pushes to achieve the increase within the next five years.

“In 2015, while Japanese visitors accounted for over 2.5 percent (about 200,000) of the total 8 million foreign tourist arrivals in India, the share of Indian visitors (about 100,000) in the total 19.7 million FTAs in Japan was minuscule,” he said.

Billa expressed confidence that the two countries can achieve the target within four to five years “if we put together some significant initiatives like promoting Japan as a cost-competitive destination in India.”

Kuniharu Ebina, senior vice commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, noted that the Japan National Tourism Organization will open an office in Delhi by the end of fiscal 2016 as it seeks to promote Japanese attractions.

Japanese Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu said in a speech that while both countries are deepening their cooperation in areas like automobiles and high-speed railways, they have been less successful in the field of bilateral tourism.

Endorsing the idea of using Bollywood films and other measures to promote Japan’s tourist attractions, he said ramped-up cooperation could be a boon for both nations.

“There is tremendous potential for expanding travel and tourism between Japan and India,” Hiramatsu said. “Maybe we can target more than a fivefold increase in the number of tourists.”