Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday signed a civilian nuclear cooperation pact with visiting Indian leader Narendra Modi as he pushes to promote exports of Japanese nuclear technology to keep the teetering economy afloat.
The basis of the treaty was agreed on last December, before his three-day visit to Japan.
The treaty will allow Japan to transfer nuclear technology-related components and help build reactors in India, where countries like China and France are eyeing opportunities for similar investment.
Japan has treaties of this type with 13 countries, including the United States, France and Russia, but this is the first with a nation that is not part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Concerns persist in signing such a deal with a non-NPT member. But Tokyo said India’s pledge to the Nuclear Supplier Group in 2008 to maintain a voluntary moratorium on nuclear weapons testing provides legitimacy for the pact.
India’s pledge allowed the 45-nation NSG to lift an embargo stretching back three decades on civilian nuclear trade. Since then, India has entered similar pacts with eight nations, including the U.S., France and Russia.
To hold India accountable, the Japan-India treaty says Tokyo can notify New Delhi of the termination of the pact with one year’s notice. A separate memorandum specifies that Japan can suspend cooperation if India breaches its no-testing pledge to the NSG.
“The agreement is a legal framework to ensure that India will act responsibly for the peace of use of nuclear energy. It will also prompt India to participate in the nonproliferation regime even though India is not a participant of NPT,” Abe said at the joint news conference. “This is exactly in line with Japan’s position of promoting a world without nuclear weapons.”
Modi reassured Tokyo that it has a firm nonproliferation system.
“Japan-India cooperation is about energy security and it will send a message to the world,” Modi told Abe at their summit. “India has been implementing the voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing and our non-proliferation system is the best in the world.”
Japan is in a delicate position when it comes to atomic power. Abe boasts it has adopted the strictest nuclear safety standards in the world since the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in 2011. But only three reactors have been restarted after all were eventually taken offline in the wake of the crisis, and anti-nuclear governors have been elected in prefectures that host nuclear power plants, underscoring strong negative public sentiment.
On the other hand, as the only country to suffer atomic bombings, Japan takes a firm position when it comes to opposing the existence of nuclear weapons. Just last month, Japan refused to back a nuclear arms ban proposed at the United Nations.Still, Tokyo said that signing the accord will commit India to the international nonproliferation framework, which would be a step forward toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
The pact between the second — and third-largest economies in Asia also comes as Japanese parts makers, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd., which took major damage from the Fukushima disaster, face tougher competition with China in exporting nuclear technology.
And the pact could prove even more timely as the Vietnamese government on Thursday submitted a resolution to cancel its nuclear power station project with Japan due to safety concerns after Fukushima.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.