Indo-Japan nuclear deal

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Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

INDO-Japan strategic partnership is on a positive trajectory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Japan was very productive. On November 11, 2016, Japan and India inked an accord ‘Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy’ in Tokyo, Japan. The treaty allows Japan to export nuclear power plants, nuclear fuel and nuclear technology to India. Moreover, the deal would also facilitate the US-based companies like GE and Westinghouse Electric to set up nuclear power plants in India. It’s because Japan’s Toshiba owns these companies’ shares. Westinghouse already signed an agreement to build six nuclear reactors in India.
Today, India is an attractive country for the Japanese due to its growing economy; Indo-Pacific strategy; strategic partnership with the United States; and having potential to compete with China in the Asian strategic environment. Moreover, New Delhi has successfully generated an impression that it is playing an effective role in maintaining the safety and security of sea-lanes in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions and fighting against transnational crimes, terrorism, piracy and proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. In a joint statement Prime Minister Modi and his Japanese counterpart “condemned terrorism in strongest terms in all its forms and manifestations in spirit of ‘zero tolerance.” They also called upon all countries to “implement UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities.”
The Japanese nuclear industry is endeavouring to export nuclear power plants to foreign buyers. It is because the Japanese nuclear industry is in crisis due to the shrinking sales at home since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants disaster. Hence, Japanese firms are interested in building nuclear power plants in India to capture its lucrative nuclear energy market. The nuclear deal is a rewarding venture for the Japanese nuclear industry and equally beneficial for India. By virtue of the deal, New Delhi will receive advanced nuclear reactors for its sites coming up at Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
In addition, the deal would improve the credibility of India as a responsible nuclear power, and hence reinforce its case for the full membership of the Nuclear Supplier Group. The safety and security of nuclear power is not only critical for India alone, but is also a serious concern for the Indian neighbours. It was reported that in the case of Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese operating authority failed to stick to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety standards. Notably, in the Fukushima catastrophe four reactors were damaged instead of six. The two were saved from the Tsunami because the operators of the facility followed the IAEA safety guidelines. The Chairman of the National Diet of Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa’s pointed out that: “Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster– that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”
The bilateral defence cooperation advanced between Tokyo and New Delhi during the last decade. On November 11, 2016, Japan announced to provide its state-of-the-art defence platforms such as US-2 amphibian aircraft to India. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while speaking in the Indian Parliament on August 22, 2007 stated, “India and Japan have entered a new era under their strategic partnership.” He added that Indo-Japan partnership would create an “arc of freedom and prosperity” in the region. The current trends in the global politics and cementing strategic partnership between Tokyo and New Delhi alarms about the probability of strategic competition and thereby the earlier announced “an arc of freedom and prosperity” might be transformed into “an arc of containment” in the near future. In addition, quadrilateral dialogue among the US, India, Japan and Australia, alarm the Indian neighbours, especially China and Pakistan. Perhaps, any attempt by India and Japan to contain China on the behest of United States would perilous for the regional security.
To conclude, Japan being very vocal anti-nuclear weapon state agreed to assist nuclear-armed India in its nuclear pursuits including to secure the full membership of the Nuclear Supplier Group. Tokyo’s support for the membership of the Group is significant for New Delhi. It is because; the former is the only state, which was attacked with nuclear weapons; currently having a vibrant nuclear industry; and is an influential member of the Nuclear Supplier Group. Precisely, Japan formally accepted India as a responsible nuclear weapon state and hence is altering its symbolic role as an advocate of ‘world free from nuclear weapons’ or ‘nuclear disarmament’.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.