TOKYO: Shedding its reservations, Japan today made an exception to sign a landmark civil nuclear deal with India, opening the door for export of its atomic technology and reactors, after adding features like safety and security keeping in mind its sensitivities on the issue.
The nuclear deal, described as historic by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was part of the ten agreements signed between the two countries in various areas after he held talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on the second day of his three-day visit.
They held wide-ranging talks which covered aspects like trade and investment, security, terrorism, cooperation in skill development, aerospace and people-to-people contacts.
The nuclear agreement comes after tough negotiations for over six years between the two countries and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the nuclear deal was similar to the agreements signed with the US and other countries with added features on safety and security in keeping with Japan's sensitivities.
The two leaders, despite objections by China, also discussed the South China Sea issue and agreed on the need for respecting freedom of navigation and overflight in tune with the principles of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The nuclear agreement will also push implementation of the Indo-US atomic cooperation agreement since the major American companies in this sector have alliances with Japanese companies like GE-Hitachi and Toshiba-Westinghouse Electric Company.
The deal will come into effect as soon as the Japanese Parliament – Diet – approves it.
The Japanese Prime Minister, while noting that his country was the only one to have suffered atom bomb attacks, said he was "delighted" over the signing of the agreement with India despite it not being a signatory to the NPT.
At the same time, Abe, with Modi standing next to him, appeared to remind India about the NPT, saying his country wishes to see universalisation of the treaty, which New Delhi terms as "flawed".
"This agreement is a legal framework that India will act responsibly in peaceful uses of nuclear energy and also in Non-Proliferation regime even though India is not a participant or signatory of NPT," he said at a joint press interaction with Modi.
"It (the agreement) is in line with Japan's ambition to create a world without nuclear weapons," said Abe, whose country has traditionally adopted a tough stand on proliferation issues having been the only victim of atomic bombings during World War II.
He noted that India in September 2008 had made its intention of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and also announced moratorium on nuclear tests.
"Today's signing of the Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy marks a historic step in our engagement to build a clean energy partnership...Our cooperation in this field will help us combat the challenge of climate change," Modi said.
Apparently with Japan's sensitivity in mind, he added, "I also acknowledge the special significance that such an agreement has for Japan".
He thanked Abe, Japanese government and Parliament for their support to the agreement.
Other nations who have signed civil nuclear deal with India include the US, Russia, South Korea, Mongolia, France, Namibia, Argentina, Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia.
In his remarks, Prime Minister Modi said as democracies, the two countries "support openness, transparency and the rule of law".
"We are also united in our resolve to combat the menace of terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism," he said.
The landmark Indo-Japan nuclear agreement is strikingly similar to atomic agreements India inked with the US and most of the other countries, having provisions like 'termination' clause, Jaishankar said. However, he added that this pact has some added features like on safety and security reflecting Japan's concerns.
Also, the four steps – 123 agreement (2007), NSG waiver (2008), Reprocessing pact (2010) and Administrative mechanisms (2013) – that were part of the Indo-US deal have been "compressed" and "captured" in the deal with Japan, he added.
He said Japan's sensitivities and concerns were addressed in the agreement as much more emphasis was given on nuclear safety and security.
Asked about Abe's reminder about the NPT signing, the Foreign Secretary said India "understands" Japan's position but India's point of view is that it has a "very good" record on non-proliferation front which was the basis for the fructification of the atomic pact with Tokyo.
With regard to Abe's mention about Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Jaishankar said India had unilaterally and voluntarily declared a moratorium on nuclear testing, a declaration regarding which had enabled the NSG's waiver in 2008. He said the contents of that declaration have been reiterated.