What does PM Modi’s Japan visit mean for India?

PM Modi Japan Visit 2016

PM Modi Japan Visit 2016


On 10th November India and Japan signed a civil nuclear agreement that is supposed to be a landmark of its kind between both the countries. It is expected that this agreement would improve bilateral relations between both the countries by leaps and bounds. The deal was signed in Tokyo during a yearly bilateral summit by Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. The Indian Premier is presently on his second visit to Japan in two years and the trip is expected to last three years. It is expected that when this deal is exercised India will be able to import nuclear technology and reactors from Japan and that will give it significant advantage compared to its neighbouring countries in terms of usage of civil nuclear energy.

History of the deal

The deal could have been signed earlier but it had to be shelved following talks during December 2015 as both sides discovered that there were some issues that needed to be addressed.  In fact, both the nations had been discussing it for the past six years. In fact, it was the UPA that had initiated negotiations regarding the same. At that time India’s status as a non-member of NPT was a major bone of contention for Japan that had asked India to assure that the deal would be put to use only with peaceful intentions.

Things improved when Shinzo Abe visited India during 2015 and this was when principles of the new agreement were decided upon. It needed the approval of Japan’s legislative body. Narendra Modi was especially keen on ensuring that the deal was signed as it would have improved India’s chances of being accepted into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), known widely as an elite body. This deal also makes India the first non-signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to have signed such a deal with Japan.

What does this mean for the relationship between both the countries?

The signing of this agreement shows the brilliant relation of mutual respect that both these countries share in spite of the fact that they have not always seen eye-to-eye on the nuclear policy. In a way, this agreement can be said to have marked a change in the way Japan has viewed such issues vis-à-vis India. In fact, as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) states Japan had showed itself to be a friend by helping India come out of the balance of payments crisis the country suffered in 1991.  Till date, Japan is the country to have suffered a nuclear attack and as such it has asked India for assurance that it will not conduct any nuclear test. India has conducted a couple of nuclear tests till now – Smiling Buddha in 1974 and Pokhran-II in 1998. One feels that this deal will further strengthen the relation between both the countries.

However, this deal can be scrapped by Japan if India reneges on the testing bit. It will need to provide a year’s notice though before it goes through with the cancellation. This particular nullification clause was one reason why the said deal attracted such a great amount of attention. India though, as stated by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, has been saying that this particular agreement is more or less similar to all the other deals that it has signed so far. It is expected that with this deal India and Japan come that much closer to countering the assertions of China in the region.

How will China react to this?

It is expected that China will be watching the civil nuclear deal quite closely. China incidentally has territorial disputes with both the countries and this deal has been signed at a time when China is looking to become stronger in South China Sea. China will also be bothered with what Donald Trump, the newest US President, is thinking in terms of the South Asia Policy.

India’s nuclear deal with the US

In 2008 India signed a similar nuclear deal with the US. At that time, Pakistan too had asked for such an agreement but it was rejected by the US, who stated that the deal with India was an exception. One now expects Pakistan to ask China to sign such a deal but the question is whether Pakistan will cede to the same. Incidentally, this treaty has an annulment clause as well. As stated by Jaishankar the deal had four stages – the initial agreement was signed in 2007 followed by clearance from NSG in 2008. The reprocessing pact was signed in 2010 and the final administrative pact was signed in 2015. In case of the deal with Japan all the four stages were compressed into one.

India’s nuclear plans

India wants to increase its nuclear capability by 1000% of the present condition in the next 16 years. It is also in talks with Westinghouse Electric, a company owned by Toshiba that is based in Japan itself. India also wishes to set up six nuclear parts in the southern part. With this deal with Japan it has taken a meaningful step in that direction. It is also expected that the superb expertise and knowledge of Japan would assist India as far as setting up these plants is concerned. This deal also means that from now on India’s nuclear plants – to be built in association with the US and France – would be further strengthened by parts from Japan. India already has a deal with Russia for building such plants.

It is also expected that this deal would help India negotiate further with companies such as GE and Areva that wish to construct nuclear plants in the country. Incidentally Japanese biggies Hitachi and Mitsubishi have crucial stakes in General Electric (GE) and Areva respectively. It was because of the fact that a nuclear deal between India and Japan had not been finalized that India was unable to negotiate further with these companies. In fact, now as a result of the deal even American and French companies that have association with Japanese firms will be able to do business in India.

How will this deal benefit Japan?

It is expected that this deal would prove beneficial for the major nuclear companies of Japan who had received a fatal blow of sorts following the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011. This will also allow them entry in the nuclear market in India where France and Russia enjoy some strong presence already.

What is Japan expecting from the deal?

Apparently, there is plenty of concern in Japan for signing a deal with a country such as India that is not a signatory to the NPT. However, Abe – in a national address – has stated that this agreement has a legal framework whereby India is expected to behave in a responsible way in using the nuclear energy transferred thus. This is in spite of its status as an NPT non-member. For Japan this is part of its vision to create a world where there are no nuclear weapons.

Japan also wants India to become a part of the NPT as well as Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). When it comes to signing an international nuclear treaty these are important factors for Japan. On its part, India has sought to assure Japan saying it understands its people’s concerns and the nuclear energy from Japan will only be used for peaceful purposes. India has also pointed out that in spite of not being a part of NPT it has a commendable record of non-proliferation. In fact, Abe has stated that India had in September 2008 stated that it would use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and stated that it would, for the time being, cease to carry out nuclear tests.

Was this only about the nuclear deal?

It is being said that there was much more to this Japan visit than the nuclear deal, even though this ‘historic step’ – as described by the Prime Minister of India in a press statement following the deal – was definitely the centrepiece of the show. Modi, alongwith Abe, will be visiting Kobe on a Shinkasen bullet train and the same technology is expected to be deployed on the high speed railway track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. In fact, both China and Japan are presently engaged in a high-octane contest of one-upmanship in the domain of bullet trains. It is expected that Modi’s visit will only intensify the competition. India is expecting that Japan will cooperate with it in terms of building bullet trains, something it is already doing with the said route. Construction is supposed to start from 2018 and the train is supposed to be operational from 2023.

India has also signed several other deals with Japan whereby Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and its Japanese equivalent Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be cooperating in planetary expeditions and satellite navigation. They are also supposed to undertake joint missions. It is also expected – as stated by Modi – that the civil nuclear deal will help India combat the effects of climate change, probably hinting that the nuclear power received from Japan will be used for civil applications.

It is also expected that Japan will be training 30,000 Indian professionals – mostly from the rural areas – in the ways of manufacturing used over there. This will be done through the manufacturing institutes over there. This is in line with India’s aim to become a major global manufacturing centre in the next few years. Japan has also offered its amphibian aircraft named US-2 to India which, while thanking Japan for such an offer, is evaluating the same. Deals have also been signed on areas agriculture and textiles.

Japan is also expected to invest well in infrastructure projects such as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the specialized freight corridor, apart from various transport terminals and toll roads. Urban development is also one area where Japan has agreed to assist India. A joint investment fund is expected to be set up between the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development (JOIN) and National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited (NIIF).

The Ministry of Earth Sciences of India has signed a MoU with Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science whereby they would conduct joint research and survey programmes. Experts and researchers from both countries are expected to visit each other for scientific programmes.

Both the prime ministers also condemned the recent terror attacks in India at Uri, and Pathankot as well as in Dhaka where some Japanese citizens were killed as well. Regarding the issue of territorial disputes of South China Sea both India and Japan urged all parties involved to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and resolve all the issues peacefully by way of discussions. Both the countries also called upon the rest of the world to come together, show zero tolerance to, and end terrorism by destroying the safe havens, stopping movement across borders, and interrupting the global terror network.

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