Japan understands India’s need for civil nuclear energy

August 4th, 2008 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Japan, one of the countries in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), wants to “actively participate” in the civil nuclear programme with India and understands New Delhi’s growing energy needs, Japan’s foreign ministry spokesperson said. Stating that Japan also understands India’s quest for “civil nuclear power”, the spokesperson further underlined his country’s desire to cooperate with India in this field in a manner that will not “hamper but strengthen” the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime.

“Japan intends to actively participate in the civil nuclear programme from a broader and comprehensive perspective and in a manner not to hamper, but to strengthen the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime,” Kazuo Kodama, Japan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told IANS.

“We understand India’s growing energy needs and its quest for civil nuclear power,” he added.

The comments come on the eve of the Security Dialogue between the two countries. The Japanese Foreign Minister Masshiko Koumura is here to hold the second round of the dialogue with Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee here Tuesday.

The first round of the dialogue was held in Tokyo in March last year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to visit Japan at the end of the year. The Japanese foreign minister, who calls on him Tuesday, will try and finalise the dates of his visit to Tokyo.

Japan was part of the international consensus in the 35-member board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday, when the India-specific safeguards agreement with the Agency was unanimously passed in Vienna.

India would need its support yet again when the NSG members meet, probably in the third week of August in Vienna, to discuss an exemption in its guidelines that will allow commerce in civil nuclear energy between its members and New Delhi.

Kodama pointed out that Japan considers the safeguards agreement that India signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency Friday to be conducive to the non proliferation regime.

Almost echoing the argument put forward by the IAEA boss Mohammed AlBaradei in Vienna on Friday, Kodama said the safeguards agreement would help in the Indian civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA’s full scope safeguards in “perpetuity”.

But while extending its support at the IAEA board of governors meeting, Japan had also mentioned that it felt India would “accede” to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and “sign” the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

This was raised by a number of other countries at the IAEA board meeting last week and though Indian officials were happy at the unanimous support it got to its safeguards agreement, the reference to CTBT has started worrying some of them.

“As long as it is mentioned and not turned into a condition for allowing the exemption to NSG guidelines for India, it would be fine. But if it turns into a condition then India would not be able to accept it,” an MEA official said.

Unlike in the IAEA board, where a simple majority could take decisions, the ones in NSG are taken by consensus. Therefore, opposition from even one of its 45 members could block the passage of the exemption that India is seeking from the NSG guidelines.

But India does not fear that opposition to come from Japan. Over the past three years, relations between the two countries have grown stronger and both are now looking at new areas for cooperation to deepen them further.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koumura met Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Monday morning and will also meet Commerce Minister Kamal Nath. India and Japan want to finalise and sign the Economic Partnership Agreement that they have been negotiating for the past several months to boost trade and investment between the two countries in a significant manner.

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