India moved a step closer Wednesday to acquiring Japanese nuclear technology and equipment when its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and his Tokyo counterpart, Shinzo Abe, signed a joint statement to promote talks to conclude a cooperation pact to this end.
In addition to talks on nuclear power cooperation, the statement issued in Tokyo also supports expanded joint naval exercises.
“I’m very pleased that I’m able to hold a summit with you . . . as the prime minister of Japan again,” Abe said at the outset a summit session with Singh, going on to praise Singh for developing a strategic and global bilateral partnership.
A subsequent pact would allow Japanese firms to export nuclear technologies and equipment to India, which is struggling to meet energy demand to sustain the country’s rapid economic growth.
However, because it’s not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, there is concern that India could use Japanese technologies and equipment to further develop nuclear weapons.
Japanese diplomats say New Delhi has pledged strict nonmilitary use of Japanese nuclear know-how and hardware. A future pact would lay out specific conditions and measures to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear exports, they say.
“The two prime ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” the two leaders declared in their joint statement.
On Wednesday Singh also reiterated his country’s commitment to its unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear weapons tests.
The two countries also agreed to promote talks on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, a proposed international pact prohibiting further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.
Pressure to restart talks on a nuclear cooperation pact, which reportedly hit a snag following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, have increased due to growing Indian energy demands and Abe’s ambition to export more Japanese infrastructure technologies, including nuclear reactors and related equipment.
At a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office, the two leaders also agreed to conduct more frequent and regular joint sea exercises by the Indian Navy and the Maritime Self-Defense Force. They also hailed drills held last year by the two nations’ coast guards.
The two countries will work together to secure “the freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce based on the principles of international law,” Singh and Abe said in the statement.
Abe meanwhile pledged to continue providing official development assistance “at a substantial level” to India, including for social infrastructure.
Since his first stint as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, Abe has regarded India as a key strategic partner for Japan, particularly as a counterbalance to China’s growth.