Such a pact is crucial for American and French firms to source reactor vessels from Japan Steel Works for Mithivirdi and Jaitapur plants

India and Japan are confident of going ahead with talks for a civil nuclear agreement despite the latest reports of toxic waste from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

“The bilateral agreement can still be done. This [talks on an agreement] is not an issue that has stopped. It has just slowed down,” said government sources here.

An India-Japan civil nuclear pact is crucial for American and French companies to source reactor vessels from Japan Steel Works (JSW) for their proposed plants in Mithivirdi and Jaitapur, respectively. “Without a civil nuclear agreement, the Japanese government will not be able to license JSW to supply crucial equipment to them,” confirmed the sources.

Both governments have left no stone unturned to create a favourable environment for closer ties. The Japanese Foreign Ministry has encouraged Members of the Lower House’s Foreign Affairs Committee led by its Chairman Katsuyuki Kawai to travel to India.

Emperor’s visit

It was fortuitous that these parliamentarians, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s younger brother Nobuo Kishi, chief of the ruling party’s foreign affairs committee, were at hand when Ashwani Kumar was named the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to Japan to maintain the momentum in high-level exchanges that will capped by a summit meeting between the two Ministers and the visit of the Emperor of Japan and the Empress towards year-end.

“You will not be able to appreciate what the Emperor’s visit to India means to the Japanese people. For us, the fact that the Emperor is visiting India has a huge significance and is a signal that it is going to be a very special relationship with India,” said one of the parliamentarians, who later attended a dinner hosted by Mr. Kumar. The visitors had an opportunity to interact with Advisor to Prime Minister T.K.A Nair, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and Deputy National Security Adviser Nehchal Sandhu, at the gathering.

Both sides have held three formal rounds of talks on the civil nuclear agreement and a few informally. It is understood that an Indian team might go to Japan early next month to pick up the threads after the election of the new and considerably more pro-India ruling dispensation in Tokyo.

And while the high hopes generated by previous years of bonhomie are unlikely to lead to new investments in the near term because of an unfavourable economic climate in India, both countries are moving ahead on other fronts, especially defence and infrastructure projects. They have taken the first major step in the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor with the award of a Rs.6,500-crore tender to an L&T-Sojitz consortium for a 626-km section of the project.

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