Amidst the bonhomie in Tokyo over sealing the text of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit beginning Sunday, the Japanese desire for India to provide “positive signals” on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has emerged as an obstacle in the way of the civil nuclear accord still under negotiation.

India and Japan have held two rounds of talks on a civil nuclear agreement but discussions have stalled with Tokyo insisting that New Delhi give political signals about getting closer to acceding to the CTBT. The summit meeting between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Naoto Kan is expected to give the green signal for holding the next round of talks in November.

One suggestion Japan floated in the last round is for India to at least join the International Monitoring System (IMS) under the CTBT. The IMS, a work in progress, is currently a network of 321 monitoring stations and 16 radionuclide laboratories for detecting any sign of a nuclear explosion.

``If India agrees to be a part of IMS, this will have a bearing on the India-Japan civil nuclear agreement. There is reluctance in Japan to proceed with this agreement because India is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the events 12 years ago [India conducting nuclear tests] is recent history. So Japan expects India to be more forthcoming,'' said Japanese diplomats.

However, the stalemate is likely to continue as India is averse to getting entangled in any CTBT-related organisation. “The idea is to slowly draw us in and we are not going to agree,” well-placed Indian sources told The Hindu. Earlier, the suggestion some countries made was for India to at least help fund the CTBT Organisation (CTBTO) and attend its meetings as an observer. But New Delhi has stuck to its guns.

Japan is aware of the Indian position on CTBT, which was reiterated by Dr. Singh to then Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, here in December last year. Sources said Dr. Singh observed that a new environment would be created if the U.S. and China ratified the CTBT.

Japanese officials expect their side to point out that the political situation in the US is hardly conducive to ratifying the CTBT, with U.S. President Barack Obama's Democratic Party expected to lose seats in the coming elections. “Then naturally we expect more from India. I guess Japan will take this up,” said a Japanese diplomat while pointing out that Tokyo had wanted India to sign the CTBT and announce a unilateral moratorium on production of weapons grade fissile material when its case was put up before the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008. “None of these became an element in the letter given by then Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to the NSG. Our basic position remains the same,” he added.

But Indian diplomats are confident the Japanese inflexibility on this issue can be worked on. After all, the initiative for beginning civil nuclear talks came from the Japanese side during the visit of its Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Masayuki Naoshima in May this year.

Within 90 minutes of making the proposal and on Japanese request, the Indian side had gathered a team and started the first round of talks. Significantly, senior officials of Japanese majors Mitsubishi and Toshiba, which have substantial involvement in the civil nuclear sector, were also in the capital and are understood to be the main driving force behind the initiation of the talks.

New Delhi also points out that India had been accepted as a responsible nation that had a good track record of nonproliferation and was committed to total disarmament. India has signed seven civil nuclear cooperation pacts and two more are in the pipeline. In global R&D on nuclear energy, India is part of the International Thermal Energy Research project in which Japan is the lead country.

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