Even as hopes rise of a civil nuclear accord with Japan following confirmation that its Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be the chief guest at Republic Day celebrations here, an influential lawmaker from Tokyo indicated on Monday that the path ahead was still not smooth and India should make concessions keeping in mind Japanese sensitivities.

Chief Representative of the New Komeito Party Natsuo Yamaguchi assured India of a “flexible approach from the Japanese side” if it addressed some “areas of concern” such as non-proliferation, Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty and safe use of nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

“Japan has experienced nuclear bomb and an [nuclear] accident. Both are quite delicate and sensitive to the Japanese psyche. Respect of the public’s sentiments needs to be considered,” he told External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

The New Komeito Party has been a steadfast supporter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party but Mr. Yamaguchi has shown signs of his party differing on some aspects of state policy. These led Mr. Abe to open talks last month with Opposition parties such as Ishin No Kai.

Mr. Yamaguchi, who confirmed that Mr. Abe would be coming here for the Republic Day parade, is leading a delegation of parliamentarians. His visit is part of the process of stepping up political exchanges as the two countries set out to improve ties in the strategic sphere of defence, high tech and regional cooperation in partnership with the U.S. In fact, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera met his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony on Monday to touch upon some aspects of this hi-tech cooperation including the proposal to assemble in India a Japanese dual-use plane.

During the meeting with Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Mr. Yamaguchi said it was vital to learn from Japan’s failures such as the inability to address timely the destruction to the environment during industrialisation and delayed action in addressing changes in social structure leading to an ageing society gathering momentum.

According to the Japanese leader, Mr. Ansari responded by admitting that it was a tough task to balance the priorities of development and its impact on the environment. In India, the population could not be controlled during the early decades. The lower demographic profile at present was an asset but had to be carefully groomed so that it did not become a destructive force, he said.

Defence cooperation

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar reports:

The two countries resolved to continue their defence consultation and cooperation, including in maritime security, at Monday’s meeting of their Defence Ministers Mr. Antony and Mr. Onodera.

The Defence Ministry said the Ministers discussed regional and global security challenges, as well as defence cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.

Mr. Onodera briefed the Indian delegation of Japan’s National Security Strategy and National Defence Program Guidelines, which were adopted in December last.

When Mr. Onodera’s visit was announced in late December, some Japanese news agencies reported, citing government sources, that he “plans to promote talks to export Japan’s US-2 amphibious aircraft used by the Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) to India, prior to the scheduled visit to the country by Mr. Abe in late January.” However, sources here said that while Japan had been pitching for the sale of these aircraft as a special case, for the moment it did not figure on India’s list of priorities.

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