P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: Japan, a prominent member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), will assess India’s case “in a manner that does not hinder, but [instead] reinforces the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime.”

Disclosing this, Japanese Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama told The Hindu here on Thursday that his country “intends to actively take part in the [India-specific] discussions” in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the NSG within the framework of these principles.

This signals Japan’s move to shift the terms of India-specific debates in these fora from its energy-security needs to the non-proliferation aspects of its civilian nuclear energy deal with the United States.

Mr. Kodama is here in connection with a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the East Asia Summit and related events.

Additional commitments

Asked whether Japan would now ask for additional commitments from India, beyond those relating to the deal with the U.S., Mr. Kodama said: “We will see, in the course of the discussions in the IAEA and also in the NSG meeting. But, I better not comment on the details. We will look into the [India-U.S.] deal and also the commitment India is going to make vis a vis the IAEA.”

To a question whether Japan would apply the non-proliferation test in the NSG and IAEA, he said, “we certainly appreciate that India has a very good record on controlling the export of nuclear-related technologies.” New Delhi’s non-proliferation “record to-date is impeccable, and we don’t have any concern” on that score, he emphasised.

The issue, however, was really different. “This [India-specific case] is the first of its kind. India is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And, India is a declared nuclear-weaponry state. So, somehow, we are confronted with an exceptional sort of a situation. … This is a very important issue not only for India [but also] for the world, Japan too.”

He said: “Between Japan and India, we don’t have any problems pertaining to history, and we look at each other as a friend, first and foremost. We have a civilisational kind of connection. [And] now, India is a fast-emerging power, just like China, in Asia. We appreciate, also, India’s track record as a vibrant, functioning democracy since Day One of its Independence.”

Quadrilateral forum

On Japan’s dropping of its own proposal to link with India as also the U.S. and Australia in a quadrilateral forum of Asia Pacific democracies, he said: “The idea of an arc of freedom and prosperity was promoted by Taro Aso [Japan’s previous Foreign Minister]. We still value the idea. Now, there is a difference of style between the current Foreign Minister [Masahiko] Koumura and his predecessor. … We attach great importance to strengthen our dialogue with Australia and India. That remains unchanged. On the other hand, at the moment, we are not really promoting a quadrilateral sort of meetings among Japan, the U.S., India and Australia.”

‘Grand idea’

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new proposal of Asia Pacific Community was “a grand idea” on the lines of “maybe, the European Union,” and Japan would, therefore, look at it “very carefully,” Mr. Kodama said. Mr. Rudd’s proposal covers not only the U.S. and China but also India and Japan.