India, Japan differ on nuclear tests

Tokyo wants New Delhi to maintain its commitment to voluntary unilateral moratorium

November 12, 2016 10:53 pm | Updated December 02, 2016 03:06 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

In signing the civil nuclear agreement with India, Japan made a major exception for a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), based on India’s impeccable nuclear record.

But sources say India, too, may have given exceptional commitments on its nuclear sovereignty and right to conduct nuclear tests in order to bag the deal.

According to officials, while the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday followed the template set in the India-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement of 2008, a text signed in addition to it is a departure from the past.

In the additional document, called the “Note on Views and Understanding” signed by Indian and Japanese nuclear negotiators after the meeting, Article I (iii) says: “The representative of the Japanese delegation stated that an Indian action in violation of the September 5 statement could be viewed as a serious departure from the prevailing situation. In that situation, reprocessing of nuclear material subject to the Agreement will be suspended in accordance with paragraph 9 of Article 14 of the Agreement,” invoking a section on emergency suspension of nuclear parts or fuel supply. (The reference to the ‘September 5’ statement was India’s voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing made for the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008.)

Binding provisions

When contacted by The Hindu , Indian and Japanese officials seemed to differ on how binding the additional note actually was. A senior MEA official privy to the negotiations said that the only “binding provisions are in the bilateral agreement (NCA).” However, in written replies to The Hindu , Japan’s Foreign Ministry Press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said Japan had made its intentions clear. “[If India conducts a nuclear test] Japan will give notice notify India of its intension of termination of the treaty and will cease its cooperation based on the treaty.

India also understands this, which is confirmed in the official document, “Note on Views and Understanding”, attached to the Treaty,” he said.

According to officials present at the bilateral meetings in Tokyo, Mr. Abe went further, saying frankly that Japan’s cooperation with India was “on the premise that India maintains its commitment to the unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear test,” and urged India to sign the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), that India has resisted for decades.

Striking similarities

At a press conference in Tokyo on Friday, Foreign Secretary S.Jaishankar said there were “striking similiarities” in the Japan deal with those of other countries.

However, former nuclear envoys say the text signifies India has gone “much further” in commitments to Japan than ever before. In the past, India had rejected direct references to nuclear tests as a trigger for cancelling the deal from the U.S., Canada, and Australia, amongst a dozen countries India has signed nuclear agreements with.

Next, India has allowed Japan to include the “emergency suspension” clause, which could mean a major shutdown of its nuclear power capabilities given that Japanese companies and spare parts are expected to be a crucial part of all future reactors in India. With the exception of Russian reactors, all the suppliers in negotiation with India at present: GE, Westinghouse and Areva have considerable ownership by Japanese companies Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi.

Finally, the additional note states that Japan can contest the claims by India for compensation if it suspends its nuclear cooperation with India. “Japan reserves the right to contest India’s claim of compensation for the adverse impact on the Indian economy due to disruption in electricity generation and loss on account of disruption of contractual obligations through the consultations provided for in paragraph 9 of Article 14 of the Agreement,” reads Article I(iv) of the document, available on the Japanese Foreign Ministry website.

The difference in perceptions between the MEA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan will be significant, given that the Japanese Parliament, Diet, is yet to approve the Nuclear cooperation Agreement. In India, the debate over nuclear sovereignty will be key, akin to the criticism the government faced over curtailing liability of foreign suppliers in the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement resolution between PM Modi and US President Obama in January 2015.

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