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India-Japan nuclear deal: Will India accept a nullification clause?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the Tokyo International Airport on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the Tokyo International Airport on Thursday.  

The deal has been held up for years over the clause, which stipulates that it would be cancelled if India were to conduct a nuclear test.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepare to discuss the conclusion of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement after their talks on Friday, all eyes will be on whether India will accept a “nullification” or “termination” clause. The deal, which will open up access for India to cutting edge nuclear energy technology, reactors and critical parts, has been held up for years over the clause, which stipulates that it would be cancelled if India were to conduct a nuclear test.

The Prime Minister landed in Tokyo on Thursday evening for the India-Japan annual summit meeting after a brief stopover in Thailand where he paid respects to the late King Bhumibol Aulyadej. Along with the $1.5 billion deal for U-2 amphibious aircraft, the civil nuclear agreement will be the highlight of the talks between Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe, which will follow business meetings and a call on Emperor Akihito.

“If India conducts a nuclear test, Japan shall stop its cooperation for India,” Yasuhisa Kawamura, press secretary of Japanese Foreign Ministry told The Hindu in written comments, adding that “Prime Minister Abe told PM Modi last December that Japan will cease its cooperation for India if India conducts nuclear test”.

India maintains a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing, but has thus far refused to sign on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or given any other undertaking outside of its commitments at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, analysts concede that Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack has special sensitivities that India may need to make an exception for, despite India’s insistence on nuclear sovereignty.

“Given Japan’s history, one can understand its insistence on a nullification clause,” explains nuclear law expert Arghya Sengupta. “However, this would send an unfortunate signal to others that the IAEA safeguards are insufficient in ensuring that Indian nuclear energy facilities are used for peaceful purposes alone,” he added, indicating other countries who were refused similar guarantees, like Australia and Canada, could be annoyed if India allows the nullification clause.

Adding to the speculation is an >article in the Yomiuri Shimbhun newspaper on November 6, 2016 that confirmed that Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe will hold a signing ceremony for the nuclear deal during the visit, adding that the contentious cancellation clause will now be part of a separate document, while India would give an assurance that its cooperation with Japan would be “limited to peaceful purposes”. MEA officials refused to comment on the report, saying only that the “text will speak for itself”.

Another factor, say officials, is Japan’s critical position in nuclear supplies to India. Although India has a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel, all planned reactors including those from France and the U.S. and other than existing Russian reactors depend largely on Japanese parts. In addition GE, Westinghouse and Areva, the companies planning reactors in India at present have significant ownership stakes from Japanese companies Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, and are held up until the India-Japan nuclear deal is cleared by the Diet or parliament expected in early 2017.

The PM’s talks in Japan will coincide with a critical meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna on Friday which will consider the question of criteria on whether to admit India and Pakistan, the two non-signatories to the NPT that have applied for membership. India has made predictability an important part of its pitch for the NSG membership, which would come under a cloud if it were to allow Japan to cancel its agreement in the event of a nuclear test, which explains the sharp focus on the exact text of the agreement in Tokyo.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:25:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/India-Japan-nuclear-deal-Will-India-accept-a-nullification-clause/article16442074.ece

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