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Nuclear deal hinges on Abe’s political skills

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after the signing of agreements at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: V. Sudershan  

The >civilian nuclear deal between India and Japan which has been under negotiation since 2010 finally might move beyond the “nullification clause” which had been the major condition that Japan refused to compromise on in the previous rounds of negotiations. However, complex legislative negotiation in Tokyo will determine how fast both sides can finalise the draft of the civilian nuclear energy treaty.

Speaking to The Hindu, Yasuhisa Kawamura, Director General of Press and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said the latest round of negotiations has not imposed any restrictive measures on India. “Japan is satisfied by the fact that India has a voluntary moratorium on further nuclear testing. Earlier India separated its military and civilian nuclear programme and that apart we also appreciate India’s policy on reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel which provides further safeguards,” Mr Kawamura said. . In view of the several steps that India has already taken in the field of nuclear safety and nuclear fuel reprocessing, Japan has not insisted on any “nullification clause” during the latest round of negotiations, Mr Kawamura said.

It is this relaxation of some of the past rigidity which paved the way for the MoU on the principles of negotiation exchanged during the latest >visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India .

Japan had previously insisted on the “nullification clause” which would allow automatic freezing of India-Japan nuclear ties if New Delhi carried out any further nuclear tests.

Nuclear experts and commentators are however, pointing out that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will find it tough to justify discarding of the “nullification clause” in the Japanese parliament. Prof Anuradha Chenoy, Dean, School of International Studies, JNU, told The Hindu that the sidelining of the “nullification clause” is meant to save the nuclear deal but a lot will depend in the coming months on the political acumen of Mr. Abe and his cross-party networking in the Japanese parliament. Arundhati Ghose, India’s former Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) said the commercial pragmatism of the Japanese nuclear lobby will help in finalising the deal soon. “The specificity of the Japan-India civil nuclear negotiation is its commercial aspect. Because of the commercial aspect, Mr Abe is under pressure from Japanese nuclear energy giants like Toshiba and Hitachi, who own American nuclear energy firms like Westinghouse and GE. In brief, Mr Abe will have to free Japanese nuclear companies so that the American companies can benefit from energy deals with India, as without that, the India-U.S. nuclear deal remains unfulfilled too,” Ms Ghose explained.

Finalisation of the deal will signal an irreversible change in the international civilian nuclear market of which India is poised to be a major consumer.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 8:15:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nuclear-deal-hinges-on-abes-political-skills/article7984271.ece

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