Nuclear deal with Japan on the anvil

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NEW DELHI, December 3:  Japan has said the main purpose of Emperor Akihito’s ongoing visit to India was to add more ballast to the bilateral relationship.

One of the elements that would add greater depth to the ties would be a civil nuclear agreement. “We are close to a bilateral deal on the peaceful use of nuclear energy,’’ said senior Japanese diplomats accompanying the Emperor, who is on a six-day visit to India.

India and Japan share the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons and Parliaments of both countries pay tributes to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But a section of Japanese opinion, including senior Ministers, wants India to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India has been averse to this idea and wants to sign a civil nuclear deal with Japan on the basis of its existing strong anti-proliferation credentials.

“We are touched by the gesture of your Parliament paying tribute every year to Japanese victims of the nuclear bomb. Japanese people have strong feelings about nuclear weapons, but this aspect is not known to our people,’’ conceded an official.

Relations with Beijing, facing difficult times recently, remained very important and the Emperor’s visit should not be interpreted as an attempt to check China, said the diplomats. They quoted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as cautioning against ties with China being arrested due to a single territorial issue.

On the first full day of official engagements, the Emperor laid flowers at Rajghat followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Scheduled for 45 minutes, the meeting went beyond the scheduled time.

Dr. Singh preferred to focus on the economic aspects of the relationship, beginning with the Suzuki days that eventually helped the Indian automobile industry become globally competitive. The partnership is now manifest in Delhi Metro and will grow further due to Japanese involvement in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the Delhi Mumbai Freight Corridor.

In the afternoon, the Emperor visited Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for East Asian Studies.

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