Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed confidence that India and Japan would be able to conclude a civil nuclear cooperation agreement “which will be a win-win proposition for both of us.”
Sources say New Delhi expects a “long and slow negotiating process” given the “unusually sensitive” nature of nuclear issues to Japan because of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. Singh told Kyodo that “we have not laid down any deadline for concluding these negotiations.”
The key difference, say both Indian and Japanese diplomatic sources, is Tokyo’s desire for a firm Indian nuclear test ban commitment. Singh noted this saying, “We are commited to maintaining our unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.”
Japan has said the moratorium is insufficient. The two sides are now looking at the nonproliferation commitments India gave to the Nuclear Suppliers Group when they lifted the ban on nuclear commerce with India.
“India cannot agree to a template that is too far from what it already has with other countries,” say sources, however special the circumstances of Japan’s nuclear history.
India believes Japan has to work through its internal debate and is prepared to wait.
One, New Delhi appreciates how far Japan has moved on this issue. Japan initiated the present nuclear talks. “If you had said Japan would be prepared to negotiate a nuclear deal with India five years ago, everyone would have laughed,” said a source. In recent years, Japan has removed nine Indian names from its version of an entities list – a roster of Indian organizations denied advanced technology.
Two, Japan is seen as the world leader in many nuclear technologies. The reactors that the US is trying to sell to India represent, in their core areas, Japanese knowhow. India’s Department of Atomic Energy sees Japan’s Rokassho nuclear reprocessing centre and its Monju fast breeder reactor as technological exemplars. Singh alludes to this by saying India wants Japan as its “partner” in its civil nuclear ambitions.
Third, if India and Japan can resolve the nuclear issue they will have worked through the most difficult and sensitive of issues, said a source, and would inject a new maturity to their ties.
Indian sources said that Japan did not raise the issue of suppliers’ liability during the negotiations. But Japanese sources say they did ask about India’s progress in signing the related Convention for Supplementary Compensation.