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The Big Picture- India-Japan Relations: Civil Nuclear Deal



The Big Picture- India-Japan Relations: Civil Nuclear Deal



India and Japan recently signed a landmark nuclear energy pact after six years of negotiations between the two countries. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi made second visit to Japan in last two years. The visit was also significant in the present international scenario as Chinese influence has grown significantly in the region. The step is being seen as the first big move to build India into a regional counterweight to China.


This is an important agreement. After nuclear weapon test in 1998, one of the countries most critical of that move was Japan. Japan is that country that has actually suffered when the nuclear attacks were made on its cities. The country had been very very vocal in asking India to NPT which is an objection they carried on for sometime. India was right not to overreact but to use persuasion and concentrate on talking to Japan about its track record and responsible attitude towards nuclear tests and arsenals. The pact signed is an indicator of what has been going on for the last few years which is a very significant warming up of Indo-Japan relationship. It has a security content and very solid mutually beneficial content. Looking at the geopolitics today, there are problems in India’s foreign relations with respect to China therefore, there is a need to develop close relationships with those who may be on our side when the need is there.

The nuclear issue in many ways was a constraint. It was preventing India and Japan from engaging in a more robust and wide spectrum manner. With the agreement being concluded at the political level, when it now moves into the techno commercial domain meaning the Indian entities like our nuclear power cooperation has to engage with Japanese entities, the insurance and financial issues will be settled and negotiated carefully and slowly. A robust relationship between India and Japan would punctuate the Asian grid in such a way that engaging China perhaps would give India a greater degree of malleability. Japan has very strong reservations on the strategic and security front with China but that has not prevented Japan from engaging with China in the last 30 years like investment, trade, technologies etc. Here is a catch for India meaning that our engagement with China should not be on one NSG issue only. It should be on other things as well.

China remains important for India as far as its relations are concerned whether it is in Asia or with the US. China is very watchful in the India Japan relationship. It is far too early to make policies on the results of US elections. What happens between India and Japan militarily like naval exercise done recently, the degree to which these exercises will be taken forward and whether it becomes more content laden will depend on what kind of policies are outlined by President Trump in relation to East Asia. If it adopts an isolationist policy, the countries in the East Asia will have to do something on their own. In this case, Japan will have to review its policies with other countries as well as China. This space will have to be identified by India and it will have to decide as to how it wants to move forward politically, economically, technologically and militarily.

India can do host of other things Japan besides this nuclear deal like on the economic and trade front. The MSME which is the life and blood of our economy, India can see that the biggest enterprises in Japan are a conglomeration of small and medium enterprises. This is something that India can incorporate in its economy with far better effects than the 96000 crore rupees invested in bullet train project. India can benefit from Japan considerably particularly in terms of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and technology. For example- During the visit, there were talks about US-2 aircraft which is an amphibious plane with certain capabilities. This could again be symbolic for a whole area where India and Japan are able to perhaps produce, design and bring on the table certain products that could be given to the rest of Asia not necessarily for combat or military but for other purposes as well like maritime surveillance. In the maritime domain, surveillance is a big issue and Japan is quite strong in terms of satellites. Japan can bring capacity to India which can be used in fruitful way for common good.


The pact is a major achievement for India as it is Japan’s first civilian nuclear cooperation pact with a country that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This will certainly help energy-starved India to access sensitive technologies to generate clean electricity in the future.