NEW DELHI: Since 2010, India and Japan have been engaged in intensive negotiations on a civil nuclear agreement, which has challenged all Japanese notions of its unique nuclear position in the world.
In the last few weeks, Amandeep Gill in the ministry of external affairs and later foreign secretary S Jaishankar traveled to Japan to “freeze” the text of what will become India’s second-most valuable international civil nuclear agreement. Why did Japan give in?
First, there has been a political alignment between India and Japan (both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi have invested personally in building this relationship over the years).This meant a deeper political push to what would be a very difficult deal.
Abe will have to get this agreement through the Japanese parliament, where he is sure to face a pushback from Japanese lawmakers who may not be as convinced about erstwhile nuclear outlier, India.
However, top Japanese officials speaking to TOI point to a different calculation within the Tokyo administration that may have tilted the scales. China’s ability to quickly reverse-engineer entire plants, trains etc and position itself as global manufacturer has shaken Japan.
China has already taken the design of Westinghouse’s AP1000 nuclear power plant, and is rolling out the rebadged CAP1000, one of the first users of which will most likely be Pakistan. In highspeed railways, too, China used Japanese and German designs to become a market leader. Only recently , Japan lost out on a big high-speed railway contract to the Chinese in Indonesia. At this point in time, the Japanese nuclear industry is stalled, as after Fukushima, Japan has not yet started building new plants. The West, Japan’s traditional clients, has also stopped. China, however, continues to build. It’s this reality that prompted Abe to tell his senior officials, “economic choices are security choices.” The deal, once completed, will make it easier for companies like Westinghouse and Areva to go ahead with their nuclear investments in India, all of which needed India to have a nuclear pact with Japan.
In the past few years, as Japan has gone slow on the deal, the Indian nuclear environment, too, has undergone significant changes.
Early this year, India completed the administrative arrangements with the United States on the India-US nuclear deal, addressing the tough issue of “tracking” of imported nuclear material in Indian plants. The resolution of this issue cleared a major hurdle with Japan.
Second, a deal between Areva and L&T signed during Modi’s visit to Paris earlier this year means that not far in the future, L&T could be building complex and sophisticated reactor components in India, bringing down their cost, but also giving compa nies the option to source from places other than Japan. Currently , L&T is upgrading its manufacturing facilities under the collaboration. With his deal, companies could expand their sourcing options.
Third, India and South Korea operationalised their bilateral nuclear deal last winter. This would help Indian companies to work with heir Korean counterparts on nuclear research and development and manufacture of spares for nuclear plants.
While South Korea manu actures nuclear power plants also based on the West nghouse design (in a spectacular push as few years ago, hey swiped a UAE nuclear contract from under the nose of the stately French company Areva), they don’t yet have complete control over all crit cal technology , specially fuel rods. But again, the deal expanded India’s choices.
It is in this environment hat Japan decided to no longer remain an outlier, despite ndia being an outlier of the global NPT architecture.
Source: Defense News