India, Japan seal civil nuclear cooperation pact

India and Japan today sealed a broad agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy, capping years of negotiations and paving way for US-based, Japanese-owned nuclear plant makers Westinghouse Electric Corporation and GE Energy Inc to set up atomic plants in India.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Left) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe signed the agreement at the ninth annual Indo-Japan summit talks in New Delhi today, with the final deal to be signed after certain technical and legal issues are thrashed out.

The two prime ministers also finalised a deal on a $12 billion project to lay India's first bullet train network between commercial nerve centre of Mumbai and Ahmedabad at today's summit talks. The project to bring the first Bullet train to India will help cut the travel time on the 505-km route from eight hours to two.

Besides, the two countries signed a deal that would help India's efforts to upgrade its military equipment. Japan's possible sale of US-2 amphibious aircraft to India would be Tokyo's first major military hardware transfer since lifting a postwar ban on the export of defence equipment in 2014.

At a joint media event with Modi, Abe said Japan's cooperation with India in the nuclear field will be limited to peaceful objectives. Abe had to overcome political resistance in Japan to a nuclear pact with India, particularly after the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.

Modi said the nuclear pact with Japan, a major player in the nuclear energy market, was more than just an agreement and that it was a "shining symbol" of a new level of mutual confidence and strategic partnership between the two countries.

The two prime ministers welcomed the agreement reached between the two governments on the agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and confirmed that this agreement will be signed after the technical details are finalised, including those related to the necessary internal procedures, a joint statement issued after the talks, said.

"In September 2014, in Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe spoke of $35 billion of Japanese finance and investments for India over five years," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a news conference with Abe. "It was ambitious. But together, we are quickly turning it into reality," Prime Minister Modi said.

India, which has 22 nuclear power plants, has ambitious plans to quadruple its present 5,000 megawatts of nuclear power to 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to fuel the energy demands of its booming economy.

"We have achieved substantial progress as the key part of the agreement has been done," foreign secretary S Jaishankar told reporters. "We have concluded the negotiations," adding, certain legal and technical issues will have to be thrashed out for the final pact. "It will need legal scrubbing and other technical details will have to be finalised."

On the issue of use of spent fuel and reprocessing, Jaishankar said Japanese side was conveyed about the various aspects of India's nuclear liability regime. Any solution to the issues on these will be in consonance with India's long-standing policy, he said.

"It is an important development, not complete development", Jaishankar said when asked to comment on the nuclear pact

"The two prime ministers, on the occasion of the 70th year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reaffirmed their shared commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons. They called for an immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) on the basis of Shannon Mandate," said the joint statement.

It said in this context, Abe stressed the importance of early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which should lead to nuclear disarmament.

"They also supported the strengthening of international cooperation to address the challenges of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism," it said.

India and Japan had started negotiations for the nuclear cooperation in June 2010. It was halted after the mishap at Fukushima plant on March 11, 2011. A section in Japan was of the view that the pact should not be finalised as India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.