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Marking the transformative moment in India-Japan relations, Asia’s second and third largest economies signed a historic nuclear pact that signals a new dawn in their burgeoning relations, and makes Tokyo an indispensable partner in India’s development journey.
In Kantei, the stately glass-and-wood office of Japan’s prime minister, there was an atmosphere of quiet celebration as Tokyo made a leap of faith and exceptionalized India by signing its first nuclear deal with a country which hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe smiled as India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Japan’s ambassador to India signed the pact and shook hands warmly.
It was an India-plus exception and underscored New Delhi’s growing profile in Tokyo’s strategic calculus. For Mr Abe it wasn’t an easy decision given Japan’s entrenched nuclear non-proliferation orthodoxy and its singular experience of being attacked by nuclear negotiations, but in the end his strategic vision of the potential of the world’s fastest growing economy and an emerging security provider won.
The text of the nuclear agreement has not been made public so far, but Mr Jaishankar underlined “striking similarities” with the 123 agreement India signed with the US. It’s an improvised and updated version of the 123 agreement, albeit with Japan-specific features.
The deal’s importance goes much beyond nuclear commerce, and paves the stage for a marked acceleration of India-Japan relations in all areas, including trade and investment, green energy and connectivity. This was clear from the signing of 10 agreements and a soaring vision of India-Japan relations which will draw Asia’s two leading democracies in a tighter strategic embrace in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal also signalled a more proactive and expanded role by Japan in key schemes of national renewal, including Make in India, Digital India and Skill India.
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The Tokyo-Delhi connect is set to acquire a deeper strategic dimension with the hoped-for signing of a transformational nuclear deal and a host of initiatives to enhance maritime security cooperation during the November 10-12 visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan. The visit will be not only closely scanned in New Delhi and Tokyo, but most importantly in Beijing, which continues to nurture containment anxieties and has already red-flagged its concerns over a possible Delhi-Tokyo axis on the South China Sea.
Mr Modi will spend barely 48 hours in Tokyo, but much will be accomplished during his annual summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on November 11. If the latest indications are anything to go by, the visit will see the transformative moment as Japan moves beyond years of strategic vacillation to sign the much-awaited nuclear deal that will pitchfork the India-Japan ties on another plane.
In many ways, the current geo-strategic and geo-economic situation have created a conjunction of India’s Japan Moment and Japan’s India moment. Mr Modi and Mr Abe, who have famously forged a personal chemistry, are ideal partners to propel this partnership to new heights.
The nuclear issue is the last albatross holding back the full potential of this mutually fecundating relationship, and if the nuclear deal is signed in Tokyo, expect a major upsurge in India-Japan relations across the spectrum and an added ballast to the narrative of an inclusive Asian Century.
Capping years of tortuous negotiations, India and Japan look set to sign a transformational civil nuclear deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November 10-12 visit to Tokyo.
The negotiations for the civil nuclear deal were completed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to New Delhi in December last year. The text for the civil nuclear deal has also been finalised, with all contentious issues sorted out. Since then, nuclear negotiators of both sides have completed a technical and legal scrub of the text of the nuclear agreement.
The agreement is expected to be signed after talks between Mr Modi and his Japanese counterpart Abe in Tokyo on November 11.
The signing of the nuclear deal will pave the way for acceleration of India-Japan relations in all areas as it’s the only issue that is restricting the full potential of the strategic partnership between Asia’s leading democracies, which are moving closer in the backdrop of perceived Chinese assertiveness in the region.