India, Japan to fast-track n-deal

New Delhi, July 6 (Calcutta Tube) Buoyed by the launch of nuclear negotiations last week, India and Japan Tuesday decided to fast-track negotiations for a civilian nuclear deal, with a view to firming up the crucial accord by the time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Tokyo by the year-end.

In a sign of a new bounce in bilateral relations, India and Japan held two back-to-back separate dialogues aimed at giving more thrust to their strategic partnership.

The talks, dubbed ‘2+2 dialogue’, were held between the Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and the Japanese team headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae and Vice-Minister for Defence Kimito Nakae.

Taking a long-range view of their burgeoning security ties, the talks focused on intensifying counter-terror and anti-piracy cooperation. A meeting of the India-Japan Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism will be held soon.

The two sides also discussed ways and means to expand cooperation in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and reviewed their joint naval exercises.

The prospects of an early civilian nuclear deal, for which the two sides began talks only last week, figured prominently in the foreign office consultations led by Rao and Sasae.

‘The Indian side noted with appreciation the removal of several Indian entities from the Japanese end user list, thereby promoting high technology trade between the two countries,’ said the external affairs ministry.

‘The two sides also noted with satisfaction the commencement of negotiations on an India-Japan agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy,’ the ministry said, while alluding to the inaugural round of negotiations held in Tokyo last week.

Although it’s too early to set a timeline given Tokyo’s sensitivity on nuclear issues, reliable sources told IANS that the two sides are set to accelerate negotiations in the coming months to wrap it up by the year-end.

It will be the effort of both sides to at least finalize the deal by the time Manmohan Singh lands in Tokyo for the annual summit.

Manmohan Singh is expected to be in Tokyo November-December, the sources said. Dates are being finalised.

The prime minister’s visit will be preceded by the next round of the India-Japan strategic dialogue for which Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada will visit India later this year.

There will also be pressure on Tokyo to fast-track the deal from the US and France who want Japan to clinch the pact with India.

This will ease the way for General Electric Co and France’s Areva to use Japanese suppliers for nuclear projects to India. GE and Areva have won contracts to build two reactors in India.

There is also mounting pressure from Japanese companies like Hitachi and Toshiba who don’t want to miss out on India’s growing nuclear pie.

India has signed bilateral nuclear pacts with nine countries including the US, Russia, France and Canada.

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