Category Archives: India-Japan

India, Japan reach agreement on nuclear cooperation

WNN | 14 December 2015

After many years of negotiations, India and Japan have signed a memorandum on cooperating in nuclear energy. However, certain technical and legal issues must be resolved before a final agreement can be signed.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe at the signing ceremony, in New Delhi on December 12, 2015.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe at the signing ceremony, in New Delhi on December 12, 2015.

The memorandum – outlining broad areas for cooperation – was signed on 12 December in Delhi by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Negotiations between the two countries for a civil nuclear deal began in 2010. However, those talks were suspended after the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. During a May 2013 meeting by Abe and India’s then-prime minister Manmohan Singh, the two leaders said that negotiations had resumed.

Speaking at a press conference after the signing, Modi said: “The memorandum we signed on civil nuclear energy cooperation is more than just an agreement for commerce and clean energy.” He said, “It is a shining symbol of a new level of mutual confidence and strategic partnership in the cause of a peaceful and secure world.”

Modi added, “I know the significance of this decision for Japan. And I assure you that India deeply respects that decision and will honour our shared commitments.”

In a statement, Abe noted that the final agreement on cooperation “will be signed after the technical details are finalised, including those related to the necessary internal procedures”.

The signing of such an accord would enable India to import Japanese nuclear technology and services.

The two prime ministers also affirmed their commitment to work toward India becoming a full member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

India was largely excluded from international trade in nuclear plant and materials for over three decades because of its position outside the comprehensive safeguards regime of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Special agreements ended its isolation in 2009 and the country may now engage in nuclear trade with those countries with which it has since signed cooperation agreements: Australia, Canada, France, Kazakhstan, Russia, the UK and the USA. Foreign technology and fuel are expected to boost India’s nuclear power plans considerably.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

The risky nuclear deal with India

The Japan Times | Editorial | December 16, 2015

During his visit to New Delhi last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed in principle on a civil nuclear cooperation pact that would pave the way for export of Japan’s nuclear power plant technology to India. It will be Japan’s first such deal with a country that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In working out its further details, the government needs to ensure a clear mechanism to prevent India from using the technology provided by Japan to enhance its nuclear weapons capabilities. This is Japan’s duty as the only country in history to suffer nuclear attacks.

Japan has so far refrained from signing a civil nuclear cooperation pact with countries that are outside the NPT regime. Such an agreement with India, a de facto nuclear weapons power, is tantamount to Tokyo accepting possession of nuclear weapons by a country that is not a party to the NPT, representing a major shift in Japan’s nuclear policy. It may compromise Japan’s position of calling on North Korea, which has withdrawn from the NPT regime, to end its nuclear weapons program. The pact would have the effect of further reduce India’s incentive to join the NPT regime. One wonders whether the Abe administration has seriously considered these effects.

The root of Japan’s talks with India for a civil nuclear pact goes back to a proposal made in the late 2000s by U.S. President George W. Bush to change the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a multinational body designed to control the export of nuclear apparatuses and technology to ensure nuclear nonproliferation. Behind the proposal was the Bush administration’s desire to strengthen the United States’ strategic ties with India. Although the NSG, whose members include the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Japan, had prohibited civil nuclear cooperation with India because of its nuclear explosion test in 1974, the group in 2008 granted a waiver to India from its rules. Japan was initially cautious about the change but eventually succumbed to pressure from the U.S.

The change prompted the U.S., France, Russia, South Korea and others to sign agreements with India on nuclear cooperation. Abe’s move represents the desire of Japan’s nuclear power industry, whose prospect in the domestic market is uncertain following the 2011 Fukushima crisis, to enter the growing market of nuclear power in India. Currently, 21 nuclear power plants are in operation in the country, and there are plans to build over 30 more to meet the demand of its expanding population.

Abe says his agreement with Modi ensures that Japan’ nuclear technology provided to India would be used solely for peaceful purposes. A government official said Japan would halt the implementation of the pact if India tests a nuclear weapon, which it has not done since 1998. That would be a logical course of action for Japan.

A major problem with the planned pact is that Japan would allow India to reprocess nuclear fuel burned in a plant built with Japanese components and materials. Plutonium extracted through reprocessing of spent fuel can be converted into nuclear weapons. To prevent that, the pact needs to have a mechanism to verify the volume of such plutonium and its whereabouts. Still, the more plutonium India can secure for commercial purposes, the more it can possibly concentrate on using uranium produced in the country for military purposes. India and Pakistan, which also possesses nuclear weapons, are in confrontation for many years. Utmost efforts must be made to stop India from reinforcing its nuclear arsenal by taking advantage of this pact.

During the talks with Abe, Modi also agreed to introduce Japan’s shinkansen technology to build a high-speed railway linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad in western India. India hopes the project worth ¥1.8 trillion — for which Tokyo has agreed to extend ¥1.46 trillion in loans — will begin in 2017 and be put to service in 2023. Although Japan succeeded in exporting its bullet-train technology to Taiwan in the late 1990s, it lost out to China in October in the competition to sell the technology to Indonesia. India appears to have put priority on the safety and technological advantage of the shinkansen system. Japan should support India in the training of personnel, including operation controllers, drivers and maintenance workers, in addition to the export of hardware.

Abe’s latest visit to and deals with India are part of his administration’s efforts to check the rising influence of China by deepening Tokyo’s ties with New Delhi. The two leaders agreed that the Maritime Self-Defense Force will become a permanent participant in India and the U.S.’ annual joint naval drill known as Exercise Malabar, which is carried out with China’s rise as a regional maritime power in mind. Japan and India also signed deals paving the way for transfer of Japanese defense equipment and technology and exchanges of defense-related information.

While Japan and India are both wary of China’s growing maritime presence in the region, New Delhi is more flexible in its approach toward Beijing. For example, India is a founding member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, from which Japan, along with the U.S., has opted out. Abe should realize that building friendly ties with both China and India in a balanced manner will contribute to enhancing Japan’s interests.

Nuclear Deal between Japan and India: A Brief Stocktaking | Sukla Sen | December 14, 2015

The Indian media is right now busy trumpeting that the long talked of nuclear deal between Japan and India has been successfully inked. A careful reading, however, reveals that what has been signed is actually an MoU. And, an MoU, as is common knowledge, does not amount to an “agreement”. It is rather a statement of intent.

Joint Declaration

While the text of the subject MoU is apparently not yet available for public viewing and scrutiny, the Indo-Japan joint declaration, dated December 12th, elaborating on the whole gamut of outcomes of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India (11-13 December, 2015), under a rather presumptuous caption, has been duly released.

Paragraph 13 of this joint statement directly refers to the nuclear deal. It says:
“The two Prime Ministers welcomed the agreement reached between the two Governments on the Agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of India 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.”

So, it is actually an agreement on the purported “Agreement” (for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy) and the “Agreement” itself remains to be signed. More importantly, before the “Agreement” is eventually signed “the technical details” are to be “finalised” and “necessary internal procedures” are to be wrapped up.

No clue here has been provided as regards “the technical details” other than “necessary internal procedures”. Nor any timeline has been laid down for signing the “Agreement”.

An NDTV report, in this regard, avers:

“Similarly, while they agreed to work towards cooperation in civil-nuclear technology, they stopped short of signing an agreement, citing outstanding technical and legal differences.

“Mr Jaishankar did not cite a timeline for signing the final agreement with Japan.
“Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, has been demanding additional non-proliferation guarantees from India before it exports nuclear reactors.” (See)

Also of interest is the following: “Briefing the media, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar said that they have reached a substantive agreement [emphasis added] on the Indo-Japan nuclear deal and only legal scrubbing was to be taken into consideration. “I would hesitate to put up a timeline because I am not conversant with the Japanese internal procedures and their timelines. But the fact that we have concluded negotiations, the two Prime Ministers have signed the memorandum speaks for itself,” Mr Jaishankar said.” (See: .) The same report further adds: “While the countries “in principle” agreed on cooperation in civil nuclear energy, Japan also cautioned India that it will be “quite natural” for it to review its cooperation if New Delhi goes for a nuclear test. However, Japan asserted that it does not see India moving in that direction.”

A comment of the ToI correspondent Indrani Bagchi on this issue may also be taken note of in the given context: “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.” (See)

Past Context

Given the history of previous negotiations between the two countries, since 2010, para 42 of the joint declaration, even if separated apart from the aforesaid para 13, is worth taking note of: “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. In this context, Prime Minister 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.”

That these two paragraphs have been separated apart perhaps is of some significance. In the joint statement issued by Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe on January 25 2014, from New Delhi, these two issues of nuclear deal and nuclear disarmament were dealt with in two contiguous paragraphs – 32 and 33. (See)

Even in the last joint statement issued by Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi, on Sept. 1 2014 from Tokyo, “Civil Nuclear Energy, Non-proliferation and Export Control” were clubbed together in a single section. (See) Interestingly, this statement did not talk of nuclear disarmament.

Thus, while the two issues of nuclear deal and nuclear disarmament, viz. FMCT and CTBT, have been physically separated, the latter has nevertheless crawled back into the discourse. And, the possibility of these disarmament issues having a bearing on the unspecified “technical details” to be finalised cannot be ruled out altogether.

Broader Implications of the Deal

The caption of the previously referred Times of India news report on the subject issue aptly captures the immense significance of the purported deal: ‘Japan gives India its second most important nuclear deal’.

Apart from further legitimisation of India as a nuclear weapon state (NWS), despite it not being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – only India, Pakistan and Israel fall under this category while North Korea has dropped out subsequently; the deal will facilitate India’s agreements on supply of nuclear power plants with French Areva (for Jaitapur, Maharashtra) and the US-based GE-Hitachi (for Kovvada, AP)) and Westinghouse (for Mithi Virdi, Gujarat). (See here and here.)

The fact that both Japan and India are at the moment ruled by hard right-wing ultra-nationalist outfits having deep links with the business-industrial-nuclear lobbies has definitely helped to take the negotiations ahead.


In absence of access to the actual text of the subject MoU it is a bit hazardous to speculate on the precise status of the agreement on Agreement. It can, however, be safely inferred that while the signing of the MoU is definitely a step ahead towards clinching the Agreement, there exists still some, presumably significant (see), gap between the proverbial cup and the lip.

Having said that, getting the move scrapped at this stage would, however, call for herculean efforts on the part of the anti-nuke activists and civil society organisations in Japan and India. And elsewhere as well.

Sukla Sen is a senior anti-nuke peace activist and one of the founding members of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP).

EDITORIAL: Japan-India nuclear cooperation a slap in the face of NPT

The Asahi Shimbun | December 14, 2015

India Japan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe after signing agreements, including one for cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in New Delhi, India, on Dec. 12. (AP Photo)

The framework for preventing the spread of technology and materials for building nuclear weapons is becoming increasingly compromised.

Even Japan, which has suffered atomic bombings, has joined the ranks of the world’s nations that are eager to pitch nuclear technology even to a country with nuclear weapons for the sake of commercial interests.

During a visit to India on Dec. 12, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, that the two countries will sign a deal on civil nuclear cooperation. The agreement would bolster the export of nuclear technology by Japanese enterprises.

India became in possession of nuclear weapons without joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Its relations with neighboring Pakistan, which also refused to join the NPT and armed itself with nuclear weapons, remain strained.

Providing nuclear technology to such a nation should be called an act of folly that makes light of the longstanding and persevering nuclear nonproliferation efforts of the global community and would further emasculate the nonproliferation regime.

Rising calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the years following World War II, when the world came under a threat of the potential use of nuclear weapons, were the driving force behind the NPT, which entered into force in 1970.

Nations of the world, including Japan, joined the treaty under its guiding principle, which obligates the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia to commit to nuclear disarmament in exchange for granting them the status of nuclear-weapon states. The NPT also allows the other countries to use nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.

Supplier nations made it a rule not to trade in nuclear technology with countries outside that framework. But the United States took the initiative in granting an exception to India in 2008. Since then, the United States, France, Russia, South Korea and other nations have all signed nuclear agreements with India.

Those countries are looking at India as a promising market for pitching nuclear power plant technology. That is because India already hosts about 20 nuclear reactors and plans to build 40 more at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to build reactors in advanced nations.

The United States and other countries should realize that compromising the nuclear nonproliferation principles for the benefit of business opportunities would engender serious problems for the future.

Japan, among others, is a nation that should be taking the lead in creating a nuclear-free world. It not only knows about the tragic consequences of the use of nuclear weapons but also has experienced one of the world’s largest nuclear plant disasters and continues to be plagued by the resulting radioactive contamination.

Japan is the country that should be applying the brakes on any moves toward nuclear proliferation.

The previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan, however, opened negotiations on the nuclear deal with India five years ago. Both the DPJ government and Abe’s current administration cannot escape the charge of having forgotten the duty and responsibility of a nation that has suffered atomic bombings.

Abe told a news conference Dec. 12 that he would go along with India in pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons. But he has yet to provide a specific action to achieve that goal.

We are only left to wonder how we could explain to North Korea and Iran, which are insisting on their own nuclear development programs, why we are dealing differently with India. We could lose our convincing power for dissuading other nations from following in their footsteps.

The threat of nuclear arms will only increase as long as Japan, the United States and other countries, which should be guardians of the nonproliferation regime, are using their own hands to undermine its foundation.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 13

Protest in Mumbai against Shinzo Abe: nuke deal with Japan opposed

India Resists | December 11

Activists gathered outside Dadar Station to protest against Japanese PM Shinzō Abe’s Nuclear deal with India. This protest was organised as part of the nation-wide protests that are happening during the Japanese PM’s visit to India.

This is the text of the leaflet that was distributed:

Japanese PM, Mr Shinzo Abe, is visiting India from 11th December and is expected to sign a Nuclear Agreement with the Government of India. The democratic and peace-loving citizens of both India and Japan are strongly opposed to this Disastrous Deal.

Why Oppose the Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal
Nuclear Power generation is the most dangerous source of energy and there is no safe way of storing or disposing off nuclear waste. Besides, it is more expensive than other alternatives.

Many European countries including Germany and Switzerland are either shutting down or phasing out nuclear plants after the horrors of Fukushima. Japan itself has shut down 54 nuclear power reactors following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. Only 2 reactors have been allowed to restart.

The proposed American and French nuclear plants at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat, Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh and at Jaitapur in Maharashtra cannot proceed without an Indo-Japanese nuclear deal as they require crucial nuclear components supplied by Japan.

As Fukushima is an ongoing disaster, the agreement is clearly a move to allow Japanese Corporations to make profits in India. It is ironical that Japan which has experienced multiple nuclear horrors – from Nagasaki and Hiroshima to Fukushima – is now promoting this sale of nuclear power technology and components to our country.

There is a strong opposition from civil society and grassroots movements in India and Japan along with solidarity from International anti-nuclear groups. The proposed nuclear plants will take away livelihood of people, lead to large displacements and destroy the natural environment.

The catastrophic consequences of nuclear accidents have been felt by the USA at Three Mile Island, by the Soviet Union at Chernobyl and most recently by Japan at Fukushima. This is a risk our country cannot afford to take. We already had an industrial disaster in Bhopal in 1984 that killed thousands of people and lakhs of people are still suffering the consequences.

This undemocratic and disastrous agreement should not be forced upon the people of India. The Japanese people too are opposing this agreement. Instead, India and Japan should work together towards developing safe and clean renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

Let us come together and raise our voices to stop this Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal!
Coalition For Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Jana Hakka Seva Samiti (Ratnagiri), Kokan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samiti, Jagrut Kamgaar Manch(JKM), National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and others

Contact: Vivek Sundara (9821062801), Rajendra Phatarpekar (9833443319)

Istanbul, London and Tokyo: international solidarity protests against India-Japan nuke deal


Asia Progressive | Pinar Demircan and Amrit Wilson | December 11, 2015

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe arrived in India today with toxic gifts of nuclear power, fighter jets and bullet train.

The deal with Japan is more than a bilateral agreement. It’s a missing piece of the grand Indo-US bargain leading to massive nuclear expansion in India and would fast-track American and French reactors in India.

For the villagers, farmers and fisherfolk of Jaitapur, Mithi Virdi and Kovvada, this is perhaps the last chance to protect their livilhoods and environment as the Indian govt is prepared to bulldoze every other concern and obstacles – environmental clearancs, land acquisitions, nuclear liability and the escalating cost of power from these imported reactors.

Some of the most pristine landscapes, rich bio-diversity hotspots, prosperous agricultural lands and rich community cultures would be destroyed if Shinzo Abe and Modi’s nuclear deal comes through.

Against this nuclear deal, protests have been announced all over India during Shinzo Abe’s visit.

In solidarity, activists staged protest in Turkey’s historical city Istanbul as their country also concluded a similar agreement with Japan and there’s strong local community protest against Sinop nuclear project.

In a publicly held protest, the Sinop Antinuclear Platform emphasized that India -Japan Nuclear Agreement is just an other version of Turkey-Japan Nuclear Agreement which was signed in 2013.  Since Turkish and Japanese governments decided to establish a nuclear power plant in Sinop there has been ongoing protests for  2 years. Sinop Antinuclear Platform  members expressed that they are against all nuclear power plants in the world and called for peace. Istanbul Antinuclear Platform is also planning a similar protest in Istanbul on 16 December.

Protest in Turkey Against India-Japan Nuclear Agreement 1

In London, the South Asia Solidarity Group(SASG) and Japan Against Nuclear(JAN) along with Kick Nuclear held a powerful  protest against the Narendra Modi- Shinzo Abe Nuclear Agreement  outside the Japanese Embassy on Friday December 11, 2015. They demanded the scrapping of the impending Japan-India Nuclear Agreement and the creation of a nuclear free zone in South Asia.

Protest in London Against India-Japan Nuclear Agreement 1

Slogans included ‘No more Fukushimas! No more Chernobyls! Scrap the Nuclear Deal!’  and ‘Shinzo Abe, Narendra Modi, Scrap the Nuclear Deal!’ rang out across the posh West End neighbourhood (which includes the Ritz hotel!).

Part of the protest  was a short theatrical skit, in which protesters in masks played out the imperialist politics behind the deal with a smiling Obama and Hollande pushing Modi and Abe into a deal which they gleefully accepted.
Protest in London against India-Japan Nuclear Agreement Amrit Wilson
This was followed by speeches which drew attention to the massive people’s movements in India as well as Japan against nuclear power. It was these movements, in Jaitapur, Koodankulam and Mithi Virdi, in India for example, which had inspired this international protest against the Nuclear Deal.
Speakers from South Asia Solidarity Group pointed out that the deal was another face of the US and French imperialism which is currently involved in air strikes in Syria and that it would ramp up regional tensions and strengthen US and NATO military power in the region, with Abe and Modi acting as its agents as well as in their own right. They emphasised that the claim that Nuclear Energy was ‘clean energy’ is a horrific lie and highlighted the reality that while on the face of it, nuclear power plants are for civilian use, the export of nuclear technology has enormous military implications. The BJP’s aggressive militaristic Hindutva ideology, its record on testing nuclear weapons and the fact that India has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty must not be forgotten.
Protest in London against Shinzo Abe
Speakers from Japan Against Nuclear spoke of the horrors of the Fukushima disaster and it continuing toxic fallout which is affecting not only Japan but much of the Pacific even five years after the Fukushima disaster. It is well-known that nuclear power plants pose enormous dangers at every step – from Uranium extraction to radioactive waste –they are a tremendous risk to the  environment and to all living creatures in their vicinity This is the case even when there is no accident. Even when they are  operating normally, they continuously contaminate the  air, water and ground with radioactivity and produce radioactive waste, for  which humankind has never found any long-term solution.
A petition to Shinzo Abe was handed in to the Japanese Ambassador in London.

People in Japan are also fiercely against the dangerous absurdity of Shinzo Abe exporting nuclear to India while the crisis in Fukushima is further deepening. Protests were organised today in Tokyo and Osaka.

In India, protests were organised today in Mumbai, Kolkata, Kovvada and Koodankulam. In Jaitapur and Mithi Virdi, thousands of villagers will protest tomorrow. This nuke deal will destroy their livelihoods and endanger safety. Solidarity groups would organise protest also in Bangalore, Nagpur, Ahmedabad and Chennai.

India-Japan Nuclear Deal: Set Back?

Truthout | Kumar Sundaram, Speakout | 10 December 2015

Seventy Years After Hiroshima, Will an India-Japan Nuclear Deal Set Back Global Nonproliferation Efforts?


A Fast-Breeder Test Reactor at the Kalpakkam Nuclear Complex, India. An India-Japan nuclear agreement would be the final seal of approval for a nuclear weapons state outside the NPT. (Photo: Kirstie Hansen / IAEA)

Will 2015 be remembered in history as a year when the human race decided to abandon the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? If the first part of this year saw the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ending in a failure, the closing of 2015 might witness a final and de facto expansion of the nuclear weapons club. Not surprisingly, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have spoken out strongly against the proposed agreement, which the Japanese prime minister might sign during his visit to India this weekend. In an extraordinary move, the two mayors – Kazumi Matsui and Tomihisa Taue – held a press conference issuing a joint statement and urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to abandon the nuclear supply agreement with India.

Strong criticism of the nuclear deal to India also found a place in the annual Peace Declarations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in recent years.

Of course, fierce opposition to the nuclear agreement has also come from citizen groups opposed to nuclear power. Not only in India and Japan, but also international anti-nuclear groups have opposed the agreement, as it unleashes a destructive and dangerous nuclear expansion in India and provides a new lease on life to the moribund global nuclear industry which is facing its terminal crisis after Fukushima.

But why does this agreement concern the victims of nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki so much?

Global Nonproliferation at a Crossroads

Nonproliferation has been a legitimate concern since the advent of the nuclear age. While peace movements across the world have always demanded an elimination of nuclear arms, stopping the spread of atomic weapons has also been an important goal. This is evident from the fact that the NPT is the most universal treaty ever put into force. Despite coming into existence in 1968 amid the tumultuous polarization of the Cold War, the treaty enjoyed support not only from the two blocks, but also a large number of countries beyond them. The political and technical difficulties of reversing nuclear weaponization and the unacceptable risks of accidental and unauthorized use leading to potential spiraling have motivated this widely-held taboo.

In return for the universal respect for nonproliferation objective, the original five Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) – the US, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom – committed themselves to negotiate nuclear disarmament “in good faith” under Article 6 of the NPT. This has been a major sticking point in the international negotiations, and the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (P-5) have never seriously pursued disarmament negotiations. It has been a challenge for the Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS) and the international civil society to hold the P-5 accountable to their NPT obligations.

Another inherent contradiction of the NPT has been its promotion of nuclear technology for “peaceful uses,” which is regarded as an “inalienable right” of its member states under Article IV of the Treaty. This contradiction has grown bigger with time, and today, even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) admits that more than 20 countries have the wherewithal to build nuclear weapons and are essentially a political decision away from doing so.

In such situation, tightening the global nonproliferation regime and expediting abolition of nuclear weapons is an urgent priority.

This would require sincere efforts on two fronts – the NWS have to pursue disarmament urgently, and the NNWS have to realize that besides pursuit of disarmament by the NWS, a progressive revision of the original NPT bargain is also essential. For the world to really be free of nuclear weapons, the “inalienable right” to pursue “peaceful” nuclear technology must also be rethought. An unconventional solution – like replacing the nuclear energy bargain with renewable energy or other such deliverables – should also be considered, given the fact that nuclear energy must anyways be discouraged in the post-Fukushima world.

However, the situation is only met with extreme posturing from both sides. While the NWS have refused to negotiate disarmament on the one hand (while keeping a profitable civil energy market open), the NNWS have also not shown openness to revisit the grand bargain of the NPT and surrender the sovereign right to pursue “peaceful” nuclear power in exchange for concrete nuclear disarmament negotiations. In fact, some countries have only exploited the loophole and have acquired advanced civilian nuclear technology which they consider a sufficient deterrent in itself.

The US and its allies, in pursuit of a world order that suits them, have then pushed the world from nonproliferation to counter-proliferation over the last decade. This means that they have accepted the contradictions inherent in the NPT, but have opted for a quick-fix – do not discuss nuclear disarmament, keep the nuclear energy market unhindered and just police the world to regulate who can possess nuclear weapons and who cannot. Despite all its limitations and contradictions, at least the NPT doesn’t make any such distinctions. For the NPT, at least in principle, all nuclear weapons are evil, and thus both NNWS and NWS must shun them. But the US has led the world to a “good nukes, bad nukes” era where India’s actual nuclear weapons are good and Iran’s potential nuclear weapons are a strict “no.” Expansion of civil nuclear technology by Iran is something to be met with sanctions, while export of nuclear technology to India (despite it being outside the NPT and having conducted nuclear tests) is a common good. The legitimacy of a nation’s nuclear capabilities has been effectively linked to its diplomatic intimacy with the United States.

This shift from nonproliferation to counter-proliferation pushes the disarmament goals further away. It’s actually a desperate strategy by the NWS to retain nuclear weapons and limit their spread, despite widening contradictions of the regime and increasing the span of the dangerous nuclear age, when humanity is living each passing day on borrowed time.

Legitimization of India’s nuclear weapons thus fits into the United States’ own scheme of counter-proliferation. That is why the US eventually embraced India after its 1998 nuclear tests, albeit with some initial lip-service condemning those tests.

India and the NPT

India, while its leaders never get tired of evoking Buddha and Gandhi in the international forums, never signed the NPT and adopted a maximalist posture. It insisted that nonproliferation is hollow without a universal, comprehensive and time-bound nuclear disarmament. As a rhetorical approach, this position sounds logical and obviously convincing. Of course, only a total elimination of nuclear arms can render these weapons illegitimate, and hence, unattractive for newer nations. But predicating nonproliferation on global disarmament is mere fallacy in the real world. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons has to go hand-in-hand with the goal of reduction and eventual abolition of nuclear arsenals of the countries that have them.

Not surprisingly, India didn’t find many takers for its absolutist stance, and even most countries politically opposed to the hegemony of nuclear weapons states saw a point in signing on to the treaty. Not only the NPT treaty, but the global nonproliferation regime also consists of the regional Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZ), which 115 countries of the the world have signed voluntarily to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. India remains one of the only three holdouts of the NPT, along with Pakistan and Israel. And these three countries are certainly not the most consistent champions of nuclear disarmament. In hindsight, if not by design, India used the maximalist posture to remain out of nonproliferation, retain the nuclear test option and eventually, this self-proclaimed most consistent votary of global nuclear disarmament conducted nuclear tests. Pakistan, of course, had an excuse for following suit behind India. Israel possesses atomic weapons and has maintained a deliberate and strategic silence about them. To a great extent, the US support for Israel, which summarily refused to participate in the negotiations for the Middle East WMD Free Zone as per the mandate of the 2010’s NPT Review Conference, led to the failure of the NPT RevCon this year.

India never agreed to an NWFZ in South Asia despite repeated offers from Pakistan. It never signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) adopting a similar maximalist posture, disregarding the fact that nuclear tests have lead to irreversible damage to environment and communities, and that banning them is an important precursor to global disarmament.

What could be worse than India staying out of the NPT system? The fact that it conducted nuclear tests in 1998 and within a decade became a de facto member of the nuclear weapons club. India did so with generous help from the US, which has its own reasons to embrace India, as discussed above. But India also had its own paybacks for the West – its geopolitical significance; the massive and attractive nuclear, military and consumer market that it gradually opened; and putting its weight behind the West in the intensifying divide bordering on Islamophobia.

The 2005 Indo-US Deal

While the 1974 tests by India invited international sanctions and a stringent embargo on nuclear commerce, the 1998 tests in the changed political context ironically accrued it an international legitimacy and brought an end to the international isolation that it had faced for 35 years since its first nuclear test. The US initiated a sustained dialogue with India, and eventually entered into a grand nuclear deal, which President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed in 2005.

It was an extraordinary deal, as the US showered all the benefits of the NPT regime without India signing the treaty. The US maneuvered changes in the IAEA system and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to provide an exemption for India, as their standard rules disallowed nuclear commerce with any country that is not a signatory to the NPT. This deal faced huge opposition from the disarmament, nonproliferation and arms control community worldwide. When the NSG met to discuss an exemption for India in 2008, Hibakusha (surviving victims of the 1945 atomic bombings) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki wrote a strong letter to the NSG, urging it to respect the NPT. They highlighted that it should actually have been an occasion to address the NPT’s loopholes and pursue global nuclear disarmament. They also scathingly criticized the Japanese government for not rising to the occasion, saying, “despite our requests, the Japanese government’s stance has remained vague throughout.” Not only the Hibakusha and the disarmament community, but also countries like Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden stood in opposition within the NSG.

In return for this exceptional exemption, India offered large nuclear purchases from the major NSG countries – France, Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia – without doing any cost-benefit analysis, or even feasibility and environmental studies in India. The massive nuclear expansion underway in India based on these imports is a another horrible story where the most vulnerable sections of Indian society – and the country’s fragile ecology – are paying the price for its elite’s nuclear weapons dreams. This bargain of 2008 has actually deprived India of the sovereignty which a number of countries have used to make independent energy choices after Fukushima, shunning nuclear and opting for a renewable and sustainable energy paradigm.

The India-Japan Nuclear Agreement

Despite buckling to the US pressure at the NSG level, Japan has remained reluctant about signing the bilateral agreement with India. Respecting the NPT and promoting nuclear disarmament at global level has been a central tenet of Japan’s post-war diplomacy and its national self-image. Selling nuclear technology to a country that hasn’t signed the CTBT nor the NPT, has conducted nuclear tests and has an expanding nuclear arsenal would actually undermine Japan’s nonproliferation posture. It would also mark the final international approval of India’s nuclear weapons outside the NPT.

Japan initially demanded that India sign the CTBT and NPT, but later rescinded this position to ask for a no-test pledge in the bilateral agreement in exchange for civilian nuclear technology. India, after outmaneuvering the entire NPT system, hasn’t shown any laxity vis-à-vis Japan. Further diluting Japan’s diplomatic stance, former Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada inserted a minimum condition requiring an automatic termination clause in the bilateral agreement in case of any further nuclear tests by India. But even that was not acceptable to India, a country with an ambitious self-image.

Japan has also been under pressure from the US and France to culminate the agreement with India as early as possible, as their reactor projects in India cannot kick-start without a legal India-Japan nuclear agreement. That’s because US nuclear energy giants now have majority Japanese shares – GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse-Toshiba and Japan Steel Works (JSW) manufacture the most critical equipment in these designs – the calandria or the reactor pressure vessel.

Japan’s nuclear corporations – Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi – are also pushing Japan for an agreement with India as the financial crisis of their nuclear business after Fukushima is becoming deeper by every passing day.

Besides US influence and commercial interests, Japan also has the Asian strategy in eye where India is an indispensable partner. Especially under current PM Shinzo Abe, who has an extremely controversial re-militarist agenda for Japan, India has assumed higher significance for Japanese foreign policy. In a clear militarist turn for the India-Japan relationship, the two countries have escalated joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, despite China’s apprehensions. India is going to be the first importer of Japan-made Shin Meiwa US-2 fighter jets after resumption of arms exports by Japan under Shinzo Abe, ending the postwar Japan’s policy of not keeping an active military and not exporting arms to other countries.

The Final Death Knell for the Nonproliferation Regime?

The India-Japan nuclear agreement would be the final seal of approval for a nuclear weapons state outside the NPT. Successive NPT Review Conferences have called for universalization of the treaty by bringing the three hold-outs in its fold. The India-Japan agreement would make it impossible, as India would enjoy all benefits of the NPT without signing it and would have no incentive or pressure to join the treaty.

Under an ultra-nationalist party’s rule, India’s foreign policy is becoming increasingly belligerent, and the India-Japan agreement not only legitimizes India’s atomic weapons at a normative level, but also actually boosts the country’s nuclear arsenal by allowing it to use its entire domestic uranium reserve for making more weapons while using imported uranium and imported reactors under the IAEA for civilian purposes.

The mainstreaming and boosting of India’s weapons capacities and Japan’s militarist push in Asia both are happening with a helping hand from the US, which has its own grand strategy of pitching India and Japan against China. And on the civilian side, it has a huge interest in opening a new market in India for its nuclear corporations.

However, is the world ready to accept a wholesale destruction of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime for such short-term ambitions and misplaced interests? This is the question the Hiroshima and Nagasaki mayors are asking today.