| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Aug 28 India is hoping to win
Japanese backing for a nuclear energy pact during a visit by
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and lure investment into its $85
billion market while addressing Japan's concern about doing
business with a nuclear-armed country.
India has been pushing for an agreement with Japan on the
lines of a 2008 deal with the United States under which India
was allowed to import U.S. nuclear fuel and technology without
giving up its military nuclear programme.
But Japan wants explicit Indian guarantees not to conduct
nuclear tests and more intrusive inspections of its nuclear
facilities to ensure that spent fuel is not diverted to make
India, which sees its weapons as a deterrent against
nuclear-armed neighbours China and Pakistan, has sought to meet
Japan's concerns and over the past month the two sides have
speeded up negotiations ahead of Modi's visit.
"Serious efforts are being made to resolve any special
concerns that Japan has. Whether it will be fully resolved and
ready for signing before the end of the PM's trip is unclear,"
said a former member of India's top atomic energy commission who
has been consulted in the drafting of the energy pact.
"I would give it a little better-than-even chance at this
point," he said, asking not to be identified because of the
sensitivity of the negotiations.
Modi travels to Japan on Saturday for a five-day visit, his
first major bilateral trip since taking over in May. The visit
is being billed as an attempt by the two democracies to balance
the rising weight of China across Asia.
Modi and host Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are also expected to
boost defence ties, speeding up talks on the sale of an
amphibious aircraft to the Indian navy.
Another focus is infrastructure, with the Indian leader
seeking Japanese backing for the high-speed 'bullet' trains he
promised to voters in his election campaign.
But it is the nuclear pact that can transform ties in a way
the deal with the United States did by establishing India as a
strategic partner, although nuclear commerce with the United
States has since foundered because of concern over India's
Officials in Japan were tight-lipped about prospects for a
A civil nuclear energy pact with India would give Japanese
nuclear technology firms such as Toshiba Corp and
Hitachi Ltd access to India's fast-growing market as
they seek opportunities overseas to offset an anti-nuclear
backlash at home in response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear
India operates 20 mostly small reactors at six sites with a
capacity of 4,780 MW, or 2 percent of its total power capacity,
according to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited. The
government hopes to increase its nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW
by 2032 by adding nearly 30 reactors.
India is considering a Japanese proposal for a separate
commitment not to test nuclear weapons over and above a
self-imposed moratorium it declared after testing in 1998.
Another possibility is that Modi gives a personal assurance
to Abe on India's nuclear weapons programme to help allay
concern in Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear
attack and which has since been a champion of non-proliferation
"India and Japan are laying the foundations of a bigger
deal," said former vice chief of Indian army Lieutenant General
A.S. Lamba, an expert on ties with Japan.
"It's no use rushing into something that fails to get off
the ground, which is what happened to the India-U.S. agreement.
This is being constructed slowly, this is a defining moment."
(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO; Editing by