(Adds reports on nuclear and rare earth deals)
By Sanjeev Miglani
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 nuclear
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 guarantees from India, which has
not signed the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to
strictly limit nuclear tests and to allow more intrusive
inspections of its nuclear facilities to ensure that spent fuel
is not diverted to make bombs.
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.
Modi and Abe will not seal an agreement at next week's
summit, TV Tokyo reported on Thursday, but the meeting will be
closely watched for any progress toward a pact.
Japanese officials were tight-lipped about prospects for a
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
strengthen defence ties, speeding up talks on the sale of an
amphibious aircraft to the Indian navy.
Abe is keen to expand Japan's network of security
partnerships with countries such as Australia and India to cope
with the challenge presented by China.
The two leaders will agree to have their countries jointly
produce mixed rare earth minerals and metals, key elements in
defence industry components and modern technology, the Nikkei
business daily said on Thursday.
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 could 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
Japanese companies are also reluctant to step in without
clarity on nuclear disaster compensation, especially in the wake
of the Fukushima catastrophe of March 2011, the world's worst
since Chernobyl in 1986.
A civil nuclear energy pact with India would give Japanese
nuclear technology companies such as Toshiba Corp and
Hitachi Ltd access to India's fast-growing market as
they seek opportunities overseas to offset a backlash at home in
response to the Fukushima disaster.
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