Ending the post-Fukushima lull, India and Japan Monday decided to resume their civil nuclear deal negotiations and initiated key steps, including the launch of two dialogues in areas of maritime and cyber security, to deepen their strategic ties.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna held the 6th strategic dialogue and the first economic dialogue with his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba, who began a two-day visit to India Sunday.
Besides bilateral issues, the two sides discussed the situation in North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan. With China in mind, they also discussed issues relating to the evolving East Asian architecture.
In an important step forward, the two ministers asked their negotiators to resume the civil nuclear energy negotiations to map out the way forward to seal a mutually satisfactory deal.
"We also discussed the possibility of civil nuclear cooperation between our countries. We have instructed our negotiators on the way forward," Krishna said at a joint press conference with Gemba after the talks.
Gemba confirmed that the two sides "will move ahead with negotiations to conclude a pact and arrive at a mutually satisfactory outcome". He, however, reminded India of Japan's non-proliferation concerns. "At the same time, I expressed our strong desire for disarmament and non-proliferation," he said.
"We both understand the importance of the issue and understand each other's concerns," said Krishna while expressing confidence that both sides will work out "the way forward".
India and Japan have already held three rounds of negotiations for a bilateral civil nuclear deal, but the talks stalled after the Fukushima radiation disaster in March last year.
Tokyo, which backed the India-US civil nuclear deal in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, has been insisting that India accepts stricter non-proliferation commitments in view of strong sensitivities on the nuclear issue in Japan, the only country to have been attacked by nuclear weapons.
The two sides have exchanged drafts of the proposed nuclear deal and are finding ways to resolve differences over the wording on nuclear testing and other sensitive issues, said reliable sources.
In other key steps that are expected to energise relationship between the two Asian powers, India and Japan unveiled the decision to launch a dialogue on maritime security and another one on cyber security. They also decided to move ahead with their collaboration in the development of rare earths, an important step that will reduce Japan's dependence on China for these rare earths, which are critical to defense, electronics and renewable-energy industries and used in an array of electronic products like the iPhone.
The Indian Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force will also hold their first joint naval exercise off the coast of Japan in June.
The modalities of maritime dialogue are yet to be worked out, but the sources said it will involve senior officials of the external affairs and defence ministries.
"India is situated in an important place in the sea lanes of communication. The dialogue will also contribute to peace and in the world," said Gemba when asked about the scope of maritime dialogue.
"We will discuss maritime affairs with a special focus on maritime security," he said, adding that the two sides are looking to expand cooperation in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.
On the economic side, the two sides agreed to accelerate cooperation in the area of infrastructure development, specially in the flagship Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. India also urged Japan for the high-speed railway technology and sought to enhance cooperation in the ongoing Dedicated Freight Corridor project.
The Chennai-Bengaluru corridor, proposed by the prime ministers of the two countries last December, also came up during discussions. "We have agreed that Japan will assist in chalking out a Comprehensive Master Plan for the project," said Krishna.