While the nation tried to make sense of the demonetisation of 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes, a historic deal between India and Japan was signed in Tokyo after six long years of negotiations and deliberations. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe found a common ground which will strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries. Interestingly, India and Japan were on the opposite sides in World War II but have forged amicable relations ever since India’s independence. The times have considerably changed since then and the newly-signed nuclear deal is considered a major diplomatic breakthrough between the two countries. The deal between the two of Asia’s biggest democracies is along the similar lines of the Indo-US Nuclear deal in 2008 which facilitated nuclear technology to India after considerable years of deprivation.

  1. Tenfold increase in nuclear capacity by 2032 for India: India aims to increase its nuclear capacity by almost 10 times by 2032. India is already in advanced stages of negotiations with Westinghouse Electric which is owned by Japan’s Toshiba based out of the United States to build six nuclear reactors in southern region of India. The deal facilitates India’s access to Japan’s nuclear technology which is far advanced in nature compared to other countries who have shown the willingness to sign a similar treaty with India. In a power-hungry economy like India, it can mean a ground-breaking step.
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  1. Economic opportunity for Japan almost amounting to a 100 billion USD: The deal provides a very lucrative opportunity for the Japanese government for its economy from the huge Indian nuclear market which almost is estimated to be around 100 billion USD and has been nudged into signing the same by its own trade lobbies.
  1. Looming uncertainty after American President-Elect Donald Trump and China’s growing influence: After the very much-talked about American President-Elect Donald Trump and his stunningly unclear foreign policy, it is important that we forge alliances regionally to play a safe bet. This deal also sends a strong message to China as its influence grows exponentially in the South-East Asian market.
  2. Climate Change and an overwhelming need for Clean Energy: As soon as one hears or reads the words ‘Climate Change’, they start to tune out or their eyes glaze over the text. It is probably indifference or plain old denial towards things that seem threatening and dangerous. This is not just an emotional rhetoric but a very significantly evident reality. When the evidence becomes overwhelmingly clear after the national capital is covered in smog right after the festival of Diwali and pollution levels are measured almost 42 times the safe limit, it very surprisingly becomes a communal issue in a country like ours. It is frustrating and even more frightening. The need for cleaner sources of energy in a developing country like ours with a vulgar disregard for environment has never been more than at this very moment

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Apprehensions and Contentions over the Deal:

  1. India’s stand on Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) : Non-Proliferation Treaty is nothing but an international agreement to dissuade the nations from using nuclear weapons and using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, India refuses to sign the treaty calling it discriminatory in nature.

The often-volatile neighboring countries of China and Pakistan are nuclear-armed and hence, India’s stance is in a way, quite justifiable.

However, in keeping with the spirit of treaty, despite not being an official signatory on it, India has kept a moratorium (temporary prohibition) on nuclear testing since the last nuclear test conducted in 1998 in Pokharan, Rajasthan.

Despite this, few people view this nuclear deal as a “disruption of non-proliferation regime” and a “race of arms in South-East Asia”.

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  1. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster: Before the unfortunate incident in Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan derived almost 30% of its power needs from it. India is one of the first nations to approach nuclear expansions on this level after the horrific accident. There are very obvious safety concerns over the nuclear reactors being built and the possible safety hazards that could entail.

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  1. Japan’s history and sensitivity towards Nuclear Armament: As the only country being subjected to a nuclear bombing on a devastating scale, Japan’s sensitivity towards nuclear arms is a major issue. The Japanese government deliberated cautiously over the deal following the resistance from the anti-nuclear lobby in Japan including Hibakushas (victims of atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The Japanese government include Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cannot really overlook the domestic sentiment while drafting and signing foreign deals which might hurt their political projections.
  1. Conditions on Nuclear Co-operation and the Nullification Clause: The nullification clause is one of the bone of contentions that had loomed over this deal going through for the past six years. The Nullification Clause states that Japan will completely stop nuclear co-operation if India was found to be using the reactors or the technology for nuclear testing. Japan has been seeking reassurances from New Delhi over this continually. The official signing of deal despite India’s Non-Proliferation Status signifies a stronger sense of trust between the two nations.
  1. India’s bid on Nuclear Supplier’s Group(NSG) Membership: Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) is an elite group of nuclear supplier companies that aim to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling and monitoring the export of nuclear equipment, technology and material that can be used to create nuclear weapons. There are currently 48 members in NSG with five nuclear weapon states and rest who have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India was denied the membership of NSG in Seoul, South Korea by strong protests primarily from China because it has not signed the treaty who argued that the exception will weaken NSG’s hold on the subject. India’s argument was, however that it was awarded the exception back in 2008 right after the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The current deal with Japan strengthens the chances of India’s application and bid into NSG as it meets in Vienna to discuss such particular cases.
  1. Protests here at home: Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP) Press Release: According to CNDP’s Press Release, ‘the deal will unleash destruction in India’. Voices were raised as the deal can potentially lead to loss of homes and livelihoods for farmers and fishermen, radiation hazard due to untested and unsafe reactors. The group alleges that that the government is 3
  • Diluting security and safety norms.
  • Curtailing transparency on nuclear policy by bullying through environmental clearances.
  • Neglecting the adverse economics of this project.
  • Ignoring the democratic dissent and preying on vulnerable sections
  • Exempting the nuclear supplier’s from liability in case of any incident.

      The above concerns are wholly legitimate. However, before jumping the gun we should wait for the deal to come into operation and legislators’ way to address the same questions.

To summarise, depending on its execution, this is a majorly positive step towards a cleaner planet. In critical times like today when the most powerful nation in the world has elected a candidate whose campaign ran on calling climate change a ‘hoax’ and who plans to transition a climate change skeptic to take the lead on EPA( Environmental Protection Agency), we need to work on these threats now more than ever before. Let us hope that this is a game-changer in clean energy initiative while boosting the power availability in the country as it intends to do.

References:

  1. Indiatoday.in – Why a civil nuclear deal that India will sign today is huge for India by Ruchi Dua. [Click here]
  2. Indo Japan Memorandum on Civil Nuclear Co-operation by Shamshad A Khan. [Click here]
  3.  CNDP press release. [Click here]

Author: Priyanshi Goyal

Graphics: Himali Tripathi