Japan, India discus NSG, strategic ties
May 14, 2007 - 8:17:26 PM

New Delhi, May 14 - Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India later this year, India and Japan Monday discussed ways to deepen their strategic partnership, indicating a positive attitude towards civil nuclear cooperation with India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group -.

Japanese vice-minister for foreign affairs Shotaro Yachi, who is in India on a two-day visit, discussed with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon a wide array of bilateral issues, including the need to give a push to comprehensive economic partnership agreement the two countries are negotiating and civilian nuclear cooperation.

They also discussed a wide spectrum of global issues, like the UN reforms, the evolving architecture of the East Asia Summit and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation - to which Tokyo is an observer, to give more substance to newly forged strategic partnership between them.

The two sides also discussed two key collaborative economic projects, the dedicated freight corridor project and the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, which will take economic relations between them to a new level.

The prospects of civilian nuclear cooperation figured prominently in discussions between the two sides.

'Japan is fully aware of our concerns about energy and our need for energy development. They are aware of our negotiations between India and the US,' external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters here.

'When the time is ripe, the NSG, of which Japan is a member, will take a decision. Japan's role in the NSG was discussed,' he added.

Given Japan's sensitivity as the only country in the world to have been attacked by nuclear weapons, Tokyo has been ambivalent on the issue of civil nuclear cooperation with India. It has conveyed to New Delhi that it will wait for the 123 bilateral agreement between India and the US and the quality of New Delhi's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency before deciding on its stand in the NSG.

This was conveyed by Abe to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visited Tokyo in December last year. Tokyo's stance has not changed much since then.

Menon and Yachi also discussed preparations for Abe's India visit, which is likely to take place in August-September. Abe and Manmohan Singh are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Germany in June.

India and Japan will hold the third round of discussions on comprehensive economic partnership agreement June 25 here and hope to conclude their negotiations on this pact by next year.

The two Asian giants will also hold yet another energy dialogue in Tokyo and discuss ways to intensify cooperation in the crucial area of high technology in July. A strategic dialogue will take place in July that will sharpen focus on economic projects, Sarna said.

'The Japanese side also made a proposal for strategic dialogue group which will initially take place at official level. India has accepted the proposal in principle,' he said.

A mentors' group has been set up to give a further push to the Nalanda university project - the ancient seat of Buddhist learning - to be set up in India.

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