Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hamlet: Japan’s Dilemma between the US-India Deal and Non-proliferation Regime

This is the first post on India in Global American Discourse. Considering its importance in security of the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region, it is quite late to post the first article on this country in October. I have written some posts on the US-India nuclear deal in the past. This is controversial but a key to the Bush administration’s strategy in the Middle East and Asia.

Regarding this deal, Japan faces a serious dilemma whether to support it or not, because India is out of the NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty) and CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). In an article, entitled “Japan’s New Prime Minister Faces India Dilemma” in the Asia Times on September 28, Masako Toki, Research Associate of the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies at Monterey, California, raises a serious concern that approval to the US-India deal could ruin Japan’s accumulated credentials in non-proliferation and disarmament. Toki points out that the US-India agreement has no countermeasure against possible nuclear test by India, and this is the most worrisome point for Japan.

Also, it is necessary to mention that the Japanese public is extremely sensitive to nuclear issues. This summer, the then Defense Minister Akio Kyuma was harshly criticized for his careless comment, “The United States had no choice but nuclear attack against Japan in order to end the war quickly.” Both the media and the public condemned this remark an insult to atomic bomb victims.

Despite such widespread anti-nuclear emotion, the Japanese government has been extremely cautious to articulate its stance on this deal. Toki says “Tokyo has been wise enough to avoid further controversy but not strong enough to maintain its stance as a champion of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.” While Masako Toki insists that Japan not accept exception of NPT regulation like the US-India deal, new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is likely to strengthen strategic partnership with India as his predecessor Shinzo Abe was, following recommendations in the Armitage Report 2007.

Toki argues that Japan needs to articulate its commitment to disarmament and nonproliferation, even if this leads to short term conflict with India and the United States. She says “In the long run, a commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament remains the most important element of Japan's national identity and interest.”

For me, her recommendation sounds too idealistic. It is necessary to understand India’s strategic partnership with the United States and NATO. India is a key ally in the War on Terror. Regarding the US-Indian strategic partnership, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said “The new challenges that are emerging, including protecting the electronically connected and interdependent world from terror and organized crime, are immensely complex,” and “It is also naive to expect the international system to deal with such complex and significant issues without democratizing international decision-making,” in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on October 1 (“India Sees Nuclear Deal as Key to Global Cooperation”; Global Security Newswire; October 3, 2007).

Former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar says that India will be a cornerstone in NATO’s global operation from the Indian Ocean to the Asia Pacific region. The United States endorses NATO-India partnership, in order to fill power vacuum in these areas. (“India Holds Key in NATO’s World View”; Asia Times; October 6, 2007)

However, the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and leftist members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regard the deal sacrifices Indian sovereignty, because civilian nuclear plants are subject to US inspection. They are not pro-Western as current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I believe that the deal must be sustainable regardless of party politics in India. (“Feature”, South Asian Perspectives by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2007)

If India were to be a real strategic partner with free nations, the US-India bilateral deal should include NATO, Japan, and Australia in the future. It is understandable that India does not trust current non-proliferation regime under IAEA inspection. However, a multilateral deal with common creed and interests will be helpful to make it more stable and sustainable. This could placate opposition by nationalists and leftists. Japan’s dilemma would be resolved through this way.