Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal: A Landmark of Japanese Foreign Policy?

During the era of the Fukuda administration, I wrote a post on Japan’s position between the US-Indian nuclear deal and domestic anti-nuclear sentiment. While the Bush administration pursued closer nuclear energy cooperation with India, the Japanese government in those days was hesitant, because this country is not an NPT member. However, supposedly more liberal DPJ administration has overturned the policy, and decided to reach a nuclear accord with India. Considering deep rooted postwar pacifism, this is a drastic change of Japanese foreign and national security policy. Strangely enough, the nuclear deal was not a key agenda in the national election for the House of Councilors on July 11 this year. The media needs to pay much more attention to this nuclear deal, in order to provoke nationwide debates on Japanese nuclear non-proliferation policy. Does the Indo-Japanese deal imply that Japan will declare a farewell to postwar pacifism, and explore active commitment on the global stage?

To begin with, let me present an overview of this issue. Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said it was a tough decision, but Japan could not go against the global trend. Ever since Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a nuclear accord with US President George W. Bush, many countries have followed, including France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia. Also, Britain has signed a joint declaration on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and finalized a bilateral pact with India. So did Canada late this June. Furthermore, South Korea has begun to explore nuclear deals with India (“Japan relents, to start Nuclear deal talks with India”; Pakistan Defence; June 25, 2010). Although India is out of NPT and CTBT, this rapidly growing market attracts considerable attention from businessmen around the globe. In addition, as the Bush administration said, India, as the largest English speaking democracy, is a new strategic partner in the War on Terror. It is understandable that Foreign Minister Okada says that Japan cannot go against the global trend.

The problem is, Japan has not launched any foreign policy initiatives to renew postwar pacifism, but simply responded to strong request by the United States and France. Both General Electric of the US and Areva of France use Japanese equipments and appliances to build their nuclear reactors. Also, Hitachi and Toshiba are concerned that they will lose competitions in prospective Indian market (“U.S., France press for Japan-India nuclear deal – Nikkei”; Reuters; June 9, 2010).

Business opportunity is not the only reason for endorsing Japanese commitment to civilian nuclear projects in India. Currently, 50% of Indian electricity comes from coal, and it is a critical problem to lower greenhouse gas emission (“India Needs Civil Nuclear Energy: The Case for Dynamic Business”; Nikkei ECO JAPAN; June 16, 2010). In any case, center left Kan administration moved rightward, regarding India.

Professor Yasuhiko Yoshida of Osaka University of Economics and Law insists that Japan should not be obsessed with NPT, and seize this opportunity to deepen relations with India to build a Greater East Asian Community. Also, he points out that India has not proliferated nuclear weapons, unlike Pakistan did through the Khan network (“The Case for the Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal”; Professor Y. Yoshida’s Website; July 1, 2007).

However, Japanese public opinion is not so lenient to India as Yoshida. The Nagasaki Global Citizens' Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, an anti-nuclear NGO, sent a letter of protest to Foreign Minister Okada, as India is out of global non-proliferation regime (“Nagasaki NGO Blames Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal”; Mainichi Shimbun; July 10, 2010). Both liberal Asahi and conservative Yomiuri are concerned that a double standard will provoke Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea to claim their right for nuclear possession (“Does Japan Have Non-proliferation Strategy?”; Asahi Shimbun; June 28, 2010 and “Demand Nuclear Arms Cut and Non-Proliferation As Well”; Yomiuri Shimbun; June 30, 2010).

The bilateral talk began when Japanese Prime Minister-then Yukio Hatoyama visited India to talk with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 29 last year. Although Hatoyama was reluctant to start civil nuclear cooperation, negotiations for the nuclear deal proceeded through 2+2 talks by foreign and defense deputy ministers of both countries (Indo-Japan civil nuclear cooperation deal on”; Himalayan Times; July 6, 2010). The nuclear deal will be finalized in November or December when Prime Minister Singh visits Tokyo, along with agreements on other issues including counterterrorism and anti-piracy (“India, Japan to fast-track n-deal”; India Vision; July 7, 2010).

I do not oppose the deal itself, as India is a key strategic partner, prospective market, and the largest English speaking democracy. Also, it is a possible counterbalance against China. The problem is, the nuclear deal provoke a power game in South Asia. Barack Obama did not like to help India’s nuclear ambition through the nuclear deal signed by George W. Bush, as he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Having balanced the relations with India and his lofty dream, Obama accepted the Bush endorsed deal, and decided not to help Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan turned to China for help in building nuclear reactors. This will lead Indo-Pakistani rivalry to get intensified (“Pakistan, India and the anti-nuclear rules: Clouds of hypocrisy”; Economist; June 24, 2010). This implies that China does not respect Obama’s dream cited in the Prague speech at all.

In parallel with the nuclear deal with India, the Japanese government must explore new non proliferation regime in South Asia along with other NSG members, in order to stop Indo-Pakistani nuclear competition. This deal is a fundamental change of Japanese foreign policy, in view of postwar pacifism and anti-nuclear sentiment. Will Japan move beyond the Hiroshima-Nagasaki trauma? In the last election, none of the candidates talked of such a vital agenda. This is not just a matter of relations with India. It is a matter of Japan’s national identity in the new century and standpoint on the global stage.