The nuclear-power industry was considered to be one of Japan’s declining industries, at least until the Democratic Party’s government turned the tables on this bleak situation in 2009. After 77 industry leaders and scholars, including former diplomat Kaneko Kumao, presented a proposal placing ‘nuclear power … at the heart of the energy policy’, nuclear renaissance was ushered in Japan. The then-ruling Yukio Hatoyama cabinet re-evaluated Japan’s generation of nuclear power and aimed for its revival and restoration through an increase in the number of both domestic and international power plants. Likewise, after the formation of the Naoto Kan cabinet in June 2010, a New Growth Strategy was formulated, whereby nuclear energy would be exported to other countries.

The international movement of nuclear materials, including those related to nuclear power intended for civil and peaceful use, necessitates a nuclear-cooperation agreement based on the clauses of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In countries without a nuclear-cooperation agreement, both nuclear-power cooperation and import/export of related materials are forbidden by international law. Japan currently has signed such agreements with the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, China, France and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). And while an agreement with Kazakhstan was recently signed, a ratifying proposal to enter into agreements with Russia, Korea, Vietnam and Jordan sits at the Parliament. Suddenly added to this list is India, a country marked by remarkable economic growth but one that is not a signatory to the NPT and has performed nuclear-weapons tests. In June 2010, then-Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya announced the start of negotiations for bilateral nuclear cooperation. Three days later, the first meeting was held in Tokyo.

In 1969, India launched its first nuclear-power-sales operation. During the latter half of the Cold War, the US, Great Britain, France, the USSR and China grew tremendously in their nuclear capabilities, and in 1968 the NPT was introduced to check the spread of nuclear-weapon states. India found it unfair that the treaty only allowed already-nuclear countries to be nuclear-weapon states, and refused to sign. As a then-non-nuclear-weapon state, it also refused to be subjected to IAEA safeguard (compliance testing) clauses meant to prevent unauthorised use of nuclear materials. Instead, India quietly continued its nuclear development and, in 1974, conducted its first nuclear test. In response to this, and also because India was aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the international community created the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and banned India from participating in international nuclear cooperation and trade.

Interview with CNIC’s International Liaison Officer

The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), a Tokyo-based NGO, is reacting sharply to the initiation of negotiations between Tokyo and New Delhi in regard to nuclear industry cooperation.On June 29, the CNIC sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Naoto Kan and several other ministers arguing that the Japanese government is now “on the verge of abandoning” its commitment to the use of nuclear power for strictly peaceful purposes.”If Japan concludes a nuclear cooperation agreement with India on the grounds that other countries – including the United States, Russia, and France – have done so, or because it is in Japan’s commercial interest to do so, it will become impossible to prevent nuclear proliferation. We will be doomed to repeat the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” the authors wrote.The letter also points out, “It is impossible to completely separate military and civilian workers, education, technology, and equipment within a single country.”

In relation to this issue, PanOrient News interviewed Philip White, the international liaison officer of the CNIC, at a location in the suburbs of Tokyo.

White points out that the entire nuclear nonproliferation regime is based on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). This treaty stipulates that all nations, other than the five permanent members of the UNSC, are provided the right to use nuclear energy only on the strict condition that they abandon all efforts to build nuclear weapons.

India, however, is one of only three nations that never signed the NPT, and it has, in fact, developed an arsenal of nuclear weapons outside of the international legal framework.

White contends that the Nuclear Suppliers Group approved cooperation with India under “massive arm-twisting” from the Bush administration and some other powers, and that many countries agreed to the measure – or abstained on the vote – only so as to avoid a head-on collision with US power.

White believes that Tokyo, with its special history, should not roll over, even if some people would regard Japan’s resistance as merely symbolic.

“I think that symbolism is extremely important,” says White. “Japan’s nuclear industry is actually quite strategically placed within the global nuclear industry. Japan has massive bargaining power.”

“But has it got the courage and commitment to use it?”


After the end of the Cold War, although India switched its economic alignment, it could not obtain nuclear cooperation from other states because it was still not a signatory to the NPT. Nonetheless, in 1998 India performed a second nuclear testing, inviting as a consequence a nuclear testing of its own by Pakistan, with whom India had already fought three wars post-Independence. Immediately following Pakistan’s nuclear testing, the world regarded South Asia as a region at the highest risk of nuclear warfare.

Entering into this century, India has the second-highest population in the world, a large portion of which consists of the younger generation. With an average annual economic growth rate of eight percent, it is a rising superpower with a rising need for energy to fuel and sustain that growth. Currently, Indian nuclear-power plants generate only about three percent of the country’s total domestically produced energy, while coal-fired power makes up 69 percent of the supply. In a bid to raise the production to 950 megawatts in 30 years, the Indian government began seeking nuclear-power expansion and international nuclear cooperation.

The administration of President George Bush, in response to an appeal from the industrial world and in its diplomatic tactic to keep China in check, entered into nuclear cooperation with India. This meant that India, despite being a non-signatory to the NPT, would be the sixth nuclear-weapon state with international approval in developing the nuclear weapons. In 2008, the US and India formally entered into a nuclear-cooperation agreement, and the former made sure that the international community recognised an India-specific exemption from the NSG and IAEA International Regulations. Going forward, India’s nuclear-power facilities for ‘civil consumer use’ will be subjected to IAEA safeguards; however, military-designated establishments will be exempt from inspection. In other words, India can both increase nuclear-power production with international help as well as continue to develop its nuclear weapons.

The hitherto-declining nuclear industry met the Indian opening-up with warm welcome. After the US, France, Russia and Canada entered into cooperation agreements with India, and each authorised nuclear-power-plant-construction projects in the latter. Korea followed soon after Japan entered into negotiations in mid-2010. At first, the current Japanese government tried to convince its people of the need to enter into nuclear-cooperation agreements with other countries, citing nuclear-weapon production at large, the increase in the competition for nuclear advancement, and its own experience with being a victim of nuclear bombings as reasons for doing so.

Japanese nuclear-power companies, however, feared that waiting for the people’s consent could delay their entry in the large Indian market, and increased pressure on the government to act fast. This led to the sudden decision to begin negotiations for a nuclear-cooperation agreement with India. Foreign Minister Okada called this a ‘bitter option’, saying that ‘excluding India from international cooperation agreements to solve the nuclear issue [was] not realistic.’ Nonetheless, there was no more public discussion in Japan, and no more than the government’s announcement of what had already been decided in closed quarters.

No approval
A nuclear-cooperation agreement with India shakes the very core of the path that post-World War II Japan has walked – its fundamental policy of non-nuclear proliferation. Within the country, public opinion chiding the decision has spread rapidly, especially in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Forced by these dissenting views, Foreign Minister Okada in August 2010 suggested that ‘if India perform[ed] a nuclear bomb test again, [Japan would] have no choice but to put a stop to this cooperation.’ However, the Indian government, with a dislike of any foreign intervention on domestic policy, rejected Okada’s condition, and in November 2010 negotiations with India entered into what the Ministry of Foreign Affiliate called ‘a strict state’.

After the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima plants following the earthquake-triggered tsunami on 11 March, the world, once again, woke up to the seriousness of the danger of nuclear-power generation. In India, public opposition to its plan of building a new large-scale nuclear-power plant on its west coastline intensified. And despite reports of casualties following police gunfire at the site, public movement against uranium-mining sites, nuclear weaponry and nuclear-power generation is growing in the country. In its 26 March edition, India Today even urged the government to reconsider the whole concept of nuclear-power generation. Influential scholars have also specifically appealed that ‘Japan’s nuclear crisis is a wake-up call for India,’ and these statements are gathering more support by the day. The Indian government, however, remains rigid in its plans to expand nuclear-power generation, and has said that it ‘will continue negotiations with Japan’.

The Japanese technology that India wants to buy is meant to be ‘earthquake resistant’, but the Fukushima disaster has proved that no such thing exists. Advocates who say that Japan-India relations will be solidified through nuclear-power cooperation have no choice but to recognise that nuclear-power export to India is fraught with risks. The arguments they have presented for nuclear cooperation with India are one-sided, to say the least. In order for India to enter into a nuclear-cooperation agreement with Japan, participation in the NPT and complete compliance under IAEA are the required conditions. However, advocates for nuclear-cooperation expansion have decided to blatantly ignore this, calling India’s non-signatory to the NPT an ‘application problem’ and dismissing public opposition by labelling critics ‘NPT fundamentalists’.

fter the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fiasco at the Fukushima nuclear plant, what is desired of Japan is to not export nuclear technology to India but to warn it about the concomitant continued suffering felt to this day. The Japanese government should realise that advocates of nuclear energy have been selling an empty ‘safety myth’ to the people of both Japan and India, without any consideration for the day-to-day lives of these people. In a volte face on 15 July, Prime Minister Kan suspended the bilateral talks, calling instead for Japan’s eventual exit from nuclear power. However, fear of lagging behind in global nuclear competition will most likely force Japanese bureaucrats and diplomats to negotiate a new, favourable nuclear policy, especially after Kan’s self-imposed early retirement. One can only hope that the post-Kan cabinet realises that Japanese citizens do not approve of an increase in economic profit through export of nuclear power technology. The Japanese do not want to ransom our pain, that of having to face radioactivity in our daily lives, to India or to any other nation.

~ Fukunaga Masaaki, PhD (Sociology, Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi), is assistant director and professor at the Centre for South Asian Studies, at Gifu Women’s University, Gifu, Japan. Contact: [email protected]