P K Sundaram

Because Japan shouldn’t compensate for its Fukushima losses by exporting nuclear technology to other countries. Because the Indian govt is violently imposing reactor projects on its people who are up in protest against the unsafe, uneconomic and undesirable nuclear expansion. Because going for nuclear reactors after Fukushima doesn’t make sense at all.

The agreement

Having secured majority in both the houses of the Japanese parliament in the July elections, the LDP government has decided to re-start the negotiations with India for a nuclear agreement.  This time Prime Minister Abe seems more confident of sailing through the internal opposition to opening doors for nuclear supplies to India. Last time, despite positive noises on both sides on the eve of the Indian PM’s visit to Tokyo, the final joint statement did not even mention the word nuclear.

While Japan seeks to compensate for the huge economic losses incurred due to the ongoing nuclear accident in Fukushima, for India the agreement with Japan has pivotal importance for two reasons. Firstly, an accord with Japan is a requisite for the planned imported reactor projects in Mithi Virdi, Kovvada and Jaitapur as Japanese manufacturers supply some crucial components used in the American and French reactors. Also, the US nuclear corporates GE and Westinghouse are now owened by Japanese companies Hitachi and Toshiba and this necessitates a formal agreement with Japan for the US-imported reactor projects to take off in India.

Secondly, the agreement with Japan would be an important diplomatic achievement for the Indian government as it would mark the final end of nuclear embargo that India’s has been facing ever since its 1974 nuclear test, which it conducted by diverting nuclear material that it acquired from other countries under peaceful rubric. When the US engineered India’s re-entry into international nuclear commerce in 2008 by pushing the Nuclear Suppliers Group to exempt India, the atomic bomb survivors from Nagasaki wrote a protest letter saying it would be a bad precedent to effectively reward India, while the world is grappling with new and potential proliferators like North Korea and Iran. But to ensure India’s diplomatic bandwagoning and rehabilitate the nuclear corporates who have been facing terminal crisis in the West, the US changed the global nuclear regime to India’s favour.

The agreement is so important for India that in August it deployed Ashwini Kumar, an ex-minister who had to resign after the coal block scam, as the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Tokyo. The Japanese PM Mr. Shinzo Abe will be visiting India in October  and Japan’s royal couple’s visit in November-end will follow shortly. The two countries would try hard to finalise the nuclear agreement in this season of diplomatic parlays.

 Voices of protest

Both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Declarations this year on the anniversary of the nuclear bombings in Japan mentioned the India-Japan agreement as a departure from japan’s long standing policy to respect NPT and promote nculear disarmament internationally. The Nagasaki Declaration said “Japan’s cooperation with India would also provide North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT and is committed to nuclear development, with an excuse to justify its actions, hindering efforts toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Echoing similar concerns, Hiroshima’s mayor said in his statement that the India-Japan agreement is likely to hinder nuclear weapons abolition.

Earlier this year, in May during the Indian PM’s visit to Tokyo, several groups registered strong protests jointly and independently. 335 civil groups in Japan issued a statement saying “We are outraged that…the governments of Japan and India are forging ahead with negotiations for a nuclear cooperation agreement. We who experienced the Fukushima nuclear accident are reminded daily of what a nuclear disaster does to people’s lives and to the environment.” An international appeal against the nuclear agreement was signed by more than 2000 people from nearly 50 countries, urged that “the governments of both countries must refrain from promoting nuclear commerce, jeopardising the health and safety of their people and environments.”

In her forward letter to the Prime Ministers of India and Japan on the occasion, eminent Indian social activist Lalita Ramdas suggested the two countries to strengthen their bilateral relations by together using the lessons of Fukushima and promoting sustainable energy solutions. She wrote:

“we want you to use this opportunity to welcome the assistance and collaboration with our Japanese friends in finding practical solutions and making the investments so necessary in renewable energy – especially solar and wind. Recent press reports speak of the Green Phoenix rising from the Ashes. Their aim is to be totally self sufficient from renewable sources alone in Fukushima Prefecture by 2040. Imagine that India, China and Japan could together transform the global energy scenario into a safer, cleaner and certainly greener future. This could be a wonderful moment for Asia and one on which there is need for powerful, independent and collective leadership!”

 
The agreement would further nuclear insanity in India

The nuclear agreement with Japan will provide a boost to the Indian government’s anachronistic nuclear power ambitions that it is following in complete denial of Fukushima. Huge, expensive and untested reactors projects are being implemented at places like Jaitapur, Koodankulam, Mithi Virdi, Kovvada, Gorakhpur, Mahi Banswada, and Chutka where local residents have been peacefully protesting for last several years. These projects are being pushed undemocratically and violently on the people whose safety and livelihoods are at stake. The government has violated its own safety rules and reactor siting norms in order to placate the western nuclear suppliers whom it has promised huge orders. In August when Fukushima took a turn for the worse and the news about massive leaks of highly radioactive water broke out, the Indian nuclear establishment was busy promising a workaround for the liability norms for the domestic and foreign suppliers in a meeting of industry chambers. The Department of Atomic Energy has officially sought an exemption from the Right to Information Act recently, which would mean complete removal of public scrutiny for it. Emboldened by its treacherous conquest of Koodankulam, the government will push these projects more vigorously if the Japan-India nuclear agreement culminates.

While the world is still grappling with the implications of the Fukushima meltdowns, completion of the Japan-India nuclear agreement would be anachronistic. It would strengthen the insanity of India’s imposing nuclear reactors on its people against their will. It would further fuel the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan and would provide the ultimate legitimacy for India’s nuclear tests. The agreement would destabilize the Asian continent by promoting the ill-conceived strategy of India and Japan encircling China.