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How Pranab won Japan over

March 24, 2007 14:16 IST

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday concluded his visit to Japan during which he sought Tokyo's support for the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and initiated steps to add depth to India-Japan strategic and global partnership, including in the areas of defence and security cooperation.

During his first official visit to Japan as the external affairs minister, Mukherjee called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and held talks with his counterpart Taro Aso, launching the first Ministerial-level Strategic Dialogue between the two nations.

Mukherjee and Aso exchanged views on ways to enhance cooperation on regional, multilateral and global issues. They reached a common understanding that India and Japan have a responsibility to respond to regional and global challenges and they must play an active role in the promotion of peace and stability in Asia and the world as a whole.

The first-ever Strategic Dialogue with his counterpart, Aso on Thursday was fruitful, he said.

During his talks and public speeches, Mukherjee urged Japan to look at India's "impeccable" non-proliferation record and back the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement at the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting.

"I am very conscious of the sentiments of the Japanese people on nuclear matters," Mukherjee said on the nuclear issue, a sensitive subject which is now hotly debated within the academic circles in Japan.

"However, I also trust in your wisdom to discern what lies at the heart of our efforts to secure stable energy supplies," he said while speaking on the 'Significance of India-Japan Relations.'

"India has an impeccable record on non-proliferation. We have also consistently been a leading advocate of the elimination of all nuclear weapons. I believe that Japanese are aware of India's adherence to the values of peace and non-violence," Mukherjee said.

The minister also told reporters that Japan can play an important role in amending the NSG guideline to ensure backing of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

He also reiterated that India's strategic nuclear programme is completely separate from the civilian nuclear energy programme.

Mukherjee met Japanese Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma and his predecessor Fukushiro Nukaga, whom Mukherjee had called on during his visit here in May 2006 as India's defence minister.

The meeting is viewed as significant since the navies of the two countries are expected to hold the first exercise next month as part of the efforts to step up defence and security cooperation between the two major Asian powers.

"Our cooperation in ensuring the safety and security of sea lanes of communication, combating piracy and terrorism, search and rescue, and disaster relief must define our shared desire to contribute to Asian economic growth and security," Mukherjee said at the prestigious Japan Institute of International Affairs, a major Japanese think-tank.

"Unless we can guarantee the free transit of energy and trade between the Suez Canal and the Western Pacific, Asia's economic vision may remain incomplete," he said, noting that these routes supplied 60 per cent of the world's energy requirements.

During the Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, India and Japan decided to set up five Working Groups on Electricity and Power Generation, Energy Efficiency, Coal, Renewable Energy and Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Mukherjee and the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Amari also reached a common understanding on the modalities for the bilateral consultation mechanism for high technology trade.

This mechanism would facilitate bilateral high technology trade and address matters relating to respective export control systems of the two sides.

India also welcomed Japan as an observer country at SAARC. They shared the view that the next SAARC Summit, to be hosted by New Delhi in April in which Japan will participate for the first time, would be an occasion to enhance links between SAARC countries and the East Asian region.

Mukherjee and Aso shared the view that it is important to strengthen regional cooperation to tackle issues such as energy security, environment, natural disasters, terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

They reiterated their readiness to cooperate in the process of community building in the Asian region and shared the view that it would be important to foster the East Asia Summit as a pillar of East Asian community building in the future.

India and Japan reaffirmed that the two countries would continue to cooperate on the basis of progress which was made during the second EAS in January this year.

The Ministers also reaffirmed that they will continue close cooperation towards early realisation of UNSC reforms which is the common objective of the two countries.

They said that the initiative by the G-4 countries (India, Japan, Brazil and Germany) has played an important role in this endeavour and they will continue to utilise this framework as well as close dialogue with important partners.

All aspects of the comprehensive economic engagement between India and Japan under the Special Economic Partnership Initiative were reviewed.

Mukerjee also met with the Japanese Minister for Land Infrastructure and Transport, Tetsuzo Fuyushiba and Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki.
A K Joseph in Tokyo
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