Japan eyes first foray into Indian defence market

India-Japan PMsPrime Minister Manmohan Singh shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Abe Shinzo after exchanging documents they signed in Tokyo. (PTI)

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh endorsed his Japanese counterpart's idea of a new Indo-Pacific strategic axis, the two countries Wednesday agreed to form a joint working group to set up the sale of the first platform with defence uses out of Japan — the US2 amphibious aircraft.

The JWG will also examine the possibilities of co-production of these aircraft in India, which would make it the symbol of Japan's entry into the defence market after decades of a self-imposed ban on such exports.

The two leaders also agreed to revive talks on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which has been stuck for about two years, by directing their officials to accelerate the process.

"The negotiations will be accelerated for an early conclusion of an agreement for peaceful uses of nuclear energy," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after bilateral deliberations.

Further, the Japanese side indicated support for India's full membership to international export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers group, where its delegation had raised some doubts about India's domestic export lists.

"Both sides expressed their commitment to continue to work to prepare the ground for India to become a full member in the international export control regimes," said the joint statement issued after the talks.

It also said that both leaders "recognised the importance of an effective national export control system conforming to the highest international standards".

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai later elaborated that the Indian side had briefed partners including Japan on the updated SCOMET list, and that the language in the joint statement should be read as an endorsement of India's efforts domestically as well as support to its bid for full membership to the NSG.

The SCOMET list includes items that can be used for both military and civilian purposes.

Sources added that the Japanese government had shied away from a more definitive formulation because the Abe government is still working to achieve domestic consensus for bi-partisan support for engagement with India, a non-NPT country, on nuclear issues.

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