Japan’s parliament approved Wednesday a civilian nuclear cooperation treaty with India, despite opposition concerns that technology exported to the non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty could be used in military applications.
The treaty could come into effect as early as next month. It was passed by the ruling coalition’s majority in the House of Councillors, having cleared the House of Representatives, which has constitutional supremacy in matters of treaties, last month.
Opponents of the pact have argued that it does not sufficiently dissuade India from resuming nuclear tests, clashing with Japan’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation as the only country to have suffered wartime atomic bombings.
India conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 without joining the NPT regime, which is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Its neighbor Pakistan is also thought to possess nuclear weapons, having conducted tests in 1998, fuelling speculation that a fresh test by Pakistan could prompt India to follow suit.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the export of nuclear power technology part of its growth strategy, but Japanese nuclear technology makers and power companies look increasingly less able to expand their business overseas.
Huge losses from Toshiba Corp.’s U.S. nuclear business have prompted the conglomerate’s worst-ever financial crisis, while power companies are putting their energy into getting shuttered domestic plants back online under regulations tightened after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in March 2011.
The treaty limits the cooperation to civilian purposes by forbidding India from using the technology and equipment to develop atomic explosive devices and requiring the country to accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
India is allowed to reprocess nuclear materials and byproducts supplied under the pact, but cannot make highly enriched uranium, which has the potential to be used in the production of nuclear weapons, except with Japan’s agreement.
Japan and India confirmed in an annex to the treaty that Tokyo will halt the nuclear deal if New Delhi breaks its 2008 promise to maintain a moratorium on nuclear testing.
The Democratic Party and other opposition parties have taken issue with the fact that this deal was not included in the body of the treaty, saying there is insufficient legal guarantee to limit the exported technology to civilian use.
The governments of Japan and India began negotiating the pact in 2010. It was signed in November last year during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan.