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11/20/2014

Strategic networking in the Indo-Pacific - The Hindu

Opinion Lead
Strategic networking in the Indo-Pacific
Rakesh Sood
Indias look-east policy is maturing, with diplomatic and political linkages built up with Asian forums providing the Modi government
a foundation to establish overlapping non-formal networks based on strategic convergences. Outreach with Japan and Australia are the
building blocks

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modis diplomatic outreach covered two established democracies of the AsiaPacific, Japan and Australia. The outcomes reflect the geostrategic shift from the Euro-Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific and
together, the two engagements provide interesting insights into Mr. Modis foreign policy agenda and diplomatic style.
The personal chemistry between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mr. Modi was evident during Mr. Modis
Japan visit. Extra time spent together in Kyoto feeding the carp and at the tea ceremony sent its own message and
further cemented the personal rapport between the two leaders. They come from very different socio-economic
backgrounds but their shared sense of nationalism and destiny has drawn them to discover strategic convergences
in their respective world views.
Both believe in the Asian century and are convinced that Japan as a normal state and an economically resurgent
India can, together, be a force of stability and prosperity in the region. This sentiment can nurture a potential defence
relationship, which for the first time finds prominent mention in the Tokyo Declaration.
The erstwhile strategic and global partnership with Japan has been elevated to a Special Strategic and Global
Partnership, but negotiators were unable to bridge differences on the civil nuclear cooperation agreement that has
been on the table now for over two years. Clearly, notwithstanding personal chemistry at the top, diligent homework
and deft domestic political management are necessary, in democratic societies, to change deeply ingrained mindsets.
Civil nuclear opening
Both sides are aware of the complexity of the negotiations, and for Japan (the only country to have suffered a nuclear
attack), Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain vivid memories. So while it enjoys the security of a nuclear umbrella provided
by the United States under a bilateral security treaty, it had taken a highly critical view of Indias nuclear tests. The
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which India cannot be a party to, remains an article of
blind faith for Japan. Therefore, it was a breakthrough in 2011 when Japan agreed to open negotiations with us on civil
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11/20/2014

Strategic networking in the Indo-Pacific - The Hindu

nuclear cooperation. Yet, there is a long way to go, as three issues remain divisive. One, Japan would like India to sign
the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), while Indias position is that it will maintain a moratorium on
testing. Two, India seeks to retain the right to reprocess spent fuel while providing assurances that this will only be
under safeguards and for peaceful purposes, whereas Japan would like India to accept restrictions on its basic right to
reprocess. Interestingly, Japan possesses a huge stockpile of reprocessed plutonium, more than 40 MT, of which threefourths are stored in the United Kingdom and France. Third, Japan wants India to accept inspections over and above
what India has agreed to with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), under national flagging, which India
finds unacceptable. In short, India cannot accept more obligations than those negotiated in 2008 with the U.S., which
provided for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver.
Out-of-the-box thinking
Therefore, some out-of-the-box thinking is needed to conclude the India-Japan agreement, which not only has
significant symbolic value, but is also crucial because Japanese companies supply critical components, including the
massive 400 MT special steel Reactor Pressure Vessels, for the Westinghouse, GE and Areva nuclear power plants.

Notwithstanding
personal chemistry
at the top, diligent
homework and deft
domestic political
management are
necessary, in
democratic
societies, to change
deeply ingrained

One way would be to accelerate the process of Indias membership into the ad hoc
export control regimes NSG, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR),
Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement, a reference to which has also
been made in the Tokyo Declaration. Second, 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the
Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and it is likely that Japan will want to mark this
event. This will provide an opportunity for India, given its long-standing
commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world, to conceive of and launch a new
disarmament initiative together with Japan. Such approaches can help create an
environment conducive to concluding pending negotiations.
Shift with Australia
Coincidentally, the highlight of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbotts visit to
India was also the signing of the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, under
negotiation since 2011. Once again, though Australias security is guaranteed by the
U.S. nuclear umbrella, it has remained insensitive to Indias security concerns arising
out of Chinese proliferation activity in Pakistan. In 1996, when India decided to
withdraw from CTBT negotiations citing national security concerns, Australia
flagrantly disregarded international law and took the lead in introducing a provision
that made the CTBT entry into force contingent on India signing and ratifying it! In
1998, it was one of the most vociferous critics of Indias nuclear tests. Patient

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11/20/2014

mindsets

Strategic networking in the Indo-Pacific - The Hindu

diplomacy and changing geopolitics in the region persuaded Australia to develop a


better appreciation of Indias stabilising influence.

With a third of global uranium reserves, Australia exports nearly 7,000 MT of


yellowcake annually. In 2008, it began exporting to China and in 2010, to Russia also. With India, our non-adherence
to the NPT remained a stumbling block, especially with the Labor party, till Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
reversed the policy and opened the door for negotiations. While Indias requirements, at 1,000 MT annually, are
modest and we also have supply arrangements with Canada, Mongolia, France and Kazakhstan, among others, the
agreement with Australia has enormous symbolic value because of our vexed relationship on the whole nuclear nonproliferation issue.
Mr. Abbotts statements about India calling it a model international citizen, a country that threatens no one and is
a friend to many and the worlds emerging democratic superpower marks a change in Australian perceptions.
Commercial aspects are relevant but need to be seen in perspective: Australias uranium exports earn $1 billion while
its iron ore exports are estimated at over $60 billion! And given that Australia supported the NSG waiver for India in
2008, its inconsistent position of not permitting civilian nuclear cooperation with India was becoming more absurd.
However, it was a change in Labor policy and adequate diplomatic homework that enabled Mr. Abbott to declare, when
the agreement was signed, that there exists a high level of trust between the two countries and Australia will be a
reliable long term supplier for Indias uranium needs.
So the shift with Australia has to be seen in strategic terms, with potential cooperation areas identified as counterterrorism, cybersecurity, transnational crimes, disaster management and maritime security. New trilateral and
quadrilateral dialogue platforms are being mentioned, involving both Japan and the U.S. A natural corollary to these
dialogue platforms are joint maritime exercises.
New equations
In recent years, such exercises have led to Chinese concerns being aired; Mr. Modis visit to Tokyo was carefully
monitored in Beijing not least because President Xi Jinping is expected next week. Official reaction was muted, but
some media reports described an India-Japan strategic relationship as a crazy fantasy generated by Tokyos anxiety of
facing a rising China.
Later this month, Mr. Modi will have his first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, where, in addition to the
Asia-Pacific, the nuclear issue will come into focus. The U.S. played a crucial role getting India the NSG waiver in 2008,
which cleared the way for negotiations with France, the U.S. and Russia for the next generation of Light Water Reactors
and enabled uranium fuel imports that have improved efficiency in our indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors
to above 80 per cent. After the Nuclear Liability Law in 2010, negotiations with foreign suppliers hit a roadblock.
However, even domestic suppliers have similar concerns that are impacting indigenous expansion plans.
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Strategic networking in the Indo-Pacific - The Hindu

The ratification of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol within a month of taking charge
indicated that the Modi government considered nuclear power expansion an integral part of long-term energy security.
However, forward movement will depend on resolving the dilemmas created by our liability laws and addressing
supplier concerns in a transparent and legally tenable manner.
The look-east policy launched by Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1992 is maturing. Diplomatic and political
linkages built up with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a dialogue partner, as part of platforms
such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit and ASEAN Defence Ministers (plus) Meeting provide the
Modi government a good foundation to establish overlapping non-formal networks based on strategic convergences.
Outreach with Japan and Australia are vital building blocks; new equations need to be built with Indonesia and
Vietnam, while Singapore will remain the tested friend and sounding board for the Modi government as it gears up for
the Prime Ministers meetings with Mr. Xi and Mr. Obama, followed by the East Asia Summit in Myanmar and the G20
summit in Brisbane, and coupled now with the return bilateral visit to Australia.
(Rakesh Sood, a former Ambassador, was the Prime Ministers Special Envoy for Disarmament and NonProliferation till May 2014. E-mail: rakeshsood2001@yahoo.com)
Keywords: strategic networking, Indo-Pacific, Nuclear Liability Law, IAEA, Narendra Modi, G20 summit, Tokyo
Declaration, nuclear issue, Asia-Pacific
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