Do you see the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh as marking a new beginning in Indo-Japanese ties?
The Japan-India relationship is a most important bilateral tie-up. Back in 2000 (prime minister Yoshiro) Mori visited India and an agreement on global partnership was reached. Last year, (prime minister Junichiro) Koizumi visited India and agreed on an eight-fold initiative to build the global partnership. And now, during PM Singh's visit to Japan, I shall like to discuss the matter with him and come to an agreement so that we can take the mutual bilateral relationship to a higher level of strategic global partnership. Using the analogy of the field sport of hop, step and jump, the coming visit of Dr Singh to Japan will form this final stage of jump, thereby enhancing the Japan-India relationship in a greater and dramatic manner. This visit marks the beginning of a new era in the Japan-India relationship.
Will your government support India when the nuclear issue comes before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?
In the NSG meetings there have been significant discussions concerning the US-India (nuclear) agreement. As you know, Japan is the only country that experienced an atomic bomb (attack). So our ultimate objective is the total abolition of nuclear arms. We are actively deploying our activities towards that end. We place utmost importance on nuclear non-proliferation. Based on this stance, I would like to have discussions with Dr Singh.
How do you see Japan's foreign policy towards India vis-a-vis Pakistan? Do you see India emerging as a leader in Asia in fighting terrorism?
Japan and India share the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. The relationship between the two countries is based on shared values and interests. This should be the bedrock for the potentials and the opportunities between us. In that sense, I wish to bring the Japan-India relationship to the level of strategic global partnership. India suffered from a bomb attack in Delhi last October as well as simultaneous bomb attacks in trains in Mumbai in July this year. India, indeed, has been in the forefront of the fight against terrorism. India has been playing a very important role in the international community in the fight against terrorism, it being the first proponent for the negotiations on a comprehensive treaty on prevention of terrorism. Japan and India are firm partners in the fight against terrorism.
The clandestine role of Pakistan in North Korea's nuclear programme is now well documented. How do you propose to address the issue?
I understand the government of Pakistan denies any involvement in the proliferation of nuclear-related technology to North Korea. Whatever the form it may have been in, the proliferation of nuclear-related technology by Dr (A.Q.) Khan is regrettable. And we have conveyed our view to Pakistan and asked for related information for the purpose of investigation. So our firm position is that possession of nuclear arms by North Korea will never be tolerated. We'd like to make the coming six-party talk a forum where, as a first step, North Korea will be asked for total abolition of all nuclear arms and an (end to its) existing nuclear programme. I say this because holding the six-party talk itself is not the end in itself. We will be gathering there to review the result and outcome, therefore, we would like to make it a first step towards that end.
Mr Prime Minister, what precise strategic content do you have in mind that would enable the scripting of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (EPA) between India and Japan?
The extent of the coverage of the agreement will be discussed in the first round of negotiations, but in any case I'd like to make the EPA comprehensive, covering not only the services of liberalisation but also the concerning provisions to maintain other trade-related activities. I do believe that there is still a large room of potentiality and opportunity yet to be tapped in our relationship. And I am confident that conclusion of EPA between the two countries will bring large benefits to both our countries, for the sake of our future.
After this visit by Dr Manmohan Singh, will India get most favoured nation status from Japan?
As I mentioned, I do firmly believe the Japan-India relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world and in that sense I am very much looking forward to the active exchange of views with PM Singh. In that discussion, of course, we will naturally be discussing economic and business matters as well.
This interview appeared earlier on the website on December 8, 2006