Making A Difference

'Hop, Step And Jump'

In an exclusive interview, the Japanese Prime Minister says that when it comes to supporting India in the NSG on the Indo-US nuke deal, utmost importance will be on nuclear non-proliferation.

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'Hop, Step And Jump'
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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's office is an architectural marvel.Spiffy and elegant, the foyer has exquisite installations and sculptures. Theprime minister, immaculately dressed in a pin-stripped suit, meets me in a wood-panelledante-room. A hand-shake, and the interview begins.

Do you think the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh marks a new beginning inIndo-Japanese ties?

The Japan-India relationship is the most important bilateral relation. Backin 2000 (Prime Minister Yoshiro) Mori visited India and an agreement on globalpartnership was reached. Last year (Junichiro) Koizumi visited India and agreedon an eight-fold initiative to build the global partnership. During PM Singh'svisit to Japan next week, I shall like to discuss the matter with him and cometo an agreement so that we can take the mutual bilateral relationship to ahigher level of strategic global partnership. Using the analogy of the fieldsport of hop, step and jump, the coming visit of Mr Singh to Japan will formthis final stage of jump, thereby enhance the Japan-India relationship in agreater and dramatic manner. In that sense this visit would mark the beginningof bilateral relationship at a new level and with a new dimension. This visitmarks the beginning of a new era in the Japan-India relationship.

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Will your government support India when the nuclear issue comes before theNuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)?

I am of the view that in the NSG meetings there have been significantdiscussions taking place concerning the US-India (Nuclear) Agreement. As youknow, Japan, among all the countries in the world, is the only country thatexperienced an atomic bomb (attack). So our ultimate objective is the totalabolition of nuclear arms. We are actively deploying our activities towards thatend. We place utmost importance on nuclear non-proliferation. Based on thisstance, I would like to have discussions with PM Singh during his visit nextweek.

Will Japan's foreign policy towards India be independent of Pakistan? Doyou see India emerging as a leader in the region to fight terrorism?

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Japan and India share the basic values of freedom, democracy, basic humanrights and the rule of law. The relationship between the two countries are basedon shared values and interests. This should be the bedrock for the potentialsand the opportunities between us. In that sense, I wish to bring the Japan-Indiarelationship up to the higher level of strategic global partnership. Indiasuffered from the bomb attack in the markets of Delhi in October last year aswell as simultaneous bomb attacks in train in Mumbai in July this year. India,indeed, has been in the forefront of the fight against terrorism. India has beenplaying a very important role in the international community in the fightagainst terrorism—it being the first proponent for the negotiations on acomprehensive treaty on prevention of terrorism. Japan and India are firmpartners in the fight against terrorism. In the future also we would like tocooperate with India to eradicate terrorism.

The clandestine role of Pakistan in North Korea's nuclear programme is nowwell documented. How do you propose to address the issue?

I understand the government of Pakistan denies any involvement in theproliferation of nuclear-related technology to North Korea. Whatever the form itmay have been in, the proliferation of nuclear related technology by Dr (AQ)Khan is regrettable. And we have conveyed our view to Pakistan and have askedfor related information for the purpose of investigation. So our firm positionis that possession of nuclear arms by North Korea will never be tolerated. Wewould 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 as well as(end its) existing nuclear programme. I say this because holding the six-partytalk itself is not the end in itself. We will be gathering there to review theresult and outcome, therefore we would like to make it a first step towards thatend.

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Mr Prime Minister, what precise strategic content you have in mind thatwould enable 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 firstround of negotiations, but in any case I'd like to make the EPA comprehensive,covering not only the services of liberalization but also the concerningprovisions to maintain other trade-related activities. I do believe that in ourrelationship, there is still a large room of potentiality and opportunity yet tobe tapped. And I am confident that conclusion of EPA between the two countrieswill bring large benefits to both our countries, for the sake of our future.

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Mr Prime Minister, after this visit does India get the most favourednation status from Japan?

As I mentioned I do firmly believe that the Japan-India relationship is oneof the most important bilateral relationship in the world and in that sense I amvery much looking forward to the active exchange of views with PM Singh nextweek. In that discussion, of course, we will naturally be discussing economicand business matters as well.

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