PM to talk civil n-cooperation during Japan visit

New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) Civil nuclear cooperation talks will be high on the agenda, besides economic and regional and international issues, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Japan on a three-day visit Monday to attend the postponed bilateral summit.

The prime minister, who will also go to Thailand from Japan, will hold talks with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe. The bilateral summit was originally slated to be held last November, but was postponed after Japan decided to go in for elections.

“We have been discussing a civil nuclear cooperation agreement and hope to make more progress by end of this year,” said Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai at a briefing here.

Asked if a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement could be inked by the end of the year, Mathai said: “Agreements take a certain amount of time… the discussions have got some impetus recently, but we have to go through certain steps before we can sign an agreement.”

He added that safety was a “very, very high priority” in the civil nuclear cooperation talks in the wake of meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear reactor after the 2011 quake and tsunami.

The prime minister, who will be accompanied by National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and senior officials, will also hold talks on energy cooperation, including on “frozen seabed gas hydrates”, a breakthrough in Japan that India is interested in, said Mathai.

The two governments will discuss the LNG pricing issue as well as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project, the Dedicated Freight Corridor Project, and upgradation of the Chennai-Bangalore corridor, he said.

Both sides will issue a joint statement that will “capture the essence of their partnership”, said Mathai.

The prime minister is also to address Japanese businesspersons, where he will “highlight major opportunities in India and seek greater Japanese private sector investment in India,” said the foreign secretary.

Manmohan Singh goes to Thailand May 30-31 where he will meet Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. “Thailand is an important component of India’s Look East policy. The two sides have sustained dialogue at high levels… a number of agreements are to be inked during the visit,” said Ashok K. Kantha, Secretary (East).

Defence Minister A.K. Antony and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid are to go to Thailand later to maintain the momentum of bilateral ties, he said. A Free Trade Agreement between the two countries is also in the pipeline. “We seek a comprehensive outcome of the FTA,” Kantha said.

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