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Rafale controversy stops Japan from pushing sale of amphibious aircraft for Indian Navy

The controversy over the Rafale deal raging in India has unnerved the Japan government, which has decided to adopt a “cautious approach” over the sale of its ShinMaywa amphibious aircraft to New Delhi for now.

A Rs 9,100-crore deal for 12 ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft between India and Japan has been in the works since 2010.

“We are closely watching the debate that is going on in India over the purchase of the Rafale fighters,” a senior Japanese official told ThePrint. “We do not think this is the right time to push for the deal. Talks are on and we are still negotiating it.”

The 12 US-2i amphibious aircraft are meant for the Indian Navy, which plans to deploy them at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to carry out patrols in the larger Indian Ocean Region (IOR), where a rising Chinese presence has been termed a cause of concern.

The deal was among the issues discussed at a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in New Delhi this week.


Likely to be on agenda at 2+2 summit ::

The official added that the high cost of the “sophisticated” planes was among the sticking points in finalising the deal, with uncertainty persisting on the exact contours of the agreement.

During his visit to Japan in October last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe are believed to have discussed the option of a government-to-government deal for the procurement of the aircraft.

The deal is expected to feature prominently on the agenda of the proposed 2+2 ministerial dialogue between the Indian and Japanese foreign and defence ministers.

The dialogue, to be modelled on India’s maiden 2+2 summit with the US last year, is expected to take place soon, Natsuko Sakata, the assistant press secretary for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday.

“Our defence and security cooperation is catching up with… the speed and depth of the economic cooperation,” Sakata added.


Nuclear deal stuck too ::

Meanwhile, the India-Japan Civil Nuclear Deal, which was signed in November 2016 during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the country, is yet to be implemented, sources said, amid differences over India’s civil nuclear liability law.

The nuclear deal came into force in July 2017, but commercial negotiations have been dragging on since then as Japanese manufacturers of nuclear reactors are wary of the indemnity clause in Indian law that seeks to penalise them in the event of a nuclear mishap.

Japan and India also formed a joint working group (JWG) to work out the modalities of the deal. The JWG, which comprises representatives from both private and public sectors of both countries, has met only twice so far.

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