TOKYO — India is ready to seal a civilian nuclear deal and boost trade ties with Japan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, as New Delhi looks to prove its friendship in the wake of Tokyo's bitter territorial spat with Beijing.
"I am confident that we will be able to conclude an agreement (on a civilian nuclear deal), which will be a win-win proposition for both of us," Singh told a group of Japanese media, before heading to Tokyo to meet his counterpart Naoto Kan on a three-day trip starting Sunday.
Singh said India would like Tokyo to be its partner in nuclear energy, noting that Japan has "one of the highest and most advanced nuclear technologies."
Japan and India launched talks in June on signing an atomic civilian cooperation agreement that will allow Tokyo to export nuclear power generation technology to energy-hungry India.
But Japan, which was hit by World War II US atomic bombings, has warned India that conducting any new nuclear tests would force a halt to any civilian nuclear cooperation with the South Asian giant, as India has developed nuclear arms without signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"With regards to tests, we have unilaterally declared a moratorium on explosive testing and we have no intention" of revising that commitment, Singh said in an interview broadcast by NHK.
Singh and Kan were Monday expected to declare the completion of talks on an economic partnership agreement (EPA), which Singh said would open up the fast-growing Indian market to Japanese firms.
"I attach great importance to the potential of the economic cooperation," Singh said. The EPA "will boost our trade and economic ties many-fold."
Japan's expertise in technology and India's "fast-extending market", if combined, can bring about "mutually beneficial growth opportunities" for both countries, Singh said, as quoted by Jiji Press.
Japan has long tried to enhance ties with emerging economies but its relations with China, Asia's other population giant, hit rock bottom in a row following Japan's arrest of a Chinese trawlerman last month in disputed waters.
Beijing reacted angrily to the arrest, cancelling all high level talks and civilian programmes as well as suspending exports of rare earth minerals crucial for Japan's high-tech industries.
India has seized on this blocking of exports as a chance to step into a gap, with Singh saying New Delhi and Tokyo can cooperate on the production of rare earth minerals in India.
"This should be an added incentive for many countries which have a potential to produce rare earths to take advantage of that opportunity," Singh said.
But he added that "It's our sincere hope" that any Japan-China disputes involving maritime activities or maritime boundaries will be "resolved peacefully through diplomatic channels."
Despite frequent diplomatic rows, China has replaced the United States as Japan's top trading partner in recent years, while India only ranks as Japan's 28th biggest trade partner.
India holds three percent of global reserves of rare earth minerals, accounting for two percent of global production, while China accounts for 36 percent of global reserves and 97 percent of global production.
State monopoly Indian Rare Earths Ltd. (IREL) hopes to "attract Japanese businesses to the refining and processing fields to help boost our price competitiveness," the business daily Nikkei reported, quoting an unnamed senior IREL official.
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