India and Japan have just signed a controversial nuclear deal. The news comes amid rising tensions between India and Pakistan on one side, and Japan and China on the other side.

The nuclear deal signed between India and Japan on Friday is yet another indication that Asia is divided into two rivaling alliances. Although India-Japan vs. Pakistan-China alliances are informal, hostilities between the two camps pose a great threat for the region.

india japan
Image source: Narendra Modi – Flickr

It also makes things worse that Pakistan, India and China are all nuclear-powered nations. Japan, meanwhile, is considered to be a de facto nuclear state.

The controversial civil nuclear deal signed by India and Japan is said to allow Japanese firms to export atomic technology to India. The deal indicates that the two allies are deepening their security ties.

It also bears a clear message to both of their enemies – Pakistan and China – ‘Don’t mess with us; our nuclear cooperation is more potent than your nuclear arsenals’.

Nuclear arms race in Asia poses global threat

It’s a historical deal for both India and Japan. The nuclear deal inked by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe is Japan’s first deal signed with a non-NPT nation.

India, just like Pakistan, has never signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT bans all nations, except the UN Security Council’s Big Five – US, China, Russia, UK and France – from developing and possessing nukes.

Japan, which is the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, had always thought India’s non-NPT status is an issue. But given that India and Japan have just signed the nuclear deal, it means that hostilities in Asia have reached its peak and Japan feels the need to ink a nuclear cooperation with its ally, India.

In such a way, cooperation with India allows Japan to deter China from expanding its economic and military presence in the region.

Both India and Japan have longstanding territorial disputes with China. Japan has a major dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea. India, meanwhile, shares a large, undemarcated border with China, where occasional hostilities take place. In fact, there was a major stand-off at their border in 2014.

India and Japan form a nuclear alliance

After the nuclear deal between India and Japan was signed, Abe told reporters that Japan would cease cooperation if New Delhi resumes its nuclear testing.

“The agreement is a legal framework to ensure India acts responsibly for the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” Abe assured reporters.

India also has similar nuclear deals with the US, France and Australia. The three countries are considered to be New Delhi close allies that always support the South Asian country in its disputes against Pakistan.

It’s not the first security-defense deal signed by India and Japan. Last December, the Asian allies agreed on the transfer of defense equipment and tech as well as exchanging classified military information.

Although Japan has no plans (as far as the media is concerned) to produce nuclear weapons, many analysts argue that the nation has the technology and enough raw materials to produce nukes within one year. That’s why Japan is considered to be a de facto nuclear state, according to research papers by John H. Large and Kurt M. Campbell.

5 takeaways from India and Japan nuclear deal

There are five takeaways from Friday’s nuclear deal between India and Japan.

  1. China will keep a close eye on both India and Japan, as it shares territorial disputes with the two nations. It makes matters worse for Beijing because US President-elect Donald Trump’s has yet to lay out his South Asia policy. And Beijing has no idea what are Trump’s plans for the South China Sea dispute.
  2. Japan, the only victim of a nuclear explosion during the World War 2, is now apparently less cautious about the use of nuclear weapons in the world. Signing a nuclear agreement with non-NPT India is a big deal. Especially after the country suffered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in March 2011.
  3. Seeing that India and Japan are strengthening their security and nuclear ties, Pakistan is expected to make a move. That move would be demanding China, its closest ally in the region to sign a similar deal.
  4. India has plans to boost its nuclear capacity ten-fold by 2032. And Westinghouse Electric, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, will be of great help for India. Meaning: even further deepened ties between India and Japan.
  5. The nuclear deal between India and Japan is also great news for India’s plans to build six nuclear plants in the south. Japan’s expertise in tech will make it much easier for India to set up the nuclear plants.

India has more nukes than it claims, new study found

The news comes just few weeks after a new study revealed India has the capacity to produce between 356 and 492 nuclear bombs. That’s a far cry from India’s officially stated 100 to 120 nuclear bombs, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The study by a Pakistan think-tank found that official estimates of India’s nuclear capabilities are a far cry from the reality. The Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) published the worrisome revelations amid rising tensions between Pakistan and India.

“A groundbreaking research study reveals that India already has sufficient material and technical capacity to make 356 to 492 nuclear bombs,” the ISSI study claims.

Neither Pakistan nor India have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As estimated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, both Pakistan and India are said to have in possession an almost identical number of nukes.

According to the SIPRI, India has between 100 and 120 nuclear bombs in its possession, while Pakistan has between 110 and 130. Their nuclear arsenals wouldn’t be compared so often if it wasn’t for their long-standing Kashmir dispute.

India and Pakistan regularly engage in military stand-offs in the disputed Kashmir. In September, the tensions peaked when 19 India’s soldiers were killed at an Indian army base in Kashmir. New Delhi puts the blame on Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have already fought three exhausting wars, while the renewed tensions indicate that we may soon witness their fourth war. But this time, as both India and Pakistan are expressing a huge interest in nuclear weapons, their war could turn into a global disaster.