Prime Minister Narendra Modi is headed to Hiroshima for the G7 leaders’ summit this Friday — the first visit to the Japanese city by an Indian Prime Minister since India conducted nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1974.
The last Indian PM to visit Hiroshima, which suffered the atomic bomb attack in 1945, was Jawaharlal Nehru in 1957. Modi, who reaches Hiroshima on May 19, will attend the G7 summit on May 20-21.
Modi’s presence at Hiroshima is significant since India is one of the few countries which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He will join the G7 leaders when they visit the Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims and survivors of the attack.
From Japan’s perspective, it is an important moment since Japanese PM Fumio Kishida hails from Hiroshima, and his constituency is located in central Hiroshima city.
Sources said the Indian side is cognizant of the sensitivities of the people of Japan, and Hiroshima in particular, with regard to India’s nuclear tests and Delhi not being a signatory to the NPT.
As Tokyo is likely to arrange a meeting of the G7 leaders and other invitees with families of the atomic bomb victims, Delhi is preparing to underline that it views the NPT as discriminatory, its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, its commitment to unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests and no first-use policy when it comes to nuclear weapons.
India will also project its track record as a responsible nuclear power – even recently, it has expressed concern at the nuclear war rhetoric by Russian leaders in the context of the war in Ukraine.
Kishida, who represents a constituency in Hiroshima, is hoping to use the summit to pitch his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, amid concern that Russia could use such weapons in its ongoing war in Ukraine.
While Modi has attended three G7 summits in the past – twice in-person, in Biarritz, France (2019) and Elmau, Germany (2022), and once virtually (Cornwall, UK-2021) — sources said this summit in Hiroshima is expected to be challenging, given the nuclear sensitivities on the Japanese side.
Besides India, which holds the G20 presidency, the G7 grouping – Japan, Italy, Canada, France, US, UK and Germany — has invited the EU, Australia, Brazil, Comoros (African Union chair), the Cook Islands (Pacific Islands Forum chair), Indonesia (ASEAN chair), South Korea and Vietnam as invitees to the outreach session. The UN, IMF, World Bank, WHO and WTO will also attend the summit.
Officials said India’s effort will be to garner support from the G7 grouping for the priorities under its G20 presidency. In fact, the leaders of 12 countries of the G20 grouping will attend the G7 summit, and Modi is expected to hold bilateral talks with some of them, besides addressing the G7 outreach session.
By inviting India, sources said, the Japanese side has portrayed India as being a representative of the Global South – the vast community of about 120 developing and under-developed countries. “So this is part of strengthening outreach to the Global South, by demonstrating G7’s contributions to the issues of their concern,” a Japanese official told The Indian Express.
The Japanese side also wants to use the Hiroshima summit to demonstrate G7’s determination to uphold the international order based on the rule of law, firmly rejecting any unilateral attempt to change status quo by force or the threat to use nuclear weapons, as Russia has done, or the use of nuclear weapons.
“The international community is now at a historic turning point, having experienced the Covid-19 pandemic and being faced with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which has shaken the very foundation of the international order,” the Japanese agenda note said, adding that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a challenge to the rules-based international order, and the G7 has responded in a united manner. “The G7 will continue to strongly promote sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine,” it said.
According to the Japanese foreign ministry, the priority agendas under its G7 presidency include Ukraine, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Indo-Pacific, economic resilience and economic security among others.
On nuclear disarmament, the Japanese side feels the G7 will deepen discussions to send a strong message that it will advance realistic and practical efforts to take the world from “the reality” of the harsh security environment to an “ideal” one without nuclear weapons.
On the Indo-Pacific, the Japanese side says the G7 will reaffirm and strengthen cooperation on a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. And, on economic resilience and economic security, “the G7 will work on issues such as resilient supply chains, non-market policies and practices, and economic coercion,” the Japanese note says.
After Japan, Modi will travel to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where he will co-host the third summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation with Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, on May 22.
Launched in 2014, FIPIC includes India and 14 Pacific Island Countries — Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, Niue, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Nauru and Solomon Islands. This will be the first visit by an Indian PM to Papua New Guinea.
Thereafter, Modi will be in Sydney on May 22-24 for the Quad Leaders’ Summit, along with Australian PM Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden and Japan PM Kishida. He will have a bilateral meeting with Albanese on May 24, interact with Australian CEOs and business leaders, and address the Indian diaspora in Sydney on May 23.