The US dropped the atomic bomb codenamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; followed by the detonation of "Fat Man" over Nagasaki after three days. These two events are the only active usages of nuclear weapons in war. Within the first two to four months of these bombings, the fallout effects killed 90,000 to 166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. These horrific effects prompted post-war Japan to adopt most stringent non-proliferation principles. Japan abdicated its right to acquire nuclear weapons, and has been an ardent opponent of nuclear proliferation in all its manifestations. However, couple of weeks from now, when memorial gatherings would be held for the victims of nuclear bombing, a sea change would have taken place. India-Japan negotiations on nuclear cooperation in the follow up of Agreement 123 would be at an advanced stage. Unfortunately, the most principled nation in the context of nuclear proliferation would be at the verge to bartering its time honoured principles with petty economic gains. Japan joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1976, on the understanding that India and other states would not be accepted in the future as nuclear weapon powers. In the past, Tokyo has been reluctant to pursue a nuclear programme with India. Some policy makers and nuclear disarmament advocates in Japan believe that full nuclear cooperation would amount to rewarding India for possessing nuclear weapons without accruing quid pro quo obligations towards non-proliferation and disarmament. India has neither signed NPT and CTBT, nor has it agreed to end production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. Japan is not alone in feeling that the exemptions India has gained through NSG and IAEA gave away too much in return for too little. Brazil, Germany, Norway, South Africa and Turkey however are a few of the major states that are disturbed by it. Only a small component of the Japanese government comprising the ministries of economy, trade and industry support nuclear trade with India. They argue that Japan should not be more righteous than other countries that are eager to do nuclear business with India. However, proponents of non-proliferation and disarmament argue that Japan should defend the integrity of the non-proliferation regime, even if the US and others wish to betray it. Japanese technology companies and some policy makers are of the view that nuclear cooperation could bring direct benefits and increase political goodwill, as this would open the way for broader business in India. Over the recent months, India has been lobbying hard to coax the Japanese to supply civilian nuclear technology. The Bush administration and Congress had paved the way for these kinds of transactions in the 2005 US-India civil nuclear deal, which exempts India from nuclear trade restrictions on states that do not put all of their nuclear facilities under international safeguards. Japan's leverage for kick-starting Agreement 123 is phenomenal. Though France has signed agreements to build several nuclear reactors in India, French supplier Areva needs components that are built by Japanese companies. Similarly, America's General Electric hopes to build reactors in India, but it depends on its partner Hitachi to supply nuclear equipment and know-how. Thus, Tokyo's decision on nuclear cooperation with India affects the scale of India's nuclear power ambitions, as well as the business prospects of these companies and their Japanese partners. Japanese interests are complex and contradictory. It wants a closer relationship with India to strengthen the balance in the context of China and to promote mutually beneficial trade and investment. Tokyo is also under pressure from French and US nuclear partners to join the rat race. As a consequence, Japan's traditional non-proliferation stance is on stake. To carry out its first nuclear explosion in 1974, India had clandestinely diverted Plutonium from a reactor provided to it by Canada; something the latter chose to conveniently forget when Indo-Canadian nuclear deal was signed in Toronto, on the eve of recently concluded G-20 meeting. It is interesting to recall that the NSG was created in 1975 to standardise nuclear trade rules as a reaction to India's testing of a nuclear explosive device in 1974. The objective of creating the NSG was to prevent access of nuclear material and know-how to the countries which are non-signatory to the NPT. It is an irony that NSG cartel has rushed to provide New Delhi all the cooperation it needs in the nuclear field, despite knowing well how the country had cheated by using its civil nuclear programme to produce bombs. Non-proliferation statutes are being invoked against Muslim countries only. It's amazing how North Korea's case has been pushed to the backburner and spotlight is focused of Iran and Pakistan. A completely different criterion is applied when it comes to the Muslim states, especially Pakistan and Iran. Elusive policy is operative in the Middle East as well, where a still born concept of WMD free zone is being used as a ploy to dissuade Muslim states of Middle East from even peaceful nuclear programmes. Whereas there is no visible move to make Israel accountable in the context of its dubious nuclear weapons and doctrine. Likewise, the way Iran has been ruthlessly sanctioned for venturing to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, to which it is entitled under the NPT, is most contemptible. Iran's record in non-proliferation, safety and security is unimpeachable; whereas during this year, a number of security and safety incidents related to nuclear material have surfaced in India. Yet, Iran is denied the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology, even in healthcare sector, just for being a Muslim country. While making a sovereign decision of momentous magnitude Japan needs to keep in mind that these trends of discriminatory application of the provisions of NPT are likely to encourage massive proliferation in the next decade or so. Japan may also consider the disappointment expressed by the NAM group over the way its very useful suggestions for NPT and disarmament were pushed aside during the recent NPT Review Conference. Moreover, Agreement 123 has a potential of translating into proliferation of nuclear weapons. It would be a misfortune if one day Japan is listed as one of the abettors of nuclear weapons proliferation. The writer is a retired air commodore, Pakistan Air Force. Email: