New Delhi, Aug. 13 (PTI): Following is the text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement in the Lok Sabha on Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation with the United States. I rise to inform this august House that the Government of India has reached agreement with the Government of the United States of America on the text of the bilateral Agreement on Cooperation for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.
2. This Government has kept Parliament fully in the picture at various stages of our negotiations with the United States. We have never shied away from a full discussion in Parliament on this important issue. I have myself made statements on several previous occasions on July 29, 2005 soon after my return from Washington; on February 27, 2006 during which I took Parliament into confidence regarding our ongoing discussions with the United States on the Separation Plan; and on March 7, 2006 following the visit of President Bush to India. I also made a detailed statement in the Rajya Sabha on August 17, 2006 conveying certain solemn commitments to which I shall return shortly. Our Government has adhered scrupulously to Parliamentary traditions and practices. We have in fact gone far beyond any previous Government.
3. After the conclusion of the Agreement we have also briefed many of the parties represented in Parliament on the details of the Agreement.
'Both parties have same benefits
4. The Agreement is about civil nuclear energy cooperation. It is an Agreement between two States possessing advanced nuclear technologies, both parties having the same benefits and advantages. The significance of the Agreement lies in the fact that when brought into effect, it will open the way for full civil nuclear energy cooperation between India and the United States. We have negotiated this Agreement as an equal partner, precisely because of the achievements of our scientists and technologists in overcoming the barriers placed around us in the past. This is an Agreement based on the principle of mutual benefit.
5. There has been considerable public debate and discussion on various aspects of the Agreement. On August 17, 2006, I had given a solemn commitment to Parliament and to the country regarding what we can agree and cannot agree with the United States to enable civil nuclear energy cooperation with India. I had stressed that it must be within specific parameters, which I had shared with Parliament. This was an unprecedented measure of transparency on our part even in the midst of complex negotiations.
6. I had given Parliament my assurance that the Government will make every effort so that the vision of the Joint Statements of July, 2005 and March, 2006 becomes a living reality. I believe that we have redeemed that pledge. In concluding this Agreement, we have ensured that the autonomy of our strategic programme is fully maintained, and that Dr. Homi Bhabhas long-term vision remains our guiding principle.
7. With your permission, I wish to draw the attention of this august House to the main features of the Agreement in some detail. It would become evident that the commitments I had made to Parliament, including those on August 17, 2006, have been fully adhered to.
(i) Full Civil Nuclear Cooperation
The concept of full civil nuclear cooperation has been clearly enshrined in this Agreement. The Agreement stipulates that such cooperation will include nuclear reactors and aspects of the associated nuclear fuel cycle, including technology transfer on industrial or commercial scale. It would also include development of a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of our reactors.
Right to reprocess US origin spent fuel
A significant aspect of the Agreement is our right to reprocess US origin spent fuel. This has been secured upfront. We view our right to reprocess as a key element of a closed fuel cycle, which will enable us to make full use in our national facilities of the energy potential of the nuclear fuel used in our reactors. This important yardstick has been met by the permanent consent for India to reprocess. India will establish a new national reprocessing facility dedicated to reprocessing foreign nuclear material under IAEA safeguards. India and the US will mutually agree on arrangements and procedures under which such reprocessing will take place in the new facility. Consultations on arrangements and procedures will begin within six months of a request by either party and will be concluded within one year. There is no ambiguity with regard to the commitments of both countries. Any special fissionable material that may be separated may be utilized in national facilities under IAEA safeguards. Thus the interests of our three stage nuclear programme have been protected.
The United States has a longstanding policy of not supplying to any country enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production facilities. This Agreement provides for such transfers to India only through an amendment. Forward- looking language has been included for dual use transfers of enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production facilities. We hope transfers will become possible as cooperation develops and expands in the future. It is important to note that no prohibition that is specifically directed against India has been included in the Agreement.
(ii) The Principle of Reciprocity: The principle of reciprocity, which was integral to the July 2005 Statement, has been fully safeguarded in this Agreement. There is no change in our position that we would accept only IAEA safeguards on our civilian nuclear facilities. This would also be in a phased manner and as identified for that purpose in the Separation Plan, and only when all international restrictions on nuclear trade with India have been lifted. India will not take any irreversible steps with the IAEA prior to this.
(iii) Certification: This Agreement emphasises the desire of both countries to cooperate extensively in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as a means of achieving energy security on a stable, reliable and predictable basis. This Agreement further confirms that US cooperation with India is a permanent one. There is no provision that states that US cooperation with India will be subject to an annual certification process.
Hon'ble Members may recall that the 18th July 2005 Joint Statement had acknowledged that India be regarded as a state with advanced nuclear technology enjoying the same advantages and benefits as other States with advanced nuclear technology, such as the US. This Agreement makes specific references to India and the United States as States possessing advanced nuclear technology, both parties having the same benefits and advantages, both committed to preventing WMD proliferation.
As agreed in the March Separation Plan, India has accepted only IAEA safeguards that will be reflected in an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. We have not consented to any provision that mandates scrutiny of our nuclear weapons programme or any unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. There are explicit provisions in the Agreement that make it clear that this Agreement does not affect our unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and that it will not affect our right to use materials, equipment, information or technology acquired or developed independently. India and the United States have agreed that the implementation of the Agreement will not hinder or otherwise interfere with Indias nuclear activities including our military nuclear facilities. Nothing in the Agreement would impinge on our strategic programme, our three-stage nuclear power programme or our ability to conduct advanced R&D.
(v) Fuel Supply Assurances: I would like to reiterate that the March 2006 Separation Plan provided for an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, with assurances of uninterrupted supply of fuel to reactors that would be placed under IAEA safeguards together with Indias right to take corrective measures in the event fuel supplies are interrupted. An important assurance given is the commitment of support for India's right to build up strategic reserves of nuclear fuel to meet the lifetime requirements of Indias reactors. This Agreement envisages, in consonance with the Separation Plan, US support for an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply for the lifetime of India's reactors. The Agreement reiterates in toto the corresponding portions of the Separation Plan. It has endorsed the right of India to take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supply. Hon'ble Members will agree that these provisions will ensure that there is no repeat of our unfortunate experience with Tarapur. (vi) Integrity and reliability of our strategic programme, autonomy of decision making and future scientific research and development: In my statements of March 7 and August 17, 2006, I had assured Parliament that the Separation Plan would not adversely affect our strategic programme, the integrity of the three-stage nuclear programme and the autonomy of our Research and Development activity.
This Agreement does not in any way impact on India's ability to produce and utilize fissile material for its current and future strategic needs. Our right to use for our own purposes our independent and indigenously developed nuclear facilities has been fully preserved. The Agreement also provides for non-hindrance and non-interference in our activities involving use of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology and military nuclear facilities produced, acquired or developed independently for our own purposes.
(vii)Cessation of cooperation:
An elaborate multi-layered consultation process has been included with regard to any future events that may be cited as a reason by either Party to seek cessation of cooperation or termination of the Agreement. Both Parties have agreed to take a number of factors into account in their consultations so that the scope for precipitate or unilateral action is reduced. Cessation of cooperation can be sought by the US only if it is prepared to take the extreme step of termination of the Agreement. India's right to take "corrective measures" will be maintained even after the termination of the Agreement.
In the case of termination of this Agreement and cessation of cooperation by either Party, each has the right to seek return of nuclear material and equipment supplied by it to the other. However, before the right of return is exercised, the Agreement commits the parties to consult and to take into account specific factors such as national security, ongoing contracts and projects, compensation at market value, physical protection and environmental issues. India and the United States have agreed to consider carefully the circumstances that may lead to termination, including a party's concerns about a change in the security environment or a response to similar actions by other states that could impact on national security.
The Agreement stipulates that the two parties recognise that exercising the right of return would have profound implications and consequences for their relations. From India's point of view our primary objective is to ensure the uninterrupted operation of our nuclear reactors, in the context of the detailed fuel supply assurances provided in the Separation Plan and these are now reflected in full in the Agreement. The Agreement specifically states in regard to fuel supply assurances and Indias right to take "corrective measures" that there will be no derogation of India's rights in this regard, including the right to take "corrective measures" to ensure the uninterrupted operation of its reactors. This reflects the balance of obligations consistent with the understandings of the July Statement and the March Separation Plan.
8. Among the significant and innovative features of this Agreement are specific mention of the right to run foreign supplied reactors 'without interruption' and to take 'corrective measures' in the event of fuel supply disruption. This has been made possible by crafting the provisions in a manner that provide for explicit linkages and interlocking of rights and commitments contained in the Agreement.
9. The Agreement does not in any way affect India's right to undertake future nuclear tests, if it is necessary in India's national interest. Let me hence reiterate once again that a decision to undertake a future nuclear test would be our sovereign decision, one that rests solely with the Government. There is nothing in the Agreement that would tie the hands of a future Government or legally constrain its options to protect India's security and defence needs.
10. If I might sum-up, this Agreement does not in any way inhibit, restrict or curtail our strategic autonomy or capabilities. Our rights to pursue our three-stage nuclear power programme remain undiluted.
In the unlikely event of cessation of cooperation there is no derogation of our rights with regard to corrective measures. Our reprocessing rights are upfront and are permanent in nature. Advanced R&D programmes and IPR Protection are fully safeguarded.
11. As I have said, this is an Agreement for cooperation between India and the US on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Its genesis is the shared perception between India and the US that both our countries need to address their energy challenges, and address them in a manner that is sensitive to concerns about the environment. For India, it is critically important to maintain our current GDP growth rate of 8 to 10 per cent per annum if our goal of eradicating poverty is to be achieved. The energy implications of this growth rate over the next couple of decades are enormous. Even if we were to exploit all our known resources of coal, oil, gas and hydropower, we would still be confronted with a yawning demand and supply gap.
12. India's three-stage nuclear power programme holds immense promise for the future. The unique thorium-based technology would become an economically viable alternative over a period of time following sequential implementation of the three stages. We must, in the meantime, explore and exploit every possible source of energy. Nuclear energy is a logical choice for India. Indigenous supplies of uranium are highly inadequate and hence we need to source uranium supply from elsewhere. In a globalised world, technology is always a premium item and we look forward to expanding our horizons in this regard as well. We intend to carry forward our cooperation with other countries in civil nuclear energy, in particular with major nuclear suppliers such as Russia and France.
13. We already have a comprehensive nuclear infrastructure. We have a corps of skilled and technically qualified manpower in this sector. It makes sense for us to leverage this valuable asset. As Hon'ble Members are aware, our target for the year 2020 is 20,000 MW of nuclear power generation. It is quite modest.
However, if international cooperation once again became available, we could hope to double this target.
14. On the basis of the Indo-US bilateral Agreement and the finalisation of an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which is being taken up shortly, the Nuclear Suppliers Group is expected to adapt its guidelines to enable international commerce with India in civil nuclear energy and all dual use technologies associated with it. This would be the beginning of the end of the technology-denial regimes against India that have been in existence for over three decades.
Major spin-offs for our industries
15. Apart from its direct impact on our nuclear energy programme, this Agreement will have major spin-offs for the development of our industries, both public and private. High technology trade with the US and other technologically advanced countries will expand rapidly.
16. I wish to draw attention to another major gain for India from this initiative.
We will be creating opportunities for our scientists to participate in the international exchange of scientific ideas and technical know-how and to contribute to the global effort to deal with the world-wide challenges of energy security and climate change. This includes the International Thermonuclear Research Reactor or ITER project, in which India has already joined as a full and equal member along with a handful of technologically advanced countries.
17. In discussions on this subject, questions have been raised about Government's commitment to an independent foreign policy. I have clearly spelt out the Government's position in this regard in my statements to Parliament in March and August 2006. I had specially underlined that the pursuit of a foreign policy that is independent in its judgement is a legacy of our founding fathers and an abiding commitment of my Government. India is too large and too important a country to have the independence of its foreign policy taken away by any power.
Today, India stands on the world stage as an influential and respected member of the international community. There is independence in our thought and independence in our actions.
18. I would like to reiterate that our engagement today with all global powers like US, Russia, China, EU, UK, France, Germany and Japan is unprecedented. Engagement with West, East, South East and Central Asia has been significantly stepped up with visible results. We are building new frontiers in our ties with Africa and Latin America. In South Asia we seek to develop a peaceful environment, one that is conducive to ambitious developmental targets. I urge those who question our commitment to an independent foreign policy to display the same degree of confidence in India, as others from outside do.
19. Thus, there is no question that we will ever compromise, in any manner, our independent foreign policy. We shall retain our strategic autonomy.
At the same time, we must not forget India's long-standing commitment to the noble ideas of nuclear disarmament and our refusal to participate in any arms race, including a nuclear arms race. Our commitment to universal, non-discriminatory and total elimination of nuclear weapons remains undiminished. It was this vision of a world free of nuclear weapons which Shri Rajiv Gandhi put before the UN in 1988 and this still has universal resonance.
20. We remain committed to a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. We are also committed to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty or FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament. India is willing to join only a non-discriminatory, multilaterally negotiated, and internationally verifiable FMCT, as and when it is concluded in the Conference on Disarmament, subject to it meeting our national security interests.
21. Despite changes in government and changes in political leadership we have always tempered the exercise of our strategic autonomy with a sense of global responsibility and with a commitment to the ideals of general and complete disarmament, including global nuclear disarmament. This Government believes that our commitment to these ideals and our efforts to realize them must continue, and continue with even greater vigour, now that we are a nuclear weapon state.
The possession of nuclear weapons only increases our sense of responsibility and does not diminish it.
22. Pending global nuclear disarmament, India has maintained an impeccable non-proliferation record. As a responsible nuclear power, India will not be the source of proliferation of sensitive technologies. We stand for the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime as the infirmities in this regime have affected our security interests. We will work together with the international community to advance our common objective of non-proliferation.
23. There are now other landmarks to cross before the goal of India joining the international mainstream as a full and equal partner becomes a reality. We have to finalise an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Thereafter, the Nuclear Suppliers Group has to agree, by consensus, to adapt its guidelines, we expect without conditions, to enable nuclear commerce with India and to dismantle the restrictions on the transfer of dual use technologies and items to our country. The US Administration is to secure requisite approval from the US Congress. The completion of these next steps will mark the practical realization of this initiative.
24. Our negotiators deserve credit for delivering to the nation an Agreement, which can potentially transform the economic prospects of our country. It is an Agreement that will enable us to meet the twin challenges of energy security and environmental sustainability, and remove the technology denial regimes that have, for decades, been a major constraint on our development.
At the same time, it will bring India the recognition it deserves thanks to the outstanding achievements of our scientists in nuclear and space sciences as well as other high technology areas.
25. This historic initiative has received the steadfast support of President Bush and senior members of his Administration. The strengthening and enhancement of our bilateral relations is an objective that has received his unstinting personal support and commitment. This Agreement is a shining example of how far we have progressed.
'Agreement good for the world'
26. Finally, Sir, let me end by saying that we have achieved an Agreement that is good for India, and good for the world. I am neither given to exaggeration nor am I known to be self-congratulatory. I will let history judge; I will let posterity judge the value of what we have done through this Agreement. In days to come it will be seen that it is not just the United States but nations across the world that wish to arrive at a new equilibrium in their relations with India.
This agreement with the United States will open new doors in capitals across the world. It is another step in our journey to regain our due place in global councils. When future generations look back, they will come to acknowledge the significance of this historic deal.
The nuclear agreement and Parliament
|The executive may not be bound to voluntarily place the 123 agreement before Parliament for approval. However, Parliament does have the undoubted power to examine the agreement.|
The ‘123’ agreement on civil nuclear cooperation arrived at between the governments of India and United States and the debate it has generated in the country calls for an examination of the role of Parliament in the case of such agreements. The purpose of this article is not to say either that the agreement is beneficial to India or that it is inimical to its interests. That aspect is best left to experts and others in the field.
The fact remains that this agreement, if and when operationalised, is going to impact upon, and influence in a very large measure, the economic, political, military, and foreign policies of our country apart from the energy sector. It may have more significant implications for our nation than the World Trade Organisation agreements, which we signed during the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations.
The issue is whether the executive, the Government of India, has the final say in concluding this agreement or whether Parliament has the final word. In other words, the question is whether under our Constitution, the executive has the exclusive say in the matter of arriving at such agreements. Our Constitution effects “distribution of legislative powers” between the Union and the States in Chapter 1 of Part XI, namely in Articles 245 to 255. According to Article 246(1), “Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List I in the Seventh Schedule” to the Constitution. (List II enumerates the powers of State Legislatures and List III enumerates subjects upon which both the Parliament and State Legislatures can make laws.)
Entry 14 in List I reads: “Entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries.” This means that Parliament can make laws with respect to this matter. It has not, however, made any such law. In such a case, the executive can act in that sphere by virtue of Article 73 (1), which reads: “subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the executive power of the Union shall extend – (a) to the matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws…” But this power has to be exercised by the executive, the Government of India “subject to the provisions of this Constitution.”
Clause (3) of Article 75 says that “the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of People.” This is the principle of accountability of the executive to the Parliament. (In the case of this 123 agreement, the Cabinet or Council of Ministers is said to have approved it.) In short, whatever the executive does in exercise of its executive power or otherwise, it is accountable to Parliament. Indeed, in a parliamentary democracy and particularly under our constitutional system, it is unthinkable that there is any sphere of activity of the executive in respect of which it is not accountable to Parliament.
Parliament is entitled to review, scrutinise, and modify or cancel any and every act of the executive. There is no such thing as a ‘prerogative power’ of the executive, immune from parliamentary scrutiny. It may be that the executive may not be bound to voluntarily place this 123 agreement before Parliament for approval. However, Parliament does have the undoubted power to examine the agreement and may, if it so chooses, approve or disapprove of it, wholly or in part. Of course, having regard to the extraordinary impact the 123 agreement has on our nation’s future, one would reasonably expect the executive to place it before Parliament, explain it, and seek its approval.
Nothing much will be gained by looking into other Constitutions or to the British practice because they are the products of their own particular provisions, practices or conventions. (I did this exercise in a lecture, the Justice K. Madhava Reddy Memorial Lecture delivered in Hyderabad on October 27, 2000. In any event, the restriction of space in this article does not permit any such comparative study.)
I must refer in this context to Article 253 of our Constitution, which empowers Parliament “to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.” This article opens with the words “notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter,” that is, Chapter I of Part XI. In the context in which it occurs, it means the following. Notwithstanding the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States, Parliament is competent, if it is necessary to implement an international treaty or agreement to make a law for that purpose, to do so even though by doing so it may be making a law in respect of a subject within the exclusive competence of State Legislatures.
It is not as if the question of making a law regulating the power of the executive in the matter of treaty-making has not come up before Parliament. In February 1992, M.A. Baby, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), gave a notice of his intention to introduce the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1992, to amend Article 77 of the Constitution to the effect that every international treaty/agreement “of social, economic, political, financial or cultural nature and settlements relating to trade, tariff and patents shall be laid before each House of Parliament prior to the implementation of such agreement…” (A similar notice given by Chitta Basu in the Lok Sabha on July 17, 1994 was never taken up for discussion and lapsed with the dissolution of that Lok Sabha.)
Mr. Baby’s notice came up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha only in March 1997. He pressed for his amendment in the particular context of the manner in which Uruguay Round of GATT Agreements (leading to constitution of the World Trade Organisation) were signed by the Government of India. Pranab Mukherjee, MP, however, opposed the move citing, inter alia the practical difficulty in subjecting all such agreements to Parliament’s scrutiny — because of the way Parliament has been functioning in recent times where even important pieces of legislation are not properly discussed and where even ‘votes on account’ and budget demands involving thousands of crores of rupees are being passed without discussion. Mr. Mukherjee also pointed out the United States experience where important treaties (like the Treaty of Versailles constituting League of Nations) were rejected by the Senate. He also referred to the safeguard in the case of WTO agreements, namely, unless Parliament enacts legislation to give effect to the agreements, they would be of no effect. In practice, however, this ‘safeguard’ has turned out to be illusory inasmuch as the Government of India always tells Parliament that these are binding commitments undertaken by India and that Parliament ought to honour them.
Of course, nothing came of Mr. Baby’s effort.
This is not the place to go into the kind of mechanism that has to be evolved to provide for parliamentary oversight or check upon the executive’s power to enter into international treaties and agreements. That would call for a more detailed study, which has been done elsewhere. (Reference may be made in this behalf to the Consultation Paper prepared by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution – Report of the Commission – volume II, Book II at pages 869 to 886.)
It is sufficient to say for the present that the Government of India ought to place the 123 agreement with the United States on nuclear cooperation before both the Houses of Parliament and it would be for Parliament to take such action in that behalf
(The writer is a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India and former Chairman of the Law Commission of India.)
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“For nuclear renaissance, the world needs India”
|As Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, R. Chidambaram has played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in the formulation of India’s approach to the question of civil nuclear cooperation with the United States. Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1993 to 2000, he supervised the conduct of the 1998 nuclear weapons tests at Pokhran. In an exclusive interview toThe Hindu, he spoke about the implications of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal for India’s strategic and civil nuclear programmes, as well as for the future of nuclear power worldwide. Excerpts:|
R. Chidambaram: “There is nothing in the  agreement which prevents us from testing, if the government decides to test for whatever reason.”
One of the criticisms made of the Government now that the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the U.S. is final is that the nuclear deal will have an adverse impact on the country’s strategic programme. What is your view?
From the outset, it had been made clear — this is exactly what has been stated in Parliament also — that there are three boundary conditions. There will be no effect on the strategic programme, there will be no deceleration in our three-stage nuclear power programme — which has been the foundation on which we have built our entire programme — and there will be no effect on our advanced R&D programme. These boundary conditions have always been with us as we’ve gone through this. So there will be no effect on our strategic programme.
I don’t want to respond to the opinions of others. You ask me absolute questions.
See, whenever you test, there will be consequences. When we tested in 1974 and 1998, the leadership then knew there would be consequences. So that is something which is built into the system. But as far as the 123 agreement goes, there is nothing in the agreement which prevents us from testing, if the government decides to test for whatever reason. That is what we should look at.
As far as our own tests — the five tests we did over a range in 1998 — based on the tests, we can build weapons from sub-kiloton to 200 kilotons. Of the designs that we have tested, for the thermonuclear, the testing of the weapon design at the controlled yield of 45 kt was because of the proximity of Khetolai village. And also, people are just looking at the number of the tests, but immediately after the tests, we announced the yields of the tests before the global seismic and other data had come in. That indicates a higher level of technological capability. See, suppose you do a test and suppose something is slightly off, you may get a lower yield but still it is a test. But here, see basically, if you want to do very low sub-kiloton tests — 0.2, 0.3, 0.5 — very difficult tests because any mistake there, you would not get any yield. So we have done those tests. So we have a considerable computer simulation capability.
Based on the 1998 data, so, but on the other hand, if for whatever reason — scientific, technological or because of some other requirement — the country wants to test at a future date, there is nothing in this agreement which prevents us from testing.
That I’m not the right person to comment, but one general thing we can say — as we go on, our economic strength and our importance in the world is not coming down, it’s only going up.
Today — this is what I say in my lectures abroad — we want the world in the short-term in nuclear, but the world is going to need us in the long term. Because, in many countries, nuclear technology has stagnated, and when nuclear technology stagnates, knowledge management becomes a problem. Young people don’t join the field. And then R&D also begins to go down. The only two countries in which nuclear is growing because of surging energy demand are India and China. So for us, nuclear ‘knowledgment’ is not a problem. I remember in 2004, there was a meeting in Obninsk in Russia. I wonder how many people know that the first reactor from which electricity was put into the grid was Russian, a small 5 MW reactor, and that was in 1954. So the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held a meeting in Obninsk on ‘Fifty Years of Nuclear Power — The Next 50 Years.’ And there was an American speaker in the session I was chairing — he works for the IAEA now — but what he said was between 2002 and 2011, the nuclear workforce in the entire west will come down to half. On the other hand, there is a nuclear renaissance which has started, driven substantially by the threat of global climate change. So he said that if a nuclear renaissance does start in the U.S., we’ll look to India for help.
I didn’t say that! Because, you see, it’s not just a question of manpower, it’s a question of R&D, it’s a question of so many other things.
Though you can’t rule out the possibility of manpower attrition, but then 150 of the Fortune 500 companies have R&D shops in India, R&D centres in India, one way or another, which deal with materials technology, biotechnology, IT and all that. They come here — it’s not a question of our going there — they come here now because partly manpower is cheap, the capability is there, and if you want to hire guys, there are more guys available here. So there are positive aspects of this kind of interaction. The negative aspect, of course, is the possibility of attrition of manpower.
The assurance from the Prime Minister is that the three-stage programme will not be affected, number one. And two, I wrote an editorial in Nuclear Energy 2006 [with Ratan Kumar Sinha] called ‘The importance of closing the nucl ear fuel cycle.’ This is needed not just for India but for the whole world, because the same amount of uranium, when you recycle it through fast breeder reactors (FBRs), will give you 50 times more power, and if you close the fuel cycle with thorium, maybe it will give you 600 times more power. So if you want to optimally utilise the nuclear fuel resources of the world — uranium and thorium — you will have to close the nuclear fuel cycle. So the importance of the three-stage programme goes beyond just building the first generation of reactors. And even if you take the Generation IV reactors of the U.S. — half a dozen new systems which they have produced — several of them require reprocessing and closing the fuel cycle. In my opinion, not going in for FBRs is a passing phase. Just because somebody puts away the plutonium in the spent fuel as waste, in my opinion, that is only a temporary phenomenon. If you have access to cheaper uranium, why will you cut open the spent fuel and take out the costlier plutonium? But over a period of time — the price of uranium has gone up in international markets — that plutonium is not running away anywhere, it’s got a half-life of 24,000 years. So that’s what I tell my American friends, that what you are building…
Yes, Yucca as a waste disposal site is really a plutonium mine! Because the later you reprocess, the easier it is. All the other radioactivities would have died down. So everybody has to close the fuel cycle.
Those have to be worked out. See, we have our own reprocessing technology. Of course, we want to get equipment. In any area of technology, cooperation is a good idea, so if equipment comes, why not. But then we have built our own plants also at the same time. However, in all these areas, today’s India wants international cooperation on an equal partner basis. I am not talking just nuclear. That is why we have joined the Large Hydron Collider, contributing a substantial amount to the accelerator, we joined the ITER project.
That is what India wants, a clean exemption at the NSG.
All that will cost, but I don’t think those costs will be excessive. Storage of LEU — I don’t think that could be a big problem — there are methods of storing. And the civil-military separation, the way we are planning, I don’t think will be expensive, the way we are.
Not really. Of course, you see when you build large numbers, that’s what our thing will be, for example, the number of reactors we are going to put under safeguards, they are all separated reactors. So there will be no big problem there. But we are not firewalling between the civil and military programmes in terms of manpower or personnel. That’s not on.
In my opinion, our nuclear weapons programme was one of the most economical in the world because it followed the civilian programme. Unlike in all the other nuclear weapons states, which did the military programme first and then came on to the civilian side. That way, our weapons programme has been one of the most cost-effective ones.
The tariff charged by our Nuclear Power Corporation wherever they have built nuclear power plants (NPP) — Tarapur, Koodankulam, or Kaiga or wherever — the unit energy cost is comparable to the cost of a coal-fired plant at that place. This is how we compare. The capital cost is higher in nuclear because it is easier to build a boiler than reactor, but the fuelling costs are lower compared to thermal. If you build a coal-fired thermal plant at the pithead, obviously it will be cheaper, but as you move further and further away, you have to add the cost of transportation. The second thing was that in the earlier days, there was the cost of interest during construction. Two things have happened now — the gestation period for NPPs has come down from more than seven years to five years, which is comparable to the best global standards, and because of the improvement in the strength of the rupee, the cost of interest during construction has come down. But even before that, we were comparable at 700 or 800 km from the coal pithead. So there was never any big subsidy problem of the type you mentioned. There was a problem because, you see, immediately after Pokhran-I, when we had to go back and build everything ourselves because suddenly these guys walked out. So that took time.
First of all, whatever reactors we put under safeguards will be decided at India’s discretion. Now, anything which requires advanced R&D, we don’t want to slow it down by having someone looking over our shoulder. Our FBR has lots of technological innovations. I don’t think it is meant for weapons.
FBRs which use safeguarded plutonium can go under safeguards. But if an FBR is to use unsafeguarded plutonium, why should it be subject to safeguards? The main point is that we will decide.
The FMCT should be verifiable and multilateral. This has been our stand and we should stick to it.
Not all of them have objected. But why not? This is a democracy. Everybody need not have same views.
There, you have people objecting on the basis of proliferation misconceptions. It is time the U.S. realised India is not a ‘proliferation threat.’ In a 2001 paper, I introduced a new parameter — the Stockpile Increase Significance Coefficient (SISC) — defined as a measure of the significance of a unit increase in the number of nuclear weapons a country has, i.e. the significance of x weapons going to x+1. The SISC is obviously maximum when x=0. As x increases for a country like India with a programme based on self-reliance, the coefficient approaches zero as the country ceases to be of interest in the context of nuclear weaponisation. This is when the hurdles to international cooperation likely disappear. That, in my opinion, is the reason why the U.S. came to India with this deal. Obviously this graph would not apply to a country with weapons based on clandestine acquisition.
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu
A sound and honourable 123
A close reading of the text of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and India, which was made public on August 3, confirms this newspaper’s editorial endorsement of the deal. It is a sound and honourable agreement and the assurances provided to Parliament by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 have been fulfilled virtually in their entirety. When the government went into the last round of the ‘123’ negotiations, three issues were unresolved: the country’s right to reprocess American-origin spent fuel, guarantee the uninterrupted running of its reactors, and ensure the application of only International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and not additional American inspections. Another key challenge before the Indian negotiating team was to ensure that the country’s nuclear power sector would not be disrupted in the event of a nuclear explosive test. Termination of American cooperation, likely under such circumstances, would not be a serious problem but for Washington’s insistence, citing the requirements of domestic law, on incorporating a clause giving itself the ‘right’ to demand the return of all nuclear equipment and material exported to India.
Article 14 is the core of the 123 from India’s standpoint. It spells out the procedures the U.S. must follow before any nuclear material provided by it can be removed from the territory of India. Aside from specifying multiple layers of consultation, Article 14 lays down that the U.S. “must ensure that the timing, methods and arrangements for return of nuclear items are in accordance with” the requirement of “uninterrupted operation of nuclear reactors” in India, as well as safety (as laid down by Indian national regulations) and the payment of compensation reflecting “fair market value” and “the costs incurred [by India] as a consequence of such removal.” While this seriously limits the U.S. ‘right of return,’ the cross-reference in the same clause to the fuel supply assurances contained in Article 5.6 boxes it in completely. There is, finally, this clarification in Article 14.8 “it is not the purpose of the provisions … regarding cessation of cooperation and right of return to derogate from the rights of the Parties under Article 5.6.” In other words, the U.S. has agreed to treat its obligation to help develop a strategic fuel reserve for India — and the “corrective measures” India will build into its safeguards agreement with the IAEA — as Indian “rights,” from which derogation is not allowed even after the U.S terminates cooperation.
In fact, the measure of protection provided by Article 14 read with Article 5.6 is as cast-iron as one can hope to get in a bilateral international text. The BJP’s objection that this protection is worthless because the Hyde Act disallows the provision of fuel guarantees beyond normal reactor operating requirements misses the point by a mile. A more favourably drafted Act would offer, at best, illusory protection, since a U.S. administration or Congress could change its provisions at any time. To believe that a good ‘mother Act’ or 123 agreement by themselves will guarantee India its rights is to demonstrate shocking naivete about the nature of international politics. The Manmohan Singh government has won for India the keys to unshackle its nuclear programme from the unfair restrictions it has been subjected to for the past 33 years. Further, it has secured a measure of legal protection in the event of the relationship with America souring. But true protection will come only when the country uses the new opportunities for nuclear commerce to build a stockpile of fuel — light-enriched and natural uranium — to run a vastly expanded nuclear power programme.
As for the other BJP objection that the 123 agreement will cripple India’s strategic programme, the less said the better. A non-hindrance clause incorporated in Article 2.4 ensures that the development of India’s unsafeguarded or military nuclear facilities will not be hindered or interfered with in any way. There is nothing in the 123 that takes away India’s sovereign right to conduct nuclear explosive tests, or enlarge its nuclear arsenal should it choose to do so. The problem, if anything, is the opposite of what the BJP suggests: thus accommodated in a U.S.-led unequal global nuclear bargain, India may be even less inclined than it is today to pursue the goal of universal disarmament.
Realism demands that we recognise the limitations of the 123 agreement in three respects. The first is that the U.S. will not lift its embargo on the sale of components or even dual use items intended for the safeguarded Indian reprocessing plant. Secondly, there is some uncertainty over the nature of the arrangements and procedures to be agreed upon before India can reprocess spent fuel. The first limitation, on the supply of reprocessing and enrichment equipment, will be overcome if the Nuclear Suppliers Group does not introduce new discriminatory clauses when it changes its guidelines. If it does that, India will have serious problems about going forward. As for reprocessing the spent imported fuel, the prudent course will be for India to request consultations as soon as the 123 enters into force.
A separate but related concern is the quid pro quo the U.S. will surely expect and try to hold India to in the strategic affairs, foreign policy, and commercial arenas. The present government led by the Congress has followed the same policy as the predecessor BJP-led regime — of compromising foreign policy independence and aligning the country with the U.S. in the name of a ‘strategic partnership.’ We must not allow the 123 to become new leverage to pull India deeper into the U.S. strategic embrace, especially in the military and political spheres. While the Manmohan Singh government deserves full credit for negotiating a 123 agreement that is indisputably to the advantage of India’s nuclear programme and energy sector, it needs to be reminded that its breakthrough will count for little if it turns out that the hidden cost is a further erosion of external independence.
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu
N-debate: More fizzle than bang
Friday August 10 2007 09:13 IST
Here is one version of a story that goes back almost ten years. Once the BJP government gave the green signal to test nuclear weapons in 1998, decisions had to be made on how many nuclear tests would be enough to declare that India was ready to adhere to the looming Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They decided to test one fission weapon. The others were described as ‘devices’. In order to have a robust bomb design tested, the scientists wanted to put a thermonuclear bomb design through its paces as well. Simply put you get a bigger bang out of a thermonuclear bomb than out of a fission bomb. That way long range delivery systems, Agni 2 and Agni 3, would carry something in their nose cones vastly more destructive than the kind of fireworks Sivakasi produces for Deepavali special effects. It makes little sense to deploy a piddling 12-15 kiloton bomb in long-range missiles. Scientists needed to be able to get to the stage where they could marry longrange missile with a compact bomb, its core way smaller than a football, which would yield between something around 150 -250 kilotonnes.
The logistics of testing the device required a very deep shaft into which the explosive could be lowered, connected, triggered and fired. The depth of the shaft was critical because the yield had to be configured to it as well as to prevent venting of radioactivity. This shaft could not be dug for the purpose because that would have attracted attention and the scientific community wanted to make the complicated preparations that would involve so many explosions surreptitiously. In the Pokhran area there was only one shaft deep enough - several hundred metres - that suited the parameters for the thermonuclear device. The yield expectations was around 45 kilotonnes, three times as much as the bang Americans got out of ‘Little Boy’ in Hiroshima.
A lot was riding on the thermonuclear device that was expected to take us to the threshold of making a serious nuclear bomb. It was a tricky experiment. If you ask weapon designers you will hear that nobody succeeds in a thermonuclear design the very first time a design is tested. It requires a large number of tests to obtain sufficient data on the equation of state for the high temperature and high pressure conditions. This is necessary for reposing confidence in design and assurance of performance. Our scientists had only one shot at it. The design for the bomb was made by the scientific crowd in Mumbai and the trigger device was designed by the DRDO lot. In the afternoon of May 11, Prime Minister Vajpayee presented the tests as objective reality to the country as well as the world. He declared that the “measured yields are in line with expected values.” He congratulated the scientists for a job well done.
Only, the scientific community who were part of the tests was not so sure. For the theormonuclear design seemed to have under performed. This much was obvious as soon as the thermonuclear device was tested, from the readings of the various monitors that measured ground acceleration and other such parameters. There was another indication as well. When a device explodes it leaves behind a crater, which gives a hint as to what kind of explosion had occurred. To the scientists who saw the size of the crater left behind by the thermonuclear device, it appeared as though the crater which resulted from the 12-15 kt fission weapon was bigger than the one left behind by the 45 kt thermonuclear device.
The test had turned out to be more fizzle than bang. It was the bomb designers who made the claim that it was along expected values. DRDO kept quiet. To the world they presented a united face. The government was aware of reservations about the claims made by the bomb designers. Scientific journals, mainly published abroad, did not buy into the story. Consequently, there appeared quite a bit of analyses on the explosion’s signature in the US and UK which contested the claim of the scientists. Then, quite suddenly the analyses stopped. One theory on why the analyses dried up went as follows: It was as if they figured out that if they went on stressing that the tests hadn’t worked, there would emerge a lobby in India that would say that not enough testing had been done.
More importantly, based on those acts of limited and debatable technical audacity, the BJP government declared that it was ready to adhere to some aspects of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Some would characterise it as having placed a technical freeze on its new (and it may be mentioned) imperfect bomb design. And even before the Parliament could discuss the issue properly Prime Minister Vajpayee on September 24 1998 made a promise in the United Nations that “We are prepared to bring (CTBT) discussions to a successful conclusion, so that the entry into force of the CTBT is not delayed beyond September 1999.” In other words, Vajpayee had made a solemn commitment to the United Nations that he would not block CTBT even before he had attempted to go through the motions of forging a national consensus on nuclear testing and CTBT. It is another matter that American legislators themselves rejected the CTBT thereby coming to India’s rescue.
Yet, the BJP is not alone in this tendency to go it alone on the foreign policy front. Here is what the Congress declared in its 1999 election manifesto: A sincere effort will be made to evolve a broad national consensus on all aspects of nuclear policy keeping in view our strategic interests as well as global concerns. Our approach to the CTBT the FMCT and other global regimes of nuclear non-proliferation must be integrally linked to the overarching goal of the time-bound elimination of nuclear weapons. The BJP has willfully destroyed the national consensus on nuclear matters. That consensus will now be meticulously rebuilt. India will reiterate at every opportunity its steadfast commitment to time-bound universal nuclear disarmament, leading to general and complete disarmament.‘‘
Doesn’t it sound rich? Okay, how about quaint? Considering the shindig Prakash Karat and his fellow travelers are raising, Congress party seems to have let bygone promises remain bygone promises. So much for the promised sincere effort to evolve ‘broad national consensus.’ Quibblers might be tempted to point out that this was the Congress manifesto for the 1999 election not the subsequent one and therefore it does not count and we should not hold it against the Congress to move with the changing times, like a weather vane. There would be logic in that argument as well.
What is even more interesting is that Vajpayee’s right hand man on nuclear matters, Mr Brajesh Mishra, should find the 123 making it even more difficult for us to test, should the need arise. There are two issues here, both at the heart of this story. One, through the entire engagement with the US, the American interest all along has been to restrict effective movement on the nuclear weaponisation front, and it must be said that textually at least they have managed to get a better grip on India’s future testing instincts. Despite the regular political sound and light shows we keep having on this subject. Here’s the other: our ability to debate security matters remains unchanged. Behind a lot of heat, light, smoke, and sound, its politics as usual. All you have to do is to take the trouble of watching any parliamentary debate on the defence budget for example. There’s hardly ever a quorum.
The New Indian Express
123: Thin edge of the wedge
Monday August 6 2007 08:49 IST
A N PRASAD
The much awaited 123 text on the Indo-US nuclear deal, ever since it was released on Aug 2, 2007, has been commented upon and covered in the media profusely. While it is obvious that the text has tried to accommodate diverging interests and constraints of both the parties by clever use of the language and words to give an illusory impression that the concerns are duly reflected. For the sake of public comfort both parties are loudly saying that they are free to hold on to their respective rights and legal positions though it means hardly anything as far as India is concerned having no leverage to force any of the issues during innumerable consultations suggested in the text, up against the Hyde Act standing like a Rock of Gibraltar!
In fact our case has been compromised to a large extent when once this Act was passed, our Prime Minister’s assurances not withstanding. We are now in effect reduced to a mere recipient State mandated by the Hyde Act to carry out a set of do’s and don’ts and strive to earn a good behaviour report card to become eligible to continue receiving what they can offer. In the process slowly but surely they could gain control and remotely drive our nuclear programmes in the long run.
This deal, through the Hyde Act, gives far too many opportunities to penetrate deep into and interfere even in our 3-stage programme to slow down realisation of our goal to harness our own vast resources of thorium for long-term energy security. Two points in support of this, which have largely missed notice. One, revelation by Nicholas Burns, US Under Secretary of State during his interview to the Council on Foreign Relations: “It had been an easy ‘strategic’ choice for Washington when faced with the question - should we isolate India for the next 35 years or bring it in partially now (under safeguards inspection) and nearly totally in the future.” Two. Under Article 16.2 of the 123 text, it says, the Agreement shall remain in force for a period of 40 years and at the end of this initial period each party may, terminate by giving six months’ notice. There is no built in provision for terminating before 40 years even if we were to suffer for any reason in the implementation of the deal. This is expected to cover the period by which we intend to take the thorium utilisation to a commercial reality and what a coincidence?
It is naive to judge the merits of the deal purely based on the language of the text. The underlying undercurrents and the intentions of the controlling party are important and cannot be wished away as hypothetical or as their internal matter and of no concern to us when they do actually have serious repercussions on our long-term interests. There has been a careful balancing of US commercial interests with the goal of bringing India into the nonproliferation hold, an obsession they are pursuing for a long time ever since NPT came into existence in 1970.
There have been overt suggestions in the Hyde Act to the Administration for not only attempting capping but also try to eventually roll back our strategic programme and report to the Congress. Try, they will but whether we are smart enough to thwart their designs or they manage to succeed given the tremendous access they get through this deal, time will tell.
Let me turn to some of the most contentious issues, which are not satisfactorily resolved.
Reprocessing issue has been stated to be the most hotly debated issue. Let me therefore deal with it in some detail in simple terms to put things in proper perspective.
Reprocessing is at the core of our 3- stage nuclear power programme. It is the interface between the first and the second stage and again between the second and the third stage. In the first step it facilitates extracting plutonium from the spent uranium fuel and feeding to the fast breeder reactors in the second stage as fuel where thorium fuel is also introduced. When thorium is converted into fissile uranium in the fast reactors the same is extracted by reprocessing to be fed into third stage reactors where large-scale thorium utilisation occurs. It was once estimated that with the limited resources of uranium in the country more than 350000 MW of electricity could be produced through thorium utilisation ensuring long-term energy security. The steady progress India is making with the starting construction of the first 500 Mwe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) is an envy of many in the advanced world.
Recognising the key role of reprocessing, development activities were started as early as 1959 much before even the first nuclear power reactor went into operation at Tarapur in 1969. As can be seen, while the first power reactor was imported from US through a 123 agreement, the first reprocessing facility was built entirely through indigenous effort which went into operation in 1965.
The irony is, US knowing full well our four decades of experience in reprocessing and aware of its importance in our 3-stage programme, has sought to create impediments and make us cringe for reprocessing consent, that too after accepting us as strategic partner. Should we call this nuclear cooperation or non-cooperation? What a hypocrisy? Is it not obvious that their intention is to put hurdles on our thorium utilisation programme right from the beginning? In fact, even though there is what is called a fast reactor nuclear fuel cycle, not a word is mentioned in the agreement on fast reactor cooperation while the text calls for all future fast breeder reactors to be put under civil list for applying safeguards in perpetuity just because plutonium extracted from imported uranium spent fuel is fed into these reactors. It is a pity that our negotiators have chosen not to pursue extending the cooperation into the area of fast reactors at least to the extent that we should be able to access international market for equipment and components which otherwise have to be produced by Indian industry with considerable effort.
The way the reprocessing issue has been resolved certainly does not give any comfort. What has been agreed to is consent in principle with the arrangements and procedures to be agreed in the future. Having offered a dedicated facility for reprocessing imported fuel we should have got unconditional upfront consent to be made effective on satisfactory conclusion of safeguards. Intent of the American legislation is to deny reprocessing to those NPT countries who are not already having this technology. We cannot be equated to Japan which is stated to have been used as a model for resolving this issue in one of the briefings of Burns. I can say from personal knowledge that Japan was totally unhappy in dealing with the US while negotiating procedures and arrangements during the late ’70s for their reprocessing plant. We should watch out.
Also over the entire fuel cyle, application of safeguards on reprocessing is toughest. Point of concern is, Burns keeps harping that the dedicated facility, though not mentioned in the text, has been offered by India as a state-ofthe- art facility. This is a dangerous prospect for conflict during the consultations on safeguardability as there is no reference standard on the design of such a facility in the world and information on less than a handful of facilities operating in the world at present is kept secret and not shared. Perhaps the dedicated plant we have offered will be the first plant to be wide open to the outside world and US definitely have a good look at it!
Being a dedicated facility committed to full safeguards it should be our endeavour to obtain special items of equipment and hardware components from the international market. Full civil N-Cooperation
In spite of the Prime Minister’s assurances the issue of full civil cooperation has not been resolved in our favour. The text has allowed an unfair definition of this term, with the result embargoes will continue on the most complex part of the fuel cycle facilities such as enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water. Though we may not need to import technology as such, there should have been an opportunity to access world market for specific low quantity dual use items which otherwise have to be produced by Indian industry.
This historic deal not being able to get rid of sanctions in spite of taking on a whole lot of burden on safeguards and other aspects is a big disappointment.
This is a much talked about topic and any further discussion is like beating a dead horse. Suffice to say, irrespective of what is said or unsaid, we have surrendered our decision though not the legal right for all practical purposes fearing the consequences. Talk of multi- layered consultations and actions is all an eye wash and public relations exercise.
Fall Back Safeguards
It is surprising that such a hypothetical issue has found specific mention in the text contrary to the Prime Minister’s assurance. There is every likelihood that this could be invoked.
Though it is the bounden duty of the IAEA to apply safeguards in Member States in a cost effective manner, there is a large inflow of extra-budgetary grants for this activity. With a huge spurt in safeguards load from India, whose cost substantially has to be met by additional extra-budgetary grants, there could well be a move in future to create a situation that due to paucity of funds IAEA puts its hands up for US to step in. At that point the US inspectors will roam around irrespective of what our Prime Minister has assured.
With the proposed deal we are having in our hands, one statement baffles: “This Agreement is between two States possessing advanced nuclear technology, both Parties having the same benefits and advantages.” How I wish this could have been really true! It is hard to find any point on which we have the leverage to dictate with a position of strength in this deal in spite of being rightly labeled as a State possessing advanced nuclear technology.
The author is a former Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and former Consultant/ Specialist on Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS
123: Rethink before we go forward
For energy production, the incremental gain of importing reactors as against the slower indigenous approach will be marginal. But the strategic costs, in terms of dependence, will be high.
One associates government’s PR or news management with propaganda hand-outs that have low credibility and no impact. However, in the case of the India-U.S. nuclear deal, one must concede that the PR machine has been phenomenally effective. Coverage in the powerful media — the metropolitan newspapers and major TV channels — has been so positive (barring the rare exception) that the government may find it embarrassing. Commentators seem to be outdoing even the party spokesman in praising the government. In this climate of group think and positivity, it may be worth stepping back for a few moments and raising a few critical questions from a wider perspective.
First, the benchmark for judging the agreement: should this not be national interest rather than the Indo-U.S. statement of 2005? Does it provide what we need, which is primarily certain technologies and a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel for our civilian power programme, and unfettered freedom to pursue all aspects of our developmental and weapons activities?
The hype about an end to India’s nuclear ostracism is strange. It was by our own volition that we chose many years ago, through different complexions of government and despite pressure, to stay outside discriminatory agreements like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The severe sanctions post our nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 were taken in our stride and our atomic energy programme has continued to progress well. Certainly, these were speed breakers; but the trade-off in terms of degrees of freedom has been worthwhile. Our technological progress and, equally importantly, our growing economy have taken us to the stage where we are in a position to negotiate from a position of some strength. In this context, one certainly feels that what we have got is far too little for what we have given. We have opened up a lucrative market for nuclear reactors, but the equipment and technologies of interest to us — for uranium enrichment and re-processing — will yet not be really available. Even fuel supplies are not guaranteed and our experience with Tarapur, when the U.S. reneged on an international agreement, requires us to create a stockpile. This, and the need to similarly keep an inventory of spares for imported equipment, will unnecessarily add to the cost of power from the nuclear power plants.
While the 123 agreement does open the door to import of civil nuclear equipment (to the obvious delight of U.S. suppliers), this can be taken back at any time. In this context, as expert commentators and U.S. sources have noted, the 123 agreement is, in effect, subservient to U.S. national laws. The Hyde Act has many conditionalities and even seeks to dictate foreign policy. This can be invoked at any time to create serious difficulties for India. While negotiators have clearly made much effort to protect India’s position, the consultation and other processes laid down can work only if there is a strong relationship between the two sides. At any time the relationship sours, everything can be in jeopardy. For example, aside from IAEA inspections — part of the safeguards that we are committing to, in perpetuity — there are end-use conditions that imply U.S. inspections. Irrespective of whether or not this is a slight to our self-respect and sovereignty, such inspections can, in adversarial circumstances, lead to any reports that the sponsor desires, as we know from Iraq, and pave the way for active intervention. As any strategist knows, in international relations there are no permanent friends (the Iraq-U.S. relationship being one case in point).
In any analysis, one looks for motives. In this case, there are two clear U.S. motives, articulated as explicitly as possible by various U.S. sources: the commercial gain from nuclear commerce, and the more important one of containing India’s nuclear weapons programme, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Bringing the breeder reactor programme under international safeguards, pushing India to sign the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and continuing embargoes on uranium enrichment and re-processing are all part of this strategy. Should this be acceptable to us?
A strong India is the world’s best bet for peace and stability in South, South East, and Central Asia, as also in the Persian Gulf. This volatile region, with some two billion inhabitants, needs a strong secular and democratic power from within the region, to ensure stability and to serve as a counterpoise to transnational fundamentalism as also to China. Neither the U.S. nor Israel can play this role, as they will end up stoking religious fundamentalism as has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Like the Americans, the Russians too have no cultural affinity or acceptability in most of this region. It is, therefore, in the U.S. interest to not curb the natural growth of India’s military and ‘soft’ power, so that it can play an increasing role in this region. While many of the Bush-Rice pronouncements have indicated an implicit recognition of this — and, therefore, the talk of “helping India become a major power” — the underlying rationale of many of the clauses of the 123 agreement seems to be aimed at emasculating rather than empowering India. Is the U.S. looking for an equal partner in a strategic relationship or a client state? This choice of U.S. policy is for the U.S. to make.
On the other hand, whether to be forever a second-rung country is a matter for India to decide. Today, countries that face no perceptible military threat feel the need to retain, grow, and modernise their nuclear capabilities (France and the United Kingdom). India, with two nuclear powers on its borders should have at least the same degree of freedom in pursuing its nuclear efforts. This will require enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and may require testing to prove and perfect weapons. Apart from severe constraints on dual-use technologies, the 123 agreement creates a separation between civil and military facilities, doing away with the ambiguity, cost, and facility-sharing that has been an essential part of the programme.
Arguments have been advanced about this being a purely civilian deal with no impact on India’s strategic programme; about how this will help reduce global warming by cutting down on fossil fuels; and even about the role this agreement will play in helping meet India’s energy needs. These hardly deserve rebuttal. For long years, nuclear power will form but a small part of India’s energy production and the incremental gain of importing reactors as against the slower indigenous approach will be little more than marginal. In terms of dependence, supplies of imported coal or hydro-carbons are far more reliable and offer more alternative sources than nuclear fuel. Moving the nuclear energy cycle to thorium as quickly as possible will vastly reduce our dependence on imports, since thorium is plentifully available in India. This, however, requires a strong R&D effort. Demotivating India’s scientific community through a deal that has little support amongst them is not the best way to go about this.
Some of these issues need serious debate, without casting the kind of aspersions that unnamed government sources have been indulging in. The Prime Minister set an outstanding example by having one discussion with some experts who are no longer in government. However, one does not know if their views have subsequently been sought. The strategic and scientific community needs to be heard with respect, especially those experts who are free to speak their mind. An informed public debate is essential on an issue of such tremendous import to the very future of this country.
(The author has had a long association with India’s technology establishment, and prefers a discussion of the issues here rather than his identity.)
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu