Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal

During the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Monmohan Singh’s visit to the USA, the PM and US President, Mr. George W. Bush announced an agreement with an objective to ending decades-long nuclear isolation of India and bringing it into the global nuclear mainstream. Then on his first visit to India President Bush and PM Singh reached an agreement on India’s plan for separation of its nuclear facilities. India agreed to put 14 of its 22 reactors under civilian facilities and put them under IAEA safeguards in a phased manner by 2014. The US agreed to amend its laws that prevented its entities from selling nuclear technology to India. It would get the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift the ban as well and ensure fuel supply for imported reactors. The Agreement is to be valid 40 years. But any side can retract from this agreement. A notification in this regard has to be issued one year before the cancellation of the deal. During this time the two sides will discuss the contentious issues. In the event of the failure of the discussion, any side is free to cancel the deal.

On December 16, 2006, the US President signed the Henry J. Hyde US India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act after the US Congress’s approval. The Hyde Act contains some controversial provisions like the US President’s annual certification to the Congress that India’s behaviour is in consonance with American interests, that India must stand by the US on Iran issue and also that India must refrain from nuclear testing. All these stirred up the hornet’s nest in India. So during negotiation between India and the US over the so-called bilateral 123 Agreement were grounded over certain provisions the Hyde Act. The US wanted to argue that they were non-binding sections and the US President would use his executive powers to overcome them. Dr. Monmohan Singh spoke to Bush on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit in Germany to sort out the remaining issues. India wanted the right to reprocessing of the imported fuel. But the Americans objected. Then India proposed a dedicated national facility under IAEA safeguards for reprocessing of the imported fuel. With Tarapore memory in fresh, India wanted the uninterrupted supply of fuel for the imported reactors. The proposal was accepted. Finally the details of the 123 Agreement were made public after both governments’ approval on July, 2007.

India would now have to negotiate a safeguard agreement with the IAEA . The discussion with the IAEA in this regard has begun. Next the Nuclear Suppliers Group would have to give its unconditional clearance and the US Congress would have to vote again to ratify the 123 Agreement.

The Left parties are opposed to the Agreement and have given Dec. Ultimatum to the Govt. The BJP too is against the deal in its current form. Besides, the humility defeat of the Congress in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections have the Manmohan Singh govt. on the back-foot. So whether or not Dr. Singh sticks to this initiative till finish, is to be seen.

Objections to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal in the USA

The Indo-US nuclear agreement has not had a smooth sailing. Both the Indian PM and the US President have been criticised at home for conceding too much.

Critics in the USA objected to the deal on the following grounds:

  • India has not signed the CTBT or the NPT. So by making an exception for India the President has destabilised the global non-proliferation regime. This could encourage other states like Iran and North Korea to go nuclear.

  • With the help of the imported uranium India will generate electricity and with the home-grown uranium it would make nuclear bombs. Thus the deal would contribute to the increase of the Indian nuclear arsenal.

  • India’s relationship with Iran is not above suspicion.

Objections to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal in India

The Indian critics lashed out against the Agreement on these grounds:-

  • The Hyde Act must cast its shadow on the foreign policy arena. India will turn into a junior partner of the US. Our sovereignty will be undermined. So India has walked into a strategic trap from where there is no escape.
  • India has the highest reserve of thorium in the world. The Indian scientists are mastering the technology to use thorium as fuel. This deal will hamper the indigenous research in this regard. Besides higher quality uranium ore has been discovered in Ladakh.
  • India has the immense possibility of hydropower of 150000MW. Besides Nepal and Bhutan can also help us also help in this field. Again there are other alternative sources of energy like wind power and solar power etc.
  • The US will export only a few reactors and fuels, not technologies. Therefore there is no logic of running after expensive nuclear energy.
  • Foreign inspection will break the secrecy of the Indian nuclear programme.
  • The deal is a ploy to cap, roll back and eliminate India’s nuclear programme. As Yashwant Sinha pointed out, the closing down of the Cirus reactor, the shifting of the core of the Apsara reactor from BARC and the placing of our 14 nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards will limit our capacity to produce fissile material and will adversely affect our Nuclear Weapons programme.
  • The Hyde Act forces India not to conduct any nuclear tests. This will severely hamper India’s development of improved nuclear warheads. Besides, India has the indigenous nuclear submarine project (ATV). India needs to test N-devices to develop N-warheads for its nuclear submarine. But the deal has closed the door.

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