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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

10 August 2007

Nuclear Deal

The kind of Interview I was looking forward to - about the Nuclear Deal - Some pertinent questions are answered; but I feel more questions should have been there from a common man's perspectives. Like what are the implications of the strategic co operation agreements and how do they affect /impact Indian interests? While, I'm still looking for answers, let me save this link for posterity.

The Hindu - opinion page - 10th Aug. 2007

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.


Another ed piece in The Hindu dated 8th Aug.

And here, Siddarath Varadarajan puts things in perspetives. ".........How would our post-test scenario of 2020 compare with 1974 or 1998? One difference is that unlike then, the U.S. now would have the right of return. But the very process of invoking that right — as outlined above — would trigger a set of legally binding Indian rights that did not exist in 1974 or 1998. On balance, therefore, it is obvious that India would be in a much better position to forestall any disruption to its civilian energy programme if the U.S. were to try and penalise it for conducting a nuclear test, provided it actually creates a fuel stockpile.......

"........Under a worst-case scenario where the U.S. ignores its obligation to ensure the continuous operation of Indian reactors, presumably citing the Hyde Act, India would be under no obligation to entertain an American request for the return of nuclear items. If a U.S.-supplied fuel stockpile exists on Indian territory, India could continue using that fuel if not doing so means disrupting the operation of its reactors. Possession is more than nine-tenths of the law. However, the Indian Government of the day must be prepared to uphold its sovereign rights, even if it means incurring the wrath of the U.S. The best agreement in the world is worthless if the men who must implement it turn out to have weak knees. ........"

Update on May 16th '09.

Siddharth Varadarajan
Renegotiation is not desirable, even if it were an option. But the next government can always decide not to buy American reactors if it doesn’t like the terms on offer.

In the course of the election campaign, several leaders from L.K. Advani and Yashwant Sinha of the Bharatiya Janata Party to Prakash Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and even Pranab Mukherji of the Congress have spoken of ’”reworking,” “not implementing” or “re-examining” the nuclear deal with the United States......

The problem with the election-eve rhetoric on renegotiation is that the “nuclear deal” refers not to a single document or text but to a complex set of undertakings and commitments by India and the international community of which the bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation with the U.S. is just one part.

Of these, the most important element is clearly the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group’s decision last September to lift its export ban on India. Of course, that exemption would not have been possible without what preceded it: the July 2005 Indo-U.S. agreement, the Indian separation plan, the Hyde Act passed by the U.S. Congress in December 2006, the ‘123 agreement’ between New Delhi and Washington and, finally, the approval of the India-specific safeguards agreement by the International Atomic Energy Agency last August...

For example, the Indian safeguards agreement is very clear on the manner in which the separation plan is to be implemented. Only when lifetime fuel supply arrangements are concluded to India’s satisfaction will the individual civilian reactors be expected to go under safeguards. If such arrangements cannot be made for one reason or another, no additional reactor needs to be safeguarded. But the country could still buy fuel from abroad for those reactors which were safeguarded from before like Tarapur and RAPS, something it was unable to do prior to last year’s NSG exemption.

The election rhetoric also obscures the fact that what is popularly called the “nuclear deal” is in fact several deals now — with the U.S., of course, but also with Russia, France and Kazakhstan. And that these deals do not come with a uniform set of rules. Individual supplier nations have their own laws, some less onerous than others, for the supply of nuclear equipment and material. And it is entirely up to India to decide where it wants to send its business. Reactor deals with France and Russia are already at an advanced stage of implementation. Uranium supplies have also been tied up with France, Russia and Kazakhstan. There is little sense in seeking to “rework” or “renegotiate” these agreements....

A much easier option would be to simply resolve not to spend the Indian taxpayer’s money on American nuclear equipment.

This is the ultimate option for India if it has reservations about the final contours of bilateral civil nuclear commerce with the U.S. And the option is best exercised quietly, with dignity and decorum, rather than by seeking to renegotiate a deal whose wider geographical benefits India has no reason to complain about or compromise.


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