.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

05 September 2008

It's Nuke time again......

Ever since July 2005, the nuke deal has been hogging headlines in one way or the other and at every step.

The latest controversy is kicked off by the "leakage" of a letter in the US govt departments. My point has always been should so much energy be spent on this issue - which on the one hand may not exactly transform us "completely energy sufficient" given the amount that we may generate from this nuclear source - at present it is hardly 3 % of the total energy generation of about 1,37,552 MW through all the installed capacity. The 4 reactors which are to be generating energy with US assisted material and tech, is supposed to add another 30000 MW to this kitty. According to Central Electricity Authority, we need to add up a capacity addition of at least 1,00,000 MW to provide availability of 1000 units per capita by 2012. we still need to fill up a gap of 70,000 MW capacity addition to meet the growing energy need. So, while energy generation capacity through the nuclear source is not going to transform our energy scene completely, it might help to fill in the gap nonetheless.

And on the other hand, assuming even if it is going to render some small percentage of our total needs, what is wrong in pursuing that goal - albeit with the US help? But this exactly is the contention from the opponents of the deal - who argue that some of the clauses in the deal affect our sovereignty. The US will break the deal in the event of another nuclear test by us. On that score I agree. However, with a self determined moratorium, and with our own commitment to the principle of non proliferation ( even though we have chosen NOT to sign the Treaty for our own security reasons), we may not actually go for another Test in the future. But that is our choice as a sovereign country and we don't need someone else monitoring us and we retain the right - whether or not we exercise the right is a different matter - we retain the choice to do what we want to do for the welfare of our nation.

Now having said that, I don't really see anything wrong in the deal as it is.

For one, no where in the bilateral agreement is there any mention of potential nuclear test by India. All references are about using the imported supply of material / tech transfer only to peaceful use and about them not being diverted to military or non civilian use. So, if we have to N. test in future, from the material / and tech sourced from our own indigeneous methods without using the imported material /technology - the US cannot cite any reason for cessation of the deal. The cessation can take place only if India, defaulting its own promise of the agreement, chooses to use the imported material /tech, for its military purpose.

As a country with high moral ground of keeping up promises, we will not divert the imported material /tech. for our non civilian /non peace nuclear projects. But one clause could be applied for cessation:


1. The Parties shall cooperate in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of this Agreement. Each Party shall implement this Agreement in accordance with its respective applicable treaties, national laws, regulations, and license requirements concerning the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

Here is where the controversial "cessation - of - agreement - in - case - of - N.test by India" can occur. In the event of a N. test by us, US can cite its own national laws / regulations ( read Hyde Act and Article 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.) But even if that happens, it can always be argued that the imported supply and tech are not used in the N. test and is carried out independently by a sovereign nation, outside the scope of the agreement.

Second, as the proponents of the deal in India all along have been saying, the deal doesn't stop us from N. testing - because if US chooses to break the deal we are off the deal too and are free to source fuel from other suppliers - which is what crucial - Our Plan B. And that is possible only when the deal gets the nod from the Nuclear Supply Group.Now, if we don't have the NSG approval, or we land up with no Plan B - well, the deal will have to be scrapped.

simply put, if we - for our own security reasons break our self determined moratorium and go ahead with another test - the supplier can stop supplying the fuel, citing their national laws. But we have plan B ready standing by and hence no cause for worry that the facilities will go waste without fuel supply.

But why is it that the government or the proponents or the opponents do not take the trouble of putting all the cards on the table to thrash out each point? Why is it that there is not a more discerning open debate arguing question by question - both parties fielding the questions from the public? why is there not more transparency from the government side?

When the govt kept on parroting that the deal doesn't prevent India from N. testing in future - the explanation could have been more in detail - explaining the situation as it is. "that – yes; There is no mention in the deal per se` of a “cessation if we do N. Test” and therefore we can go ahead and N.test, with our indigenous material /tech, if needed. As per the agreement since we didn't divert / or use the imported material /tech for military /non civilian purpose, the US cannot break the deal. But, yes; the US can stop supply citing its national laws, since there is a clause that says the agreement is bound by internal laws; but we have plan B in place - so no cause for worry." etc..etc...

What prevented them from stating the position explicitly? or were they worried about Plan B? Or were they confident ( or smug?) and took for granted that we will not test in near future and therefore no need for explaining the disturbing clauses in the deal?

The later seems to be the case. Meanwhile there was no cat to come out of the bag as the opposition paint the current "leakage" in the US. The 123 agreement is an open document and has been there all along on both governments' websites.

If anyone interested - check out the link to read complete agreement -

1. from the US govt website
2.from the Indian govt. site

Why didn't the opponents take the relevant excerpts from the document and ask the govt to explain it clearly? Till now no one bothered to do this - analyse the document in public, clause by clause. There should have been open debate with everyone concerned around.

Meanwhile, a quote from a US think tank, as reported in a news report in 2006, in keeps you thinking....

“This deal provides incentives for India to resume nuclear testing,” said Henry L. Stimson Center President Emeritus Michael Krepon.


Nuclear Supplier Group backs U.S - India Atomic Trade Deal

India Gets Nuclear Suppliers Group Waiver
"....External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement yesterday reaffirming India's commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament goals and the reference to its voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing appears to have played a major role in placating the countries that had strong views on proliferation. The four countries were initially not fully satisfied with the statement and wanted this commitment to be incorporated in the US-steered draft waiver. They also wanted inclusion of the consequences that would follow a nuclear test.

But India had been opposed to inclusion of any conditionalities which it felt would undermine its sovereign right to undertake a nuclear test. New Delhi is not a member of the NSG which takes decisions on the principle of consensus....."

More background data:

"The IAEA agreement released yesterday by the government is a unique document of the IAEA in which an NPT country is conceded virtually the weapon status. It has provisions to the extent possible for the continued supply of nuclear fuel. It also meets all expectations of the country," Chairman, Accelerator Safety Committee of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, M R Iyer, said on Friday.

IAEA agreement - The Pros and Cons

Siddharth Varadarajan's views on IAEA doc

View from the other side
- 1. India has only allowed facility-specific IAEA safeguards at a handful of foreign-supplied reactors and nuclear facilities and nuclear materials, leaving its unsafeguarded military nuclear sector free to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, and to design and produce nuclear warheads. India is estimated to possess enough separated fissile material for 60-100 nuclear warheads and potentially far more if foreign nuclear fuels supplies allow it to devote its limited domestic fuel supplies exclusively for weapons purposes.

View from the other side - 2. NewYork Times Ed.

The nuclear agreement was a bad idea from the start. Mr. Bush and his team were so eager for a foreign policy success that they gave away the store. They extracted no promise from India to stop producing bomb-making material. No promise not to expand its arsenal. And no promise not to resume nuclear testing.

The administration — and India’s high-priced lobbyists — managed to persuade Congress in 2006 to give its preliminary approval. But Congress insisted on a few important conditions, including a halt to all nuclear trade if India tests another weapon.

That didn’t stop the White House from insisting on more generous terms from the suppliers’ group. When New Zealand and a group of other sensible countries tried to impose similar restrictions, the administration pulled out all of the diplomatic stops. (Officials proudly reported that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made at least two dozen calls to governments around the world to press for the India waiver.)

The suppliers’ group gave its approval after India said it would abide by a voluntary moratorium on testing — but it does not require any member to cut off trade if India breaks that pledge.

That means that if India tests a nuclear weapon, it could still bypass American suppliers and keep buying fuel and technology from other less exacting sellers. Let us be clear about this. It is the administration that disadvantaged American companies when it argued for more lenient rules from the suppliers group than those written into American law.

And let us also be clear that Congress’s restrictions were a sensible effort to limit the damage from this damaging deal and maintain a few shreds of American credibility when it comes to restraining the spread of nuclear weapons.

Lawmakers should hold off considering the deal at least until the new Congress takes office in January. And they must insist that at a minimum, the restrictions already written into American law are strictly adhered to.

The next president will have to do a far better job containing the world’s growing nuclear appetites. And for that, he will need all of the moral authority and leverage he can muster.

NYT - 9th Sep '08


Post a Comment

<< Home