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August - September 2008

Political News

Shoulder to shoulder Nuclear Deal

by Krishan Ralleigh

The separation of India’s civil and military nuclear facilities and programmes in a phased manner was envisaged in the IndoUS nuclear deal of 2005.

With Japanese Prime minister Yasuo Fukuda

The draft Safeguards Agreement explicitly affirms tat IAEA will not interfere with India’s military programme and the pact will apply only to the civil nuclear facilities as identified by India.

The text also reveals that under the agreement the government of India is bound to offer its civilian atomic facilities under safeguards, keeping out the military facilities. The draft, a key step in implementation of the IndoUS nuclear deal, also makes it clear that India would ensure that none of the items produced in the safeguarded facilities and material received for them shall be used for the manufacture of any nuclear weapon or to further any other military purpose.

Under the agreement India will place its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards to facilitate full civil nuclear cooperation between India and members of IAEA.

"Nothing in this agreement shall affect other rights and obligations of India under international law," says the draft agreement.

The safeguards will apply to any facility notified by India, any nuclear material, nonnuclear material, equipment and components supplied to India, which are required to be safeguarded pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral arrangement to which India is a party.

The draft agreement specially mentions that IAEA will not interfere with India's military programme so long as India does not take advantage of the newly acqired nuclear and nonnuclear material under this agreement.

The IAEA will maintain an inventory of items subject to the agreement and the UN agency will send a copy of the inventory it maintains with respect to such information to India every 12 months and also at any other times specified by India in a request communicated to the agency at least two weeks in advance.

Those scientists and political parties who are apprehensive about the limits forced on India’s military programme by this agreement should rest assured that the present nuclear capabilities of India would not come to a stand still. In fact, the agreement will give a boost to India’s missile defence system.

The draft agreement specifically emphasises that the present nuclear sovereignty of India will remain intact. It supports Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel for safeguarded facilities to guardagainst any disruption of supply over the life time of India's reactors.

“India may take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies.” What are these corrective methods has been left in the hands of India to decide.

The crucial element in the agreement recognises India's commitment to the full development of its national threestage nuclear programme to meet the twin challenges of energy security and protection of the environment.

It also recognises India's inalienable right to carry out research and development activities for the welfare of its people and other peaceful purposes.

Energy security is an essential ingradient to ensure India’s rapid economic progress.

Madhup Mohta, former director Foreign Service Institute in his essay ‘An enquiry intoIndia’s International identity: the next great power?’puts it lucidly, “Ensuring energy security is India’s single most important economic concern and is likely to undo her dreams of being a global power..” He puts his thumb at the right pressure points when he says, “The nuclear power sector is in a dismal state both in terms of promise and performance largely because India does not have adequate enriched uranium, badly needed for operating its civilian reactors. The recent IndiaUS deal would help. However, to make thenuclear power sector more advanced, it is imperative that while the reactors meant for military use are retained with the Atomic Energy Commission, those reactors, which are intended for production of nuclear power for civilian use, should be privatised and handed over to nongovernment agencies. This will not only bring a measure of economic efficiency in the management of nuclear power sector but will also bring the Indian civilian nuclear programme out from a cloak of absolute secrecy, to greater public scrutiny and create an informed opinion about the performance of the atomic energy sector in the country.” (‘India Foreign Policy’ published by Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi pp. 46-47)

There are critics who find ambiguities in the draft agreement, which should be clarified before the UN watchdog approves the idea. However, no one disputes that. Under the agreement, the IAEA has recognised the fact that India is a state with advanced nuclear technology which now wishes to expand to civil nuclear cooperation for its development.

There are sceptics in the United States and within the UN who raise questions about the capability of the UN’s agency to monitor India’s atomic programmes. They are also apprehensive about a clause in the draft that says India "may take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies."Disruption of fuelsupplies would happen, say the sceptics, if India were to resume testing of nuclear weapons.

India’s does not have to bend backwards to convince the diehard sceptics about its credentials in upholding international treaties.

India is one of three nations outside the nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. India developed and conducted a nuclear test in 1974, prompting the United States to ban the sale of nuclear fuel and reactor technology. Again in 1998 India and Pakistan proved that they were now, in effect, nuclear states.

India's motives in becoming a nuclear state have always been defensive in nature. The nuclear deal is a part of that strategy.

To quote Madhup Mohta,”While the newly acquired nuclear weapons state status provides a deterrent to potential adversaries, it is not a credible deterrent. It is obvious to any discerning observer that use of nuclear weapons in a potential IndiaPakistan war is not a policy option either for India or Pakistan”

The Nuclear deal with the United States of America, to some extent, is part of international balance of power, both economic as well as military. China’s military might is moving upward as rapidly as its economic growth. And for India the ‘Hindichini bhai bhai’ slogan is long dead and buried. We have to live with a military and economic powerhouse which will only respect us if we can match them in both these sectors.

That’s why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared, with George Bush by his side, that IndiaUS relations had never been better.

To the left parties of India that was anathema. So was it to those who eulogise Osama Bin Laden and his fanatic disciples. India’s parliamentarians are in a strange dilemma. The Bhartiya Janata Party has no sympathy with either the Marxists or the fundamentalists. At this junction national interest should be their top priority and not political expediency. The BJP leadership should stand above political horsetrading and abstain from voting either for or against the nuclear deal so that the people realise that they are for the nuclear deal in principle, although would like certain clarifications and changes in the draft treaty.That will be statesmanship of a very high order.

Members of the G8 wholeheartedly supported the nuclear deal in these words, "We look forward to working with India, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other partners to advance India's nonproliferation commitments and progress so as to facilitate a more robust approach to civil nuclear cooperation with India to help it meet its growing energy needs in a manner that enhances and reinforces the global nonproliferation regime."

People of India should be proud of these momentous times in the history of Independent India when all the rich nations of the world are on their side.

With Russian Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev

More Political News

More articles by Krishan Ralleigh

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