Indo-US Nuclear Deal
Some Victory, Some Defeat
By Fr. John Felix Raj.
Published in (Voice of
Conscience) Indian Currents (A National Weekly) Issue 19, 07 May 2006
India and the United States, in
the words of President George Bush, have "concluded an historic agreement" in
their relations, striking a deal on civilian nuclear co-operation. The deal was
the centerpiece of President Bush’s first visit to India in March this year. It
recognizes India’s unique position as a responsible nuclear power entitled to
rights, benefits and gains denied for three decades. It is expected to lead to
changes in the global nuclear order and accommodation of India.
The unprecedented deal came
after President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met at the White
House in July 2005 and further fine-tuned in Delhi during Bush’s visit in March
2006. The announcement amounts to a huge policy change by the Bush
administration, which is likely to signal to other nuclear powers that India’s
situation and position is unique.
The agreement has now been sent
to the US Congress for approval. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has
defended the nuclear cooperation before the US Congress. As US Under Secretary
of State Burns put it, "They (Congress) can’t just be expected to sign off on
something without having held hearings ... and without having been able to get
the detailed answers from the American government which they are entitled to."
The deal must be ratified by the US Congress and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers
Group that controls the trade in civilian nuclear technology and fuel.
It is considered both a moral
and a substantive victory for India, which has argued for years against the
discriminatory nature of the nuclear world order and insisted on maintaining its
nuclear weapons status. Under the deal, India will open 14 of 22 nuclear plants
for international inspection and will be allowed to buy nuclear fuel and power
plants from the US and the other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
India has not signed the 1972
Non-Proliferation Treaty which many US lawmakers consider a cornerstone to
control the spread of nuclear weapons. India tested a "peaceful nuclear device"
in 1974 which brought the embargo and then conducted weapons tests in May 1998
that were matched by Pakistan the same month.
The Prime Minister had said at
a joint press conference with President Bush that the nuclear issue had been
resolved to his "great satisfaction". India’s Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran,
described the outcome as one that "exceeded expectations". The US is said to
look at India with new eyes because of the changing global scenario. India has
become America’s new love.
President Bush has agreed to
"work to achieve full civil nuclear energy co-operation with India" and work
with the US Congress to "adjust US laws and policies" and work with other
nuclear powers to change "the international regimes" to allow this new path to
be charted. He has made a commitment inviting India to participate in
international nuclear research, something that India has demanded for years.
Bush’s commitment is interpreted as a gesture not just improving, but
"transforming" relations with India, the emerging global power in the world. In
exchange, India is to ensure that its military and civilian nuclear programmes
are separate, place its civilian reactors under international safeguards of the
International Atomic Energy Agency and continue India’s moratorium on nuclear
During a debate in the Lok
Sabha recently, the Prime Minister emphasized to the House that the basis for
the nuclear deal was a clear recognition that "India was a responsible nuclear
power with an impeccable record on nuclear non-proliferation". He had said: "We
expect the same rights and responsibilities as other nuclear powers. Reciprocity
is key to the implementation of all the steps enumerated in the joint statement.
Indian actions will be contingent at every stage on actions by the other side".
Science and Technology
Minister, Kapil Saibal was the one who initiated the debate on behalf of the
Manmohan Singh government on the US-India civilian nuclear agreement in both the
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. He is convinced the deal, if consummated, would be a
catalyst for an unprecedented tangible science and technology alliance between
the two countries that could impact not just India and the US, but have global
implications. Rice has told the US Senate that the Nuclear Deal won’t fuel arms
race in the South Asia. She stressed that the nuclear energy agreement was a
strategic achievement that was good for America, good for India and good for the
international community. She has said: "This initiative would not only advance
international security, but also increase energy security and increase business
opportunities for US, leading to around 5,000 direct jobs and perhaps three
times more indirect jobs."
Burns stated, "What we have
done is to develop a broad, global partnership of the like that we’ve not seen
with India since its founding in 1947. This has consequences for American
interests in South Asia, but also has larger consequences for what we are trying
to do globally, in terms of promoting democracy, fighting terrorism, fighting
Republican Senator Lugar has
said, "The Indo-US nuclear deal is one of the most ambitious foreign policy
initiatives to come before the Congress in many years. A closer link with India
is valuable for US." He explained that India’s energy needs are expected to
double by 2025. The US has an interest in expanding energy operation with India
to develop new technologies.
Deal Under Attack
The Indo-US nuclear is under
attack from different quarters. The former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
who had presided over India’s nuclear weapon tests in 1998 and proclaimed India
as a nuclear weapon state, protested against the deal saying it did not
represent India’s recognition as a nuclear weapon power.
The Chairman of India’s Atomic
Energy Commission, Mr. Anil Kakodkar, has accused the US of "changing the goal
post". He insists that the determination of which facilities are civilian and
which are military "has to be made by the Indians. India’s strategic interests
will have to be decided by India and not by others".
Pakistan has criticized the
deal that the Indo-US deal would not be helpful to the shared objectives of
stability in South Asia and a strong global non-proliferation regime. It is said
that the deal is not a benevolent gift to India. It is a cleaver move to put
India out of the competition for fossil fuel, which is getting scarcer. US
President spelt it out cleverly during his visit: "It is in our economic
interests that India has a civilian nuclear power industry to help take the
pressure off the global demand for energy. To the extent that we can reduce
demand for fossil fuel, it will help the American consumer."
China has voiced its concerns
about the deal, stating that India and the US should remain within the realm of
NPT; implying India should sign the NPT, renounce its nuclear ambitions and
thereafter be allowed access to nuclear materials and technology. India’s recent
anti-Iran votes are criticized as being part of attempts to please the US and
save the nuke deal.
Daryl Kimball of the Arms
Control Association considers the deal as controversial. He has urged the US
Congress not to approve the nuke deal unless India stops production of fossil
material for weapon purpose. He thinks the deal could become a catalyst for an
Asian nuclear arms race.
The deal raises a number of
questions about the Government’s policies in the field of nuclear energy,
disarmament, ‘promotion of democracy,’ energy security and strategic stability
in Asia. Is it really difficult for India to cope with its energy needs without
this nuclear deal? We know nuclear power is a double-edged sword. How far is it
wise on our part to look for nuclear power options in today’s world of
terrorism? What will be China’s reaction? What about a nuclear deal between
China and Pakistan? Why is the US keen to help India now? Why didn’t it come up
with this package earlier? Is there a national consensus on the issue? What is
the stand of India’s eminent scientists on the treaty? Were they consulted?
The timing of the deal is
important. It has come through at a time of soaring petroleum prices and the
threat of peak oil. India and China have been putting pressure on the global
supply of fossil fuels consuming larger quantities. The Indo-US agreement is
seen as US attempt to shut the rivals out of competition.
The deal is guided by an
assumption that nuclear energy is clean and that it is the energy of the future
that will combat "peak oil", that too by two of the biggest polluters of the
world. Building more nuclear reactors will create public outrage in the US. So
the safest bet is to transfer the nuclear technology to a responsible client
country in the Third World. This is exactly what is happening with this Indo-US
The US had adamantly opposed to
the scheme of building a pipeline to deliver Iranian gas to Pakistan and India.
This scheme, called ‘Peace Pipe’ was to reduce India’s dependence on western oil
companies. Iran has the world’s largest gas reserves after Russia, and Teheran
views India as a very important market. Pakistan, on the other hand, will
receive a hefty annual transit fee. And India, an energy deficient market, needs
the gas for its booming economy.
But Mani Shankar Aiyar was
stripped of the Petroleum, Oil and Natural Gas portfolio, probably to facilitate
the nuclear deal. Aiyar had vigorously pursued the Iran gas pipeline project and
had even gone against the decision of the Ministry of External Affairs over the
issue. It is said that Washington had pressured the removal of Mani Shankar
Aiyar as he refused to toe the American line on the project.
The Government owes it to the
people to provide a detailed account of its nuclear policy in the form of a
White Paper. The Government needs to place on record its estimate of how much
the proposed separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities will cost
and what the rights and benefits of the deal will be.
The peace movements view the
issue differently. They support the separation of civilian and military
facilities and full transparency. But they do not believe nuclear weapons have
any positive aspect or impact and they are irrelevant to security. They are
opposed to their existence and legitimization everywhere. The Government should
openly say that nuclear deal or not, India will continue to work for global
delivered at ICC hall at a seminar organized by the Swadeshi Research Institute,
on April 17, 2006.)