By Prof. M.D. Nalapat
When the July 18, 2005 Manmohan Singh-George Bush nuclear deal was announced, many domestic ?experts? applauded, being deluded by the numerous briefings by the PMO and the MEA that the agreement signalled the acceptance by Washington of the reality of India being a nuclear weapons state. A deliberate impression was created that the Bush administration had agreed to India'sbeing treated on par with the US, Russia, China, the UK and France through the ?Additional Protocol? of the International Atomic Energy Agency at New Delhi. This would have meant the dismantling of the numerous international sanctions that have been in effect against India since Pokhran I in 1974.
Crucially, the country would have retained the right to extract fuel rods from civilian nuclear reactors for uses involving the defense of India against nuclear attack. New Delhi would also have the right to designate which of its nuclear facilities were civilian and which military,placing only the former under fullscope of IAEA safeguards. Astonishingly, while the Manmohan-Bush agreement meant that Indian acceptance of intrusive inspections would be ?irrevocable and irreversible?, Washington placed no such condition on itself. In other words, if a future US administration tore up the agreement the way the US did with Tarapur in the 1970s, India would still be committed to the harsh conditions specified under the July 18 agreement. In view of his failure to implement a coherent policy on economic reform as a result of obstruction by the ?Real? Prime Minister, India's?Virtual? PM Manmohan Singh is desperate for a foreign policy success.
He therefore boasted that the nuclear deal meant that India would finally be treated by the US with the deference that its size and potential entitled it to,rather than continue to be equated with far smaller countries.His assistants claimed that the restrictions on technology transfer put in place by the India-phobic 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) would shortly be removed,thus clearing the way for collaboration in the civilian nuclear energy programme. Manmohan'snew friend, George W Bush, would ensure that the NSG included India in the shortlist of countries that could legally import nuclear technology from outside.
The list would include Iran, a country whose Foreign Minister publicly declared a year back in New Delhi that the Babri Masjid controversy was a dead letter, and which is India'sonly land bridge to Central Asia,given that US ally Pakistan refuses to accept even relief-carrying transport vehicles from India.
For the past 31 years,while New Delhi had been in effect obeying all the cross-border proliferation rules of the NSG, China had clandestinely armed Pakistan and North Korea with nuclear devices (with the full knowledge, if not connivance, of the US), and was well on the way towards doing the same with Iran. Of course, thanks to the lobbying power of corporate groups that rely on Beijing for their income, the Arms Control lobby in the US continued to ignore China'sproliferation even as it relentlessly sought to destroy India'sreactive nuclear weapons?and civilian?programme. As a consequence of this China-favouring pressure, every single application and development of nuclear science by India, including in the fields of crop preservation and medicine, became the target of a sanctions regime that was extreme in its scope and harshness.The US,China and the EU joined hands to hobble India,succeeding in considerably slowing down the programme. In the 1990s, Manmohan Singh was among those members of the Union Cabinet who advised the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Had Rao followed such advice, the country would have been rendered defenseless against a nuclear attack.The July 18 agreement may complete what Manmohan Singh failed to do in the 1990s, demolish the country'snuclear defenses by an ill-considered action taken without the benefit of counsel and involvement from the nuclear,defense and security establishments?the three entities immediately concerned with nuclear weapons policy. Instead, a small clique of officers from the PMO, MEA and the Planning Commission joined hands to rush through the disastrous agreement, which?fortunately?has yet to have the force of law. Even were Washington to concede the reality of India being a nuclear weapons state,the Bush administration has imposed extremely onerous conditions for such a move.
Apart from an extremely expensive and possibly impractical total separation of the civilian and military programme ( something that no nuclear power has ever before achieveded, the underlying subtext of the agreement means that India would have to tag along behind the US whenever Washington decides that a country needs to be taught a lesson.Of course, such a list would never include the purveyors of Wahabbism,Saudi Arabia.In the pricey Kennebunkport hideaway of the Bush family, Saudis are frequent and welcome guests.It would not include the Pakistan army,which has gotten away from retribution for largescale proliferation by the obviously fictitious claim that the entire network was the responsibility of a single unsupervised individual,A Q Khan ( who is not even a nuclear physicist), and that the entire Pakistan armed forces was completely unaware of his activities,just as the Saudi royals (according to the deferential Bush ) had no clue that the billions of dollars they were doling out annually to extremist groups worldwide were being used to foment terrorism.It would definitely not include China,as that country by definition can do no wrong in the eyes of a US administration in thrall to business interests ready to sacrifice principle and even security for profit
However, the list would include Iran, a country whose Foreign Minister publicly declared a year back in New Delhi that the Babri Masjid controversy was a dead letter,and which is India'sonly land bridge to Central Asia,given that US ally Pakistan refuses to accept even relief-carrying transport vehicles from India.It is interesting to note that although there have been hundreds of Muslim-Hindu clashes since the country was partitioned in 1947,to the best of this columnist'sknowledge,there has not been a single significant Shia-Hindu clash,practically every such violent incident involved Sunnis, a group that has been long targetted by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.Were India to become actively hostile to Iran the way the UPA has effectively become,this situation may change.
Unlike that pampered darling of the US,Pakistan, Teheran has not thus far broken any international law in its nuclear-related activities.Even the installation of the B1 and B2 centrifuges from Pakistan do not violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty,as these are technologically incapable of refining uranium to weapons grade.Just as it regarded the (admittedly thuggish but secular) Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq to be the primary international backer of ?Al Qaeda? ( whereas in fact,the culprits are Islamabad and Riyadh), today the Bush-Cheney duo perceive Iran to be engaged in the acquisition of nuclear weapons to threaten Europe and Israel.
Were the July 18, 2005 agreement to be implemented the way the two US officials have promised the US Congress it will be,India would soon become dependent on the US and the EU for all nuclear-related activity,while its deterrent capabilities would rapidly degrade to ineffectiveness.
Sadly for Teheran,the ill-considered and indefensible remarks of its new President have provided an excuse for those in London,Riyadh and Washington who are pushing for military action against Iran.These remarks are being used the way Saddam Hussein'sempty bombast was used as ?proof? of Iraq'sWMD capability. While both President Ahmedinijad and Supreme Leader Khamenei are indeed loose cannons,the only country that is in trouble from the duo is Iran itself, not the US,not the EU and not the ?Little Giant?, Israel. Manmohan Singh is an economist, so he could not have been unaware that the financial cost – not to mention the technical complexity – of fully separating India'scivilian and military nuclear programme would be immense,so large that in effect it would bankrupt the programme and thus derail it.In particular,such a separation would effectively destroy the Fast Breeder Reactor Program. This is based on thorium, the nuclear feedstock that India has in abundance,and would be able to make the country largely self-sufficient in nuclear energy within the next six years,which is the reason why the non-proliferation lobby in the US and China are so desperately seeking to stop it.
Were the Manmohan-Bush nuclear agreement to proceed on the lines sketched out by US Under-Secretary (Political) Nicholas Burns and Under-Secretary (Arms Control) Robert Burns, India'sindigenous nuclear programme would be rendered toothless in less than a decade,and the country would become dependent on the goodwill of the US and the EU for its entire nuclear programme.It is certain that the US-EU duo would seek to gut the Indian weapons programme by dangling the carrot of a nuclear umbrella,the way Taiwan was forced to roll back its programme in the 1980s.
Although Manmohan Singh was reticent about revealing details of the understanding that his tiny clique of officials reached with their US counterparts prior to his July visit to Washington, the hearings in the US Congress have been making the list of conditionalities sought to be inflicted on India clear.These include: (a) India accepting safeguards ?in perpetuity? before any substantive technology transfer from the US and the EU takes place (b) New Delhi'sassistance to all the non-proliferation initiatives taken by the EU and the US,even if these were to favour known rivals such as Pakistan or go against allies such as Iran (c) Complete separation of civilian and military facilities,and zero help to the latter.In view of the dual-use nature of many technologies and processes,this would substantially limit the assistance provided,and would in fact be much less valuable than unfettered indigenous development (d) Crucially,the IAEA's?Additional Protocol? that ensures the removal of blocks to a military programme would not be extended to India.This is contrary to what had been mentioned in July (e) Secret agreements,that would gut the military programme and through that the indigenous civilian programme,in a way that would destroy India'sability to retaliate against a nuclear attack (f) Capping and then rolling back the production of fissile material, much before an adequate stockpile gets built up for the development of weapons that are land,sea and air-based.This would in effect make India the first country in the world to accede to the grossly discriminatory Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty.
Were the July 18, 2005 agreement to be implemented the way the two US officials have promised the US Congress it will be,India would soon become dependent on the US and the EU for all nuclear-related activity,while its deterrent capabilities would rapidly degrade to ineffectiveness. Equally ominously,the substantial R & D capabilities built up so painstakingly in the country since the 1970s would get dismantled,as India would be reduced to client status,the way Pakistan is with China.Of course,while India would take tangible and irreversibly fatal actions,all that the US would need to do would be to keep dangling carrots in front of the Indian donkey,without actually letting it have any. Even such a draconian proposal is unacceptable to China and to the Arms Control lobby in the US that supports Chinese interests. Beijing would like New Delhi to disarm immediately and fully before any sort of substantive cooperation gets extended to it.
Thanks to its clout on Capitol Hill,several voices there are mouthing Beijing'stune. All nationalist groups need to come together to block this transparent sellout of the Indian nuclear programme.India can cooperate with the US only if New Delhi is given the same status and rights as Paris or London, not relegated to tenth-class status the way a small clique of officials reporting to the UPA leadership are attempting to concede.