Presenting the budget of Department of State, US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 14, 2008, in Washington that any exemption granted to India by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in connection with the US-India civil nuclear cooperation pact (the 123 agreement) shall be consistent with the Hyde Act.
Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of this Senate Committee, had asked her: ?I?m concerned about the NSG. As I understand it, the US representative to that body has circulated a clean exemption (i.e. unconditional exemption) for India that doesn'treflect any of the restrictions contained in the Hyde Act.? Rice replied, ?We will support nothing with India in the NSG that is in contradiction to the Hyde Act. It will have to be completely consistent with the obligations of the Hyde Act. We?ll have to be consistent with the Hyde Act or I don'tbelieve we can count on the Congress to make the next step (of approving the 123 agreement).?
At this hearing Biden observed that the Hyde Act, passed in 2006, ?terminates US nuclear cooperation with India if New Delhi resumes nuclear testing?, and also ?under article 106 restricts the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies (to India)?.
Addressing the Foreign Press Centre on February 29, 2008, Nicholas Burn, the outgoing Under Secretary of State who was the chief negotiator of the 123 agreement on the US side said: ?We are in the vanguard (of the move to resume nuclear trade with India).We are the leading country that will support the NSG in making an international case that all nations should engage in nuclear trade with India. That cannot happen without the USA, because that NSG, of which we are a leading country, has to decide by a consensus.? The Hyde Act also lays down that NSG decisions about India shall have to be by consensus.
In response to a query Burn clarified: ?The Indian government is not suggesting this (i.e. to bypass the US in having nuclear trade with other countries), but in your worst case scenario, if there was an attempt (by India) to say ?well, we are going to forget about the deal with the USA but go forward (with other countries)?, it could not happen, because the NSG would not make the decision in that case.?
Amid reports that New Delhi could abandon the US deal to engage in civil nuclear trade with other countries, Burn maintained that it was ?impossible because what has to happen has to happen in Washington?. So Burn warned that India'snuclear trade with other countries has to conform to the provisions of the 123 agreement, which, in turn, conforms to the Hyde Act, otherwise, the US shall deny consensus within NSG.
This statement of Burn confirms that the 123 agreement has potential to be misused by a US administration as monopoly or stranglehold (by delaying, denying or withholding consensus in NSG) on such nuclear trade of India with other countries which may require any fresh approval from the NSG.
In simple words if the 123 agreement becomes operational, India'snuclear trade with other countries, like Russia, France etc. can take place only to the extent USA or any member of the NSG including pigmy members does not deny consensus in the NSG on India-specific proposals. Thus by involving the NSG in its nuclear trade with other countries, the Manmohan Singh government is giving a say to each of the 45 countries of NSG on the matters pertaining to the energy security of India. Thus the UPA government is making India'senergy security not more secure but hostage to international politics and non-proliferation Ayatollahs.
On March 5, 2008, Boucher, US Assistant secretary of State, told the press corps in New Delhi that negotiations in the NSG may not be smooth affair as there are strong non-proliferation countries in the NSG. He said, ?It'shard to say exactly how long it takes in the NSG. I think we need to allow a month or two to work carefully with the countries, at least that much. The Nuclear Suppliers Group is a consensus organisation and it'san organisation of people who are very committed to non-proliferation goals, to making sure that we keep the world safe from the dangers of nuclear proliferation. There are people who believe very strongly in this. They?re going to have a lot of questions to raise because we do recognise that while this deal is important to bring India into the non-proliferation mainstream, it doesn'tdo it if you might say the traditional way. And, therefore, there are going to be questions about how it applies and how it works.?
The UPA government is bent upon repeating the similar Himalayan blunder by giving a say to a multilateral organisation like NSG in energy security of India which Jawaharlal Nehru committed by referring the Kashmir issue to UNO, another multilateral organisation. Had Jawaharlal Nehru accepted the advice of Indian Generals to let them settle it bilaterally then and there in 1947-48 on army-to-army basis, thousands of Indian lives and billions of rupees would have been saved.
On the relevance and impact of the Hyde Act on the India-US nuclear deal, Boucher reiterated in Delhi on March 5, 2008, that there is no contradiction between the two. He clarified: ?As far as the Hyde Act is concerned, it is a domestic legislation that determines what we do in our government. It'san enabling legislation whose main purpose is to allow us to conclude the nuclear agreement with India. As for the 123 agreement, that'swhat binds India and the US in the same framework. I frankly see no contradiction between the two; I think we can move forward with both in a consistent manner,?
Nicholas Burn and other American officials have been consistently making this point that the 123 agreement was negotiated by them within the mandate given by the Hyde Act so the two are consistent.
Contradicting the above assertions of US functionaries, the UPA government and its spin doctors have been trying hard to sell disinformation that America'sdomestic legislation will have no impact on India'snuclear trade and on the deal. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of External Affairs, recently told the Indian Parliament: ?The Hyde Act is an enabling provision, which is between the executive and the legislative organs of the US government,? that ?India'srights and obligations regarding civil nuclear cooperation with the US arise only from the bilateral 123 agreement that we have agreed upon with the US.?
What Shri Mukherjee failed to acknowledge is that actions and reactions of the US authorities to nuclear trade of India shall be guided by the Hyde Act so only childish and myopic Indian leaders can afford to ignore the Hyde Act.
Protagonists of the 123 agreement keep claiming that the 123 agreement coupled with a general India-specific safeguard agreement with IAEA, and the NSG will remove over 35 years of isolation of India in global nuclear trade. Firstly, this so-called nuclear isolation of India is not a wholly correct assertion as without these agreements India has been able to import nuclear reactors from Russia, a member of NSG. Secondly, the 123 agreement does not totally dismantle the technology denial regimes or nuclear isolation because as explained in my earlier articles (Organiser, July 22 and August 26, 2007), the 123 agreement on the contrary legitimatises and retains with express concurrence of the UPA government ban on supply of dual use items and technology, reprocessing, enrichment and heavy water technology and related equipment (Article 5). Naturally India cannot and should not expect better terms from the NSG than what Manmohan Singh government has already accepted in the 123 agreement.
The UPA leaders and its spin doctors keep telling the Indian people that the 123 agreement shall have no impact on the Indian nuclear weapon programme. Contradicting such assertions Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman, US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said: ?(The deal) will limit the size and sophistication of India'snuclear weapons programme.? Theoretically the 123 agreement does not stop India from conducting nuclear tests in the future but makes the penalty and cost so prohibitive that would deter a future prime minister from doing Pokharan III. The 123 agreement, thus, places India at a disadvantage vis-?-vis its nuclear weapon armed neighbours (China and Pakistan).
In his February 18, 2008 lecture at the India International Centre, Shyam Saran, Special Envoy of PM, informed that one of the mandates to the Indian negotiators was to seek the dismantlement of the multilateral technology denial regime targeting India; and, another was that India'sability to further develop and produce nuclear weapons would not be constrained in any manner; and, strangely boasted having fulfilled these mandates. Above mentioned February 14 statement of Senator Biden shatter to pieces these claims of Shyam Saran if one remembers that the 123 agreement vide its Article 5(2) does not allow export of dual use technology, reprocessing, enrichment and heavy water equipment and technology etc to India. Putting 14 Indian reactors and five research centres, three heavy water plants etc under permanent IAEA safeguard shall heavily restrict pace of research, expansion and modernisation of India'snuclear arsenals. PM is facing opposition from the Left and from the Right as his negotiators have failed in fully carrying out his instructions.
It will be in the long-term interests of both India and the USA to drop the current version of the 123 agreement, lest, being unequal treaty, it becomes the focal point of new wave of anti-Americanism in India, and India should focus on evolving other routes to import nuclear reactors in bulk. India should discard the separation plan laid down by the UPA government as separation is un-necessary. India should approach the IAEA only for project-specific safeguard agreements and enter into government-to-government bilateral agreements, if necessary, with countries interested to supply nuclear material, equipment and reactors as we have been importing nuclear reactors from the Russian Federation. In this route no third country shall get veto power on nuclear trade of India. Simultaneously, India should accelerate commercialisation of its fast breeder nuclear reactors for power generation. India should more aggressively open new uranium mines in India and in non-NSG countries.
(The writer recently retired in the rank of Secretary to Government of India in the Indian Foreign Service, 1971 batch).