India is the largest dynamic democracy in the world and the USA is the strongest one, both with open societies and free press. So these two are and should have been the natural partners in peace and progress. Sky is the limit for developing bilateral relations between the two dynamic democracies. Ever increasing number of Indian students going to US universities is one face of the multifaceted relationship. But for durability the Indo-US relationship should be so conducted as to be seen by Indian people to be based on fair play and equality and not India'ssubservience. Unfortunately the UPA functionaries have been so cavalier and unnecessarily so secretive in developing this relationship especially the cooperation in civil nuclear energy that has invited valid public criticism.
Americans committed blunder of mixing their political goals (non-proliferation, Iran, capping India'snuclear weapon programme etc.) with their commercial interests of exporting nuclear reactors to India. And, the UPA government under estimated ?national pride? of Indians, including leftists is preserving and enhancing real autonomy in the field of our nuclear weapons vis-?-vis Pakistan and China.
It is true that India is an energy deficit country and its energy consumption per capita (660 kwh in 2004) is also lower than the world average (2430 kwh). Energy needs of India are going up as Indian economy expands.
The GDP growth rate which hovered around 10 per cent per annum has now declined due to economic mismanagement unleashed by economist Prime Minister. Inflation is running at 11.89 per cent, the highest over the last 13 years. According to a global rating company, Fitch, our growth rate in 2008-09 may come down to 7.7 per cent. Unemployment has been rising and as on December 31, 2007 about 40 million job seekers were registered with employment exchanges. During 2006 only 177,000 got jobs through these exchanges.
The Manmohan Singh Government has been shedding tonnes of crocodile tears for generating more electricity and energy security but its own performance on adding new capacity has been pathetic. During the Tenth Plan (2002-07) power addition was just the half of the target; and, in the first six months of 2007 capacity addition was just about 30 per cent of targeted 10,000 MW.
All Indians agree that power shortage is one of the real impediments to sustained development. World average of nuclear energy share is about 16 per cent. In India share of nuclear energy in the energy profile is at present between 2 and 3 per cent. India rightly plans to raise share of nuclear power to 7 and 8 per cent by 2030.
There are 16 nuclear power reactors operating in India?two boiling water reactors and 14 pressurised heavy water reactors with total capacity of only 3900 MW. Six more are under construction, four PHWR with 220 MW capacity each, and, two light water reactors of 1000 MW each with total of 2880 MW. Without seeking the NSG exemption and without the 123 type agreement, these two light water reactors are being built in India by Russia. Recently, China agreed to supply six nuclear reactors to Pakistan without asking Pakistan to declare any separation plan, without asking Pakistan to submit bulk of its reactors to perpetual inspections by IAEA and without seeking any Pakistan specific IAEA and NSG approvals.
Nuclear energy after solar and wind energy is environmentally clean, and a reliable source of supply provided supply of nuclear fuel and spare parts are assured at least till the full life span of a reactor. So, it is natural and patriotic for Indian diplomats to dismantle sanction regime and prepare grounds for import of nuclear reactors in India. But the 123 route selected by Dr Manmohan Singh, and especially its text, as explained in my previous two articles
(Organiser, July 22 and August 26, 2007), is self-defeating, faulty, and unreliable, and, practically amounts to nuclear vasectomy (nasbandi) of India.
In the Manmohan Singh route, the military dimension of our nuclear programme will become a glorified ?bonsai? basically due to ?Separation Plan? voluntarily and meekly submitted in ?Chamberlain? style in 2006 by the UPA Government. Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee told press corps in New Delhi: ?(The deal) will limit the size and sophistication of India'snuclear weapons programme.?
Technically the UPA is right in claiming that the 123 agreement and the IAEA safeguards agreement per se shall have no major impact on our weapon programme as military use reactors are excluded from these agreements. But the fact is that crippling effect on our weapon programme is more by the Separation Plan on which these agreements are based. The Hyde Act, sections 105(1) and 108, does mention this Separation Plan. Under Separation Plan 37 nuclear installations including 14 out of 22 reactors, many research institutes, three heavy water units etc will be placed under the IAEA inspection. This list includes the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology, Mumbai; Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata; Institute of Physics, Bhubaneshwar; Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, Kolkata; and the three heavy water plants at Thal Vaishet, Hazira and Tuticorin.
We know researches for weapon development are done in research institutes and placing them under the IAEA will naturally retard the pace of R&D for nuclear weapons. If India needed more plutonium in future then its eight remaining reactors could supply, India can not divert any plutonium from its civilian declared reactors and therefore India will be forced to build a new facility for military use which takes six to eight years. In this way the Separation Plan will cap and cripple efforts by future governments to expand nuclear arsenal.
Shri LK Advani had told the Parliament in November 2007 that the NDA government had offered to place only two nuclear facilities under the IAEA inspection.
The UPA government has been publicising that there is shortage of uranium in India to run the existing nuclear reactors, that existing reactors are under utilised for want of fuel, therefore, it is in the national interest to quickly sign (1) the 123 agreement, (2) safeguards agreement with the IAEA and (3) seek ?clean? one time exemption from the NSG so that India could become eligible to freely import uranium and other nuclear materials from any of the 45-member countries of NSG.
Who did create shortage of locally mined uranium in India? Dr Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in 90s started cutting budgetary allocations to uranium mining which continued for many years. Budget allocation for nuclear power schemes has been reduced by P. Chidambaram from Rs 2333 crore in Financial Year 2007-08 to only Rs 889 crore in Financial Year 2008-09. Among the heads for which allocations have been cut are the Nuclear Fuels Complex, Heavy Water Board, Board for Radiation and Isotope Technology and the thorium plant. So on one hand UPA government is claiming shortage of uranium and, on the other hand, it is reducing budget for nuclear fuel units.
The Indian public is told ad nauseum that purpose of nuclear deal is to enable India import, among others, enriched uranium to run our fuel starved reactors. If it is so, why under the proposed safeguards agreement the UPA government has placed indigenous stocks of thorium (exceeding 20 tons) to perpetual inspections under para 23(d) and 26(d). Why do references to thorium occur in Article 1(L) and (O) of the 123 agreement? In the 123 agreement a reactor has been so defined as to include thorium based ones. So very silently the Indian fast breeder reactors have been put under the ambit of the 123 agreement and the IAEA. This point is yet to receive proper attention of political parties and analysts. These provisions will enable US and IAEA to poke their noses into our fast breeders.
The safeguards agreement has been hailed by some newspapers and the UPA functionaries as guarding the supply line and guarding the right of India to act if supply of nuclear fuel is disrupted. Such a claim is day dreaming as India has failed in the safeguards agreement to secure any ?assurance?, much less any ?commitment? on part of the IAEA to extend its good offices to help India get fuel from other countries. The IAEA in the preamble part has just taken note of what were ?concerns? of the Government of India in requesting the IAEA for signing this agreement. Here it is pertinent to recall Section 102(7) of the Hyde Act which reads: ?It is the sense of the Congress that the US should not seek to facilitate or encourage the continuation of nuclear exports to India by any other country if such exports are terminated under US laws.? And this law is binding on US diplomats. So if the US terminates supply of fuel, it shall not facilitate import of the same by India from other countries.
The UPA government did not have the courtesy to show the full text of the IAEA safeguards agreement to the Left members of the UPA-Left committee on phony pretext of it being classified. Withholding text from committee members was not necessary. There is no restriction imposed by UN organisations on national governments to show or not to show the text to responsible political men. It is a sovereign decision of the member state. The full text along with IAEA covering letter marked restricted was put on internet by NGOs before the UPA government did.
In the covering letter dated July 9, 2008 of the IAEA Secretariat addressed to the Board of Directors which has been placed on internet by the foreign NGOs but not placed on the website of the MEA, it is clearly stated that INFCIRC/66 type safeguards model was used to negotiate the agreement with India. This format is used to conclude safeguards agreement with non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS). Thus by agreeing to negotiate safeguards agreement on format 66 the Manmohan Singh government has meekly presented India before the international community as a non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS) whereas the result of the Pokharan II India is a de facto nuclear weapon state (NWS). Rather than seeking de jure diplomatic recognition of NWS status, the UPA government has surrendered it. So the diplomatic and psychological gains of Pokharan II made by Shri Vajpayee have been lost on the negotiating table as strategic gains of the 1971 war were lost at the negotiating table at Simla. And, it is ironic that some architects of Pokharan II are congratulating Manmohan Singh for this Munich type voluntary capitulation at Vienna.
On March 8, 2006, the White House had clarified that US did not recognise India as a Nuclear Weapon State and the UPA government just obediently submitted.
As a consequence of Manmohan Singh Government using format 66, India unlike other nuclear weapon states (NWS) shall not enjoy the right to transfer at will its reactors from civilian sector to military sector. NWS countries can pull out any of their nuclear facilities from IAEA inspections but under the safeguards agreement negotiated by the UPA, India cannot do so till the IAEA agrees. And the IAEA shall agree to stop inspection only when it determines that a nuclear facility is no more usable as a nuclear facility. Further the safeguards agreement (para 34 and 39-42) stipulates that when India wants to place any nuclear facility under the IAEA it has to get its design approved by the IAEA.
IAEA inspections of nuclear facilities of nuclear weapon states (NWS) are token in nature and only about a dozen of over 400 nuclear facilities of P5 (China, France, Russia, UK and the USA) countries are under IAEA inspection. Nuclear-weapons states accept only voluntary, revocable inspections. Moreover, these five nuclear powers have the sovereign right to terminate their safeguards agreement with the IAEA without any penalty. But IAEA inspections of NNWS facilities are more invasive and more frequent and generally at will of the IAEA Secretariat. India cannot unilaterally terminate the safeguards agreement without inviting penalty.
At a joint press briefing on July 12, 2008, Kakodkar, Secretary DEA was quoted (The Indian Express July 13, page 4) saying that the underlying principle of the safeguards agreement was ?permanent safeguards on the basis of permanent supplies?. But this claim is not supported by facts. Either Kakodkar is misleading the people of India, or, journalists have got him wrong.
Under the draft safeguards agreement the IAEA inspection shall continue till a facility is usable as a nuclear facility. The IAEA safeguards in perpetuity will still be there around our neck even when the Indo-US cooperation in nuclear matters is terminated or the 123 Agreement is not approved by the US Congress. What is worse is that under Article 16(3) of the 123 agreement despite its termination, the safeguards in perpetuity will continue to apply so long as any US-supplied material or equipment or any of the byproducts thereof remains on Indian soil.
Section 105(3) of the Hyde Act requires India to sign with IAEA safeguards agreement for perpetuity, supplies or no supplies which the UPA has just done. The Section 103(7) of the Hyde Act obliges the US government to work with NSG to further restrict transfer of equipment and technology related to the enrichment of uranium, reprocessing of spent fuel and production of heavy water to India. So how can one say that the safeguards agreement has removed all restrictions on India'snuclear trade?
Many people insinuate that NDA is not sincere in criticising the 123 agreement and believe in Congress canard that if the NDA had got even half of what UPA has managed, it would have grabbed the deal. This is not correct as the present version of the 123 agreement apart from other substantive objections (such as treating India as a junior partner, erecting Himalayan hurdles for Pokharan III), is textually defective and badly drafted as its articles are contradictory to each other. For example, Article 2 says purpose of this agreement is to enable ?full? civil nuclear energy cooperation but Article 5(4) excludes cooperation in (1) enrichment of uranium (2) reprocessing of spent fuel (3) heavy water and (4) dual use items and technology etc. Articles 2(2)(e) etc assure US cooperation to help India build strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over lifetime of India'sreactors, but Article 5(4) stipulates that supply shall be consistent with actual requirement which will obviously not allow build up of any strategic reserve.
The Hyde Act shall guide actions and reactions of all US officials handling India'snuclear trade, therefore, it would be ostrich-like to ignore this Act. The Hyde Act impinges upon India'snuclear trade with other countries vide its sections 101(3), 101(5) and 108(b) (3). No wonder Nicolas Burn in his parting interview had asserted that India'sroute for nuclear trade with other countries will pass through Washington in form of requirement of consensus decision in the NSG. So analysts who say that agreement with IAEA and NSG will give a passport to India to trade freely with other countries like France, Russia, and China etc should have another look at the statute books.
Nuclear fuel supply to India by US companies will depend upon annual certificate of good behaviour by the US President (section 108(b) Hyde Act) making India'senergy security hostage to politics, whims and fancies of US Congressmen. No wonder many political parties from the Left to the Right are fiercely opposed to the present text of the Indo-US deal.
Section 105(9) of the Hyde Act specially stipulates that decisions of the 45-member NSG for commerce in civil nuclear energy with India should be taken by consensus. It means that every member of the NSG can veto supply of any nuclear material to India and thus make Indian energy security vulnerable to pulls and pressures of international diplomacy.
The way the 123 Agreement and the safeguards agreement have been formulated India'senergy security will become hostage to international politics. The proposed safeguards agreement with the IAEA does not offer any credible insurance for safe and assured fuel supply. To pull the Indo-US relations out of present public controversy it is both necessary and desirable to renegotiate the agreements. Doing so will be in the long term interest of the US too.
(The writer served as Indian ambassador to many countries and retired in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India in the Indian Foreign Service.)