Tuesday, January 31, 2006

US-India Nuclear Deal

Cynical Nerd has posted an extremely informative, well researched and thought-provoking take on the proposed nuclear deal. He calls for a public debate. Let's hope that the Manmohan Singh administration had not negotiated the deal in a hasty manner. More discussion is warranted in light of the shifting goal posts in Washington DC. The Indian government should consult the Armed Forces and the Opposition before finalizing any such deal of national importance. Please read on!


Kathiawadi said...

Well thought and written post by Cynical Nerd. I agree that the Indian govt now needs to take the oppn parties into confidence as their distrust shows lack of debate in the political circles. However, armed forces sometimes ask more (more nuclear power)which may not necessarily always be the 1st priority for the country.

After Mulford's remarks, there is no way India should vote against Iran unless Iran keeps showing 'extraordinary' inflexibility until March. That should be the case even if Bush's visit in early March brings the bribe in terms of implementation of Indo-US nuclear deal.

If we somehow manage to disconnect the Iran issue with the nuclear deal in our relations with the US, then I think we should be more flexible in separating reactors as long as we have 'enough' nuclear deterrent (this has to be debated). Because securing energy requirements for future is equally important.

cynical nerd said...


Thanks for linking my piece.

Yes, there is clearly a lack of debate. About separation plans, there is no question of 'if'. The issues are 'when' and 'how much'. The US side now wants India to declare many as civilian and in the near future. Not acceptable IMO


Anonymous said...

Here's a terrific comment on CN's post in another blog.


Anonymous said...

The PM did respond to fears raised. Please see link. There should be more debate.


Anonymous said...

India should let nuclear agreement lapse: analyst
Diplomatic Correspondent
U.S. trying to impose `onerous new conditions' on agreement
• Matin Zuberi raises questions on India's nuclear deal with U.S.
• American interpretations should be treated as `pressure tactics'
• "Question of India offering all civilian nuclear facilities under safeguards, does not arise"
NEW DELHI: The civilian nuclear deal between India and the United States should be "allowed to lapse" because of the "onerous new conditions" the Americans were trying to impose on the July 18 agreement. Strategic analyst, Matin Zuberi, however, argued that India and the U.S. should continue cooperation in other areas of mutual benefit.
In a paper written for the Observer Research Foundation, Prof. Zuberi raised several questions about the nuclear deal. Would India's declaration to be filed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only contain a list of civilian nuclear facilities? Or would it also include the amount of nuclear material produced in them?
If, the latter were included, then India would be going in for full-scope safeguards, he argued.
"According to American sources, Indian purchase of natural uranium would be under IAEA safeguards. Because of (the) shortage of uranium, the introduction of safeguarded uranium in our civilian programme — power reactors, reprocessing plants, research reactors, prototype fast breeder reactor, and even future indigenously produced power plants — would be brought under safeguards; and they will be in perpetuity," he said.
Prof. Zuberi, formerly with the Jawaharlal Nehru University, felt that American interpretations of the July 18 joint statement should be treated as "pressure tactics" to obtain non-proliferation objectives.
"As a democracy, India cannot build a consensus around these extraordinarily escalating demands. Indian negotiators should firmly assert that we stick to the solemn assurances that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave (in Parliament) ...," he said.
The strategic analyst said that in 1980 the U.S. had gone back on an international commitment to supply enriched fuel to the Tarapur plant till 1993, citing its domestic laws. "Indian applications for supply that required long and acrimonious Congressional hearings were used to discipline it. The same process is now being repeated at the Congressional hearings on the (July 18) joint statement," the paper said.
Prof. Zuberi quoted American author, Selig Harrison, as observing that India had 31 per cent of the world's known deposits of thorium, allowing it to rapidly expand its civilian nuclear programme and shifting progressively to thorium-based fast-breeder reactors, thereby achieving energy independence. This meant that India could also dramatically increase its inventory of fissile material. Therefore, Mr. Harrison felt that it was necessary to bind India to the non-proliferation regime.
According to Mr. Harrison, India had made an important concession by agreeing to place "all its existing and future civilian reactors under IAEA safeguards." The alternative to the new arrangement could have been the "emergence over time of a Gaullist India that could play an unpredictable, freewheeling role in Asia."
Prof. Zuberi also pointed out that of the 915 nuclear facilities under safeguards worldwide, only 11 were in the five countries recognised as nuclear powers in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Of these, six were in the U.S., three in China, one each in France and Britain and none in Russia.
It should be emphasised that India had reciprocally assumed, under the July 18 deal, the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States.
"Therefore, the question of India offering all civilian nuclear facilities under safeguards simply does not arise," the paper said.

( You Can contact me at gogisetty@gmail.com )

Nuclear negotiations — India has the upper hand
M. Ramesh

India's tough stand on the Iran nuclear issue makes one thing clear: The country's nuclear status is such that, though foreign assistance may be desirable, it is certainly not indispensable. India has attained self-sufficiency, as the statements by experts indicate.

A NOTEWORTHY aspect of India's approach in the ongoing nuclear talks with the US is that it has shown no signs of desperation. As expected, perhaps. There have been at least two indications that India is prepared to dig its heels in.

First, it refused to put the fast breeder test reactor and the upcoming prototype fast breeder reactor under international safeguards, in keeping with its stand that putting under safeguards any nuclear facility that has no foreign inputs is tantamount to accepting the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is discriminatory.

Second, it reacted with indignation when the US Ambassador said that if India does not vote against Iran at IAEA, the July 18 understanding between the two countries could be soured. (The `July 18 initiative' was essentially a step towards India getting uranium from the US and other nuclear suppliers.)

These two instances could be interpreted as mere `posturing' at the negotiation table, but there is really no reason to believe that India would need to budge from its stand.

Today, India's nuclear status is such that, though foreign assistance (technology and fuel) may be desirable, it is certainly not indispensable. The country has attained self-sufficiency, as the statements by experts indicate.

For example, in an `information capsule', Dr A. N. Prasad, former Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, says: "The present assessed reserves of commercially exploitable grade uranium ore in India can, at best, support a nuclear power generation of 10,000 MW, if natural uranium is used in thermal reactors on an once-through basis.

However, if the plutonium produced in the uranium fuel is recovered and recycled as fresh fuel in fast breeder reactors, the electricity generation could be increased to about 350,000 MW."

In an interview to this correspondent in 2004, Dr Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, had said: "A few 100,000 MW is no big deal" for India in the long term, though the country may not see huge capacity additions in the next 10-20 years. It is important to note that these numbers are based on the existing reserves of uranium (78,000 tonnes, enough to support 12,000 MW for half a century), not taking into account the plutonium produced by the uranium-based plants or the `thorium cycle' that India is working on.

Uranium reserves could increase — in fact, at a recent press conference in Chennai, Mr S. K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), said he was "confident" that more reserves of the mineral would be found.

Mr Jain must have had at the back of his mind the recent discoveries of the mineral in Domiasiat, Wahkyn and Tyrnai regions of Meghalaya. Uranium Corporation of India Ltd says that it is "on the verge of opening new deposits" at Domiasiat, Lambapur-Peddagattu in Andhra Pradesh and Bagjata and Banduburang in Jharkhand.

The uranium put into `pressurised heavy water reactors' (PHWR) — a technology India has mastered — can produce a huge inventory of plutonium, which can be used in fast-breeder reactors. These breeder reactors need just a third of uranium that the PHWRs do, so it is possible to conserve uranium for many decades.

Work on the thorium cycle has begun in right earnest and, given India's learn-it-yourself track record, the R&D work would most likely lead to commercial operations. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's proposal to start building the 300 MW experimental Advanced Heavy Water Reactor is awaiting approval from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

India has the world's highest thorium reserves — 360,000 tonnes — which can fuel nuclear projects for 2,500 years.

So, why does India need the help of US, or any other country for its nuclear programme? One answer is, the fast breeder reactors are costlier to build. Therefore, if somebody is willing to give uranium, why not use it to build the cheaper PHWRs?

Second, if India's nuclear programme gains full international acceptance, the country could participate in project opportunities in other countries. This was hinted at by Mr Jain at the recent press conference in Chennai.

Neither of these implies a desperate need for international uranium. True, fast breeder reactors are costlier, but it is possible to exercise control over costs, at least to some extent, by measures such as standardisation and capacity scale-up.

The US government knows this only too well. Therefore, it is not likely to push India too hard. Against this backdrop, it should be interested in watching India's behaviour at future negotiations.

If India flinches, it means there are deeper strategic issues behind the nuclear talks — energy security is certainly not the only issue.

(Response can be sent to ramesh@thehindu.co.in)

Indian nuke scientists differ from PMO on US deal

New Delhi, Jan 25, IRNA-India's top nuclear scientists are determined not to allow the United States have a full say in the separation of the country's military and civilian nuclear facilities.

The Americans' insistence on a full, and not as initially stated, phased separation plan was the initial bone of contention, with the nuclear establishment particularly worried about the pressure to place the fast breeder reactors on the civilian program that will be subject to intrusive IAEA inspections under the additional protocol.

The initial assurance that India will be recognized as a nuclear weapons state on par with US is also not being met, leading to deep apprehension among the scientists that the country's nuclear program is being brought 'through the back door' under a stringent inspections regime, reported a leading English daily Asian Age here Wednesday.

The media is being used now by both the Americans and the Prime Minister's Office, through select briefings, to push the deal forward although, as well-placed sources pointed out, 'it has run into trouble' and will require Dr Manmohan Singh's direct intervention by accepting key US conditions to push it out of the woods.

The PMO officials have reportedly made it apparent that they would like the separation plans to be finalized, and the agreement to be placed on course for the approval of the US Congress before the visit of US President George W. Bush to India.

The civilian nuclear agreement was based on three major assurances that have since been overruled by Washington. One, as the sources pointed out, was the voluntary identification and separation of military and civilian facilities. Two, that this would be done in phases. Three, India would be recognized as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology status at par with the US. The voluntary nature of the agreement has been lost, with the Bush administration clear that the separation plans had to be vetted and approved by it.

The sources pointed out that the second assurance too has been negated with the US demand that the separation plans should be complete and immediate.

The US condition now that the safeguards should be 'in perpetuity', the sources added, makes a mockery of the third assurance as it denies recognition of India as a responsible nuclear power.

The whispers of unhappiness with the civilian nuclear agreement from the Department of Atomic Energy surfaced during this visit of US pointperson Nicholas Burns, who led a large team of officials for consultations with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. A third round of talks is scheduled for February, although Burns did not sound very optimistic of a breakthrough and admitted that certain difficulties had cropped up.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is reportedly very keen to get this agreement through as it is being equated with his earlier stint in government when he had ushered in -- as his media adviser Sanjaya Baru often tells journalists -- a new era of economic reforms.

There is genuine fear in the pro-nuclear lobby that India's strategic interests will be compromised if the US proposals are accepted in entirety, with sources pointing out that the very idea of separating the civilian program from the military was fraught with consequences that would undermine the nation's nuclear sovereignty.

The face-off on the fast breeder program that is seen as unique by the nation's nuclear establishment and other aspects of the agreement will need a prime ministerial directive to resolve, with sources pointing out that any such move might not have the support of the nuclear establishment.

India's lethargy could torpedo N-deal: US

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | February 03, 2006 01:40 IST
US Ambassador to India David Mulford's unfortunate comment, say Administration officials, have had the unfortunate effect of distracting attention from the real issue.
Mulford, the other day, set a firestorm in motion when he said the US-India civilian nuclear death would die a natural death in the US Congress if India failed to vote with the United States and the European Union on the question of referring Iran to the United Nations Security Council.
The consequent diplomatic brouhaha, Administration sources told rediff-India Abroad, has obscured the fact that India has till date failed to provide a credible, transparent plan for the separation of its civil and military nuclear installations – a pre-requisite before the Administration can go before Congress to seek approval for the changes in US law that must be made before the deal can be consummated.
Given this, officials said, there was nothing the Administration could take to Congress in order to gain some traction ahead of President George W Bush's planned trip to India in March.
'India's N-separation plans not credible'
Officials now say there are fears that the deal may unravel even before it gets to Congress, because of India's failure to produce a 'credible, transparent and defensible' plan. In this connection, they point to the pessimism expressed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, after his recent meeting with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.
Burns said some progress had been made, but for the first time, struck a downbeat note when he added, 'Much further progress has to be made. And there are some difficulties ahead of us.'
He said for any agreement to be credible in the eyes of the US Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, 'it will have to be a detailed agreement and a substantial agreement', and added that there was a long way to go before such an agreement would materialize.
"You know Nick,"one official told rediff-India Abroad. "For him that's pretty pessimistic."
'Serious issues facing N-deal': Nicholas Burns
The official said that when Burns visited New Delhi last month, he was hoping to come back with an iron-clad plan from India that could be submitted to Congress. What India offered, reportedly, does not even meet 'the minimum standards required' to convince Congress to change the laws on the books.
Administration officials acknowledged that Mulford was right enough in suggesting that the Iran issue was critical, and India's vote would have a bearing on the deal. However, they said, the key really remains the submission of a plan Congress could consider – and India supporters both within Congress and without could use to push the case.
In this context, they said, too much attention was being paid to Mulford's remarks in re India's Iran vote, and not enough to the more significant remarks he made following Burns' recent visit to New Delhi.

(I question every INDIAN 'why should we give up our strategic program for cheap fuel' We can generate more electricity [virtually unlimited at least enough for 2500 yrs @ 100,000 MW per yr. with current thorium reserves] with out importing but it will cost little more as breeder expensive to build. People who argue that no other country uses breeder tech. on large scale don’t realize that other countries have large amounts of uranium available cheaply so there is no urgency for them to switch to breeder reactors which is not our case. I suggest we should not to look every thing through economics prism which Mr. singh is doing. If he has enough balls he should push through other reforms and shed populist policies be a dictator or what ever it takes but don’t fuckup the strategic program which our scientific community painfully built over the years with minimum support form government. )

Michael Krepon, president emeritus of the Henry Stimson Center, told rediff-India Abroad, "It is the government of India that is lagging here. It is the government of India that has not been moving quickly to present a plan. It is the government of India that has offered so many exceptions to a separation to render the separation meaningless from a nonproliferation standpoint.
Put more reactors in civilian N-programme: US
"So you cannot blame the ayatollahs of the nonproliferation movement for this. The Indian Atomic Energy Commission has to get its house in order. They have to decide whether it wants to help India grow economically or build up its nuclear arsenal, and so far it appears that the Atomic Energy Commission doesn't want to make this choice."
Krepon felt that New Delhi had not yet chosen between power and bombs. "I think a good part of the reason why this negotiation is going so slowly is because of the difficulty (by India) of choosing between electricity and nuclear weapons."

India-US N-talks: Left seeks preview
Reacting publicly to Mulford's remarks about India's Iran vote, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack merely said 'He was giving his personal assessment of how the Congress might react to such an action by India.'
But both publicly and privately, McCormack and State Department officials said Mulford's sentiments expressed a reality that could not be denied.
McCormack recalled that India on September 24 'voted to find Iran in noncompliance the last time around, and we certainly would encourage and hope that they vote for referral this time around.
'But I think what the Ambassador was doing was talking about and reflecting the view that on Capitol Hill there are very strongly held feelings about Iran and the need for the international community to act decisively and firmly with a single voice concerning Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.'
Administration sources told rediff-India Abroad that Mulford was "analyzing" what Congress would likely do based on what a lot of Congressmen have said. "You remember what Gary Ackerman (New York Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans) and Tom Lantos (California Democrat and ranking minority member on the House International Relations Committee) were saying in September.
"So he (Mulford) was trying to educate the Indian government and the public about a reality," the sources said.
Indo-US Nuclear deal will bring 'enormous benefits': Kerry
Asked point blank if there is any correlation between how India votes at the IAEA and how the civilian nuclear agreement with the US proceeds in Congress, McCormack said "We deal with the Indian government on these two issues as separate issues. Certainly, they come up in the same conversations, I'll tell you that.
"We continue to encourage the Indian government to vote for referral. Ultimately, that is going to be their decision. And we also have been talking to them about the importance of making progress on their implementation plan for separating the civilian and military nuclear programs."

Brajesh Mishra trashes India, U.S. nuclear agreement

Says deal could compromise New Delhi's strategic interests
Brajesh Mishra

New Delhi: Brajesh Mishra, Security Adviser to the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on Tuesday trashed the July 18, 2005 civilian nuclear deal signed between India and the United States during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's landmark summit visit to that country.

Talking to ANI, Mr. Mishra said that the so-called historic deal of bilateral reciprocity could end up compromising New Delhi's strategic interests and its status as a non-proliferating entity in the international community. ``The ... deal should be thrown in the waste paper basket," Mr. Mishra said..

It would have been in New Delhi's interest to have some amount of understanding with the United States and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the issue of sharing civilian nuclear energy. "But, the way in which the July 18 deal has been expressed an d elaborated, it indicates America's intent of restricting our (India's) ability to have more nuclear weapons, and it is bound to hit on our strategic capability," he added.

American pressure

Recalling past deliberations on India's nuclear policy, Mr. Mishra said there had always been a consensus, but under the present administrative dispensation, "our strategic capability and effort to have minimum nuclear deterrence is sought to be curbed by the Americans." ``They want to have a credible programme of submission of all our nuclear reactors to the IAEA safeguards, and if we do this, then we can."

Asked whether any artificial deadline was being created, Mr. Mishra said: "The lure of the Bush visit [to India in March] and its being successful has been equated with the success of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal."

The present scenario could change only if Washington unconditionally accepted New Delhi as a nuclear power.

"The idea of credible minimum deterrence is flexible, as it would change with the prevailing geo-political situation," he said.


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