Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nuclear deal: Addressing the domestic concerns

We respond to the comments on Pragmatic's post on Condoleeza Rice's testimony. There has been little clarity in New Delhi on the precise contours of the Indo-American nuclear deal. The ongoing US Congressional deliberations led Brahma Chellaney (here and here), Yashwant Sinha and AB Vajpayee to reopen the debate in India. Manmohan Singh had failed to provide sufficient detail to the Lok Sabha. He now needs to answer the concerns raised in light of US Congressional deliberations.

Condoleeza Rice indicated that the Bush administration will push for a South Asia-wide moratorium on the production of fissile material. China rejected the draft Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and so did the United States. A formal regional cap will compromise Indian nuclear options vis-à-vis China. Critics counter that India’s interest will be affected once Chinese nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles start lurking in Indian waters. Furthermore, the United States Congress plans to insert riders into the deal mandating India not to test nuclear weapons. The United States Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Washington therefore has no right to enforce it upon India just as it keeps sub-critical tests to further perfect its large arsenal. Some in the US Senate like Sen. Sarbenes propose that India enter into an Additional Protocol with the IAEA before the Indo-American deal is made effective.

A clause on the Congressional resolution states that “A determination under subsection (b) shall not be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of enactment of this Act.” The pro-deal advocates say that India has in any event announced a moratorium on nuclear tests. The opponents stress the need for options should China or Pakistan test a weapon overtly or covertly. In any case, it should be up to India to retain the flexibility whether to respond with further tests or not. This should be a national decision, not an international obligation.

American sanctions will then be inevitable since a non-P5 country testing a nuclear device will not be eligible for trade in civil nuclear, weapons and high-technology items in keeping with the US Arms Export Control Act and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. This has happened before when the US stopped fuel supplies to the Generic Electric built Tarapur plant when India tested a weapon in 1974. The present amendment to the 1954 Atomic Energy Act makes this explicit with respect to India. The Government of India should explain the ramifications of possible US sanctions and the constraints this would pose. There needs to be a public debate on the issue.

India might still be guaranteed fuel through other Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members. This was reiterated by no less than US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. Nevertheless, India should lobby hard to obtain full membership with the NSG to ensure sanction free supplies - like our earlier post on getting Uranium from South Africa, Niger or Brazil. Other NSG heavyweights like France and Russia will have to be lured with the prospects of buying reactors from their countries. These countries will then not antagonize India for fear of forgoing a commercial nuclear deal.

Another issue is the nature of safeguards and the IAEA Additional Protocol. Obviously, India will not agree to an intrusive full scope safeguards which is applied for non-Nuclear Weapons State (NNWS)/NPT signatories. It just has to prove that none of the fuel from the civil reactors receiving foreign fuel/assistance ends up in its military program. This is still more stringent than the free pass given to NWS like China despite their massive proliferation activities. The United States in fact agreed to sell Westinghouse reactors to China with technology transfer to prevent Russian or French export firms from entering into the lucrative Chinese market. American business interests reigned supreme in China’s instance. India conversely is being set against more stringent standards.

Critics allege that India will not be recognized as a formal nuclear power. India will not get open access to natural Uranium supply. It will only be able to import externally pre-determined amounts and that too under international supervision. Advocates claim that the deal would address India’s energy needs in a crucial period of economic take-off. India is poised to grow at maximum speed for which access to cheap energy is vital – nuclear included. They add that the current nuclear deal is a stop-gap arrangement (till the Thorium cycle takes over) to make sure that Indian economic growth is not constrained.

Nonetheless, the charges persist that Manmohan Singh might have traded long term national security for immediate commercial benefit. India would replace its dependence on international hydrocarbon reserves bought and sold in the international market with a dependence on the NSG. The international price of coal has continued to drop in the past 20 years. The price of Uranium has increased in the last 18 months.

The United States clearly benefits from the deal. For one it caps India’s strategic options. Condoleeza Rice also revealed in a recent op-ed that India had agreed to import 8 nuclear reactors by 2012, at least some of which were to be from the United States. Brahma Chellaney writes that each 1,000 MW reactor would cost US$ 1.8 billion which is 23 times the annual budget of the entire Indian nuclear power industry! The deal would revive the US nuclear power industry which has not received a single reactor order in more than 30 years.

There are no easy answers to such questions of national importance. However, a debate is needed in the public domain to ensure that the concerns raised are effectively addressed. India’s national security interests demand that.

Co-Authored by Jaffna and Cynical Nerd


Anonymous said...

Its a pleasure to learn that the two brightest minds have collaborated here. Keep up the good work. Great post and ignore the pot shots.

Jaffna said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for the vote of confidence :-)This is much appreciated.

The Indian Prime Minister had negotiated a land mark deal with the United States without full legislative discussion within India itself. The subsequent deliberations in the United States Congress raises valid concerns that we had hoped to present.

We juxtaposed this with the strengths of the proposed nuclear deal as it presently stands.

This is not intense negativity on our part. It is scrutiny. The irrelevant references to Gujarat and Kandahar by Primary Red detract from the case at hand.

Several have a legitimate issue with Manmohan Singh in that India is learning more about the proposed nuclear deal from the Congressional deliberations in Washington. Manmohan Singh has not revealed the ramifications of the deal to the elected legislators of India.

We have no evidence that India has not agreed to the cap the production of fissile materials or to accede to the test ban. Narasimha Rao had covertly agreed to United States pressure to cap further missile and nuclear tests in the early 1990s as evidenced by subsequent American sources.

Given the silence at the PMO's office, we would need to take the talk in the United States seriously.

To dismiss concerns raised by who-ever as "alarmist", "personal" and "intensely negative" only serves to detract from the discussion and silence debate altogether!

India's interest warrants full scrutiny and discussion of the proposed nuclear deal. There are no sacred cows in public debate!

Best regards

Chandra said...

Brahma Chellaney has been savaging this deal from the start. All his mythical arguments are irrelevant for this deal except the first one. Is India less isolated by this deal? The answer surely is yes. This deal is about getting uranium from other nations. If NSG agrees to supply uranium, the deal was worth it.

Yes, nuclear power station cost $2 billion. But so does a coal or gas thermal plant. And no one is forcing India to buy nuclear power plants. And it is not binding on India to buy it from US. It can get them from France or Russia (or Germany, for that matter). Although, AEC is filled with smart people, India does not have the infrastructure like many world class research labs and universities research programs and more importantly funding to get cutting edge technology done quickly - not take 3 decades to perfect a new technology.

And this argument that India is going from oil-cartel to uranium-cartel is fallacious. So what? India doesn't have a lot of either within its borders. What are the brilliant alternatives?

For historically bad leadership, from, especially, Indira Gandhi, India did not join the nuclear club as soon as it had the capability - in the mid-60s. Now, India did not renegotiating NPT with US - which US cannot do so by itself. China has a clear advantage because it became a nuclear power before the west started to crack down on anyone else having nuclear weapons with internal laws and global rules. In this regard India cannot be compared with China.

And India already has moratorium on testing. Despite what Senator Biden says there is no cap on India weapon building. While it would be foolish to so, India can build next the nuclear reactor and say it is for military purpose. (Where would it get the uranium from? – That’s why it was important to have Breeder reactor out of IAEA purview for alternative thorium, which India got.) If China tests weapons or India is threatened, India should and will test.

And twenty years from now, with far richer India well integrated in world economy, will US really want to impose sanctions on India? Good luck for US for trying.

Anonymous said...

Yes, nuclear power station cost $2 billion. But so does a coal or gas thermal plant.

Well, then why not build more coal and gas plants AND maintain soveriegin control over your nuke plants without letting in the IAEA thugs? Do you remember that part of the IAEA contingent in Iraq was CIA spies? If you don't believe me, Google it.

And no one is forcing India to buy nuclear power plants.

Then why are you giving away control over your entire nuclear program for the *permission* to buy them?

And this argument that India is going from oil-cartel to uranium-cartel is fallacious. So what? India doesn't have a lot of either within its borders.

My God, this is so retarded. India may not have either of them, but which one is easier to procure? Which one has less restrictive trade? ONGC Videsh has been buying companies and oil reserves all around the world. Canada has more oil than Saudi Arabia and anyone can go there, *buy* the right to produce oil and ship it anywhere in the world. You can buy coal from Kazakhastan or Vietnam or whatever as long as you can pay cash. Can you do that for Uranium? No. Why? Because the NSG *controls* the trade and you can only buy Uranium if Uncle Sam lets you. They can stop fuels to your nukes and cause blackouts. But they cannot do it if your power plan runs on coal that can be imported without hindrance. Do you not understand even such a simple power strategy? A problem at which you can throw money is NOT a problem. A problem that you CANNOT solve with money is a real problem - usually because someone else has go you by your nuts.

Shakes his head in disbelief at the naivete and walks away in disgust...

Jaffna said...

Chandra, Anonymous-2

Thank you for the points. I think we have a good discussion here.

I tend to agree with Anonymous-2. But Chandra raises legitimate issues. Let me try to address them. India does get better integrated with the nuclear powers through the proposed nuclear deal. I respect that point.

However, my counter is that this international recognition will come regardless, should India follow the right foreign policy - one of strength. India will be a power to contend with and once that is ensured, international recognition will be awarded without India necessarily having to accede to the restrictive clauses of the nuclear deal as defined today.

I agree with Anonymous-2 that oil is a far less restrictive commodity than uranium. It is subject to the market forces of supply and demand, not political conditionality that uranium entails.

My sense is that Russia might begin to illicitly supply uranium to India regardless and as Cynical Nerd rightly pointed out elsewhere India will need to enter into arrangements with Brazil, South Africa and Niger to purchase the commodity. India needs to take the first steps to break the nuclear cartel, not accede to the flawed international nuclear regime.

And I agree with Anonymous-2 that the IAEA inspectors are frequently CIA spies.

I agree with Chandra that India under Indira Gandhi downwards has had bad leadership in missing opportunities to enter the cartel (or go nuclear for that matter - which it should have done before 1974). But I disagree that India should not be compared with China merely because China had entered the nuclear club much earlier. Let us not be constrained by the historical mistakes of the past.

India faces a real threat vis-a-vis China. Its nuclear program was designed to contain China which had annexed significant amounts of Indian territory and boosted Pakistan's capacity to take on India to serve Chinese interests by proxy. So India is compelled to drive the same hard bargain that China did. It should otherwise walk out.

The United States will come back because it needs India given the changing geostrategic configuration in East Asia. My sense is that the decline of the United States in the international arena has just begun. It needs a strong ally in the Asian continent to counter the inevitable rise of China.

The Senate is trying to introduce a rider that India be constrained by the test ban for the nuclear deal to remain operational. So the clauses of the CTBT, while having no international effect, is sought to be imposed upon India. It threfore remains relevant to the discussion. The current adminstration in New Delhi, like in the early 1990s, might give in to United States pressure while keeping the details hidden from the public. And this is why we raised the issues of the test ban. The fears can not be dismissed until more clarity is obtained from Manmohan Singh - which is currently lacking. He is silent as a sphinx.

All in all, useful feedback and food for thought. There are strong advocated for the deal. K. Subrahmanyam is one. But he too supports the cap on the production of fissile materials. This is unacceptable that India should not accede to United States pressure.

My sense is that the deal will be passed by the US Senate. But pressure will need to be built in India itself not to give in to the additional riders sought to be imposed - either by the Senate or the IAEA.

best regards

Jaffna said...

Here's the piece by K.Subrahmanyam sent to me by Cynical Nerd. Erudite but the last two paragraphs reveal that Subrahmanyam has bought into the cap on fissile materials.

This is completely unacceptable unless China agrees to it - which it will not.

Anonymous said...

My sense is that the deal will be passed by the US Senate.

Bingo! Something does tell me that their protests to the contrary are phoney. In fact, this may be yet another negotiating tactic by the Bush Admin : isn't it a little naive of Indians to assume that the Senata and the Admin are antagonists? They may have adversairal relationship with each other on domestic issues but when it comes to issues of American national interest, I don't believe that they will desist from driving the best deal for the US.

This, in fact, shows another point of complete stupidity by Indian negotiatiors. The run-around by US Congress is not new : it's a tried and tested strategy by the US in the past. This is why, for example, WTO members insist that the US negotiator first obtain the Presidenital Trade Promotion Authority before even talking to them. The TPA is a law passed by the US Congress that allows the President to negotiate a deal with the understanding that the Congress can subsequently either pass or reject a deal only in its *entirety* but cannot introduce any modifications or riders. This is an elementary principle pf protecting yourself from shadow-negotiating with the US Congress, especially when you are not even at the table!

Why couldn't the Indians have insisted on getting the equivalent of the TPA for the nuke deal even before beginning to negotiate? And if they failed to do something even so basic - something that every international business 101 course in any MBA program teaches about trade negotiations - to protect India's negotiating position, is it a big stretch that they would, in fact, be incompetent enough to give away everything else as well?

Here's what will happen next,. The fun has only begun : watch the US Congress introduce as many restrictions on India as possible. Remember the Jonathan Swift story where the little people tie down Gulliver with thousand strings? You will watch it happen to the nuke deal in the US COngress, and yes, the deal will eventually pass. the US will then present it as a fait accompli to the Indians and ask them to take it or leave it. Moron Indian politicians will be more concerned about saving face then protecting India's interests by that point. Therefore, they will bend over and take it up their you-know-where. Check and mate.

Jaffna said...


Brilliant take. Thank you very much and the reference to Gulliver is most appropriate. The information provided is useful for future posts.

I like the point you make that the US Senate and the US President do not necessarily have an adversarial relationship when it comes to foreign policy. As you rightly put it, this could well be a strategy to introduce additional riders - (i) to cap fissile missile production in South Asia alone (without the FMCT internationally operative) and (ii) place added conditionalities that make an Indian moratorium on nuclear testing almost impossible. The idea is to limit future Indian options through the nuclear deal.

In retrospect it appears that India failed to negotiate from a position of strength. It failed to use basic negotiating strategy used in the WTO as you pointed out although my knowledge of that subject is limited.

What bothered me about K.Subrahmanyan's article in the Tribune was the selective reference to Condeleeza Rice's testimony to the US Congress. He made no reference to her statement that the President intended to push for a South Asia wide cap on fissile materials.

In short, a debate is very much warranted. India can not and should not accede to any additional riders - be it from the US Senate that refused to ratify the CTBT or the IAEA.

In my view, India should reopen links with Iran, not the American client state Sa'udi.

Best regards

Sri Lankan said...

Jaffna, Cynical Nerd: what is your take on Nitin's view expressed in Primary Red's column? And why Iran over Saudi Arabia? This is an interesting debate.

Jaffna said...

Sri Lankan,

Nitin had explained in an earlier post that a cap on fissile material production and nuclear tests will not necessarily impact on India's ability to deter a nuclear attack. He emphasized the need to invest in missile defence and the capacity to project nuclear force.

I had responded then that in a fluid geostrategic environment, the international pressure to cap the Indian production of fissile materials and commit to a test ban can easily be extended to cap Indian missile tests as well. I refer to the early 1990s under Narasimha Rao when India did not test its missile technology due to behind-the-scenes American pressure. Pakistan on the other hand was reported to have tested its first ever nuclear device in the Chinese desert site of Lop Nor.

Nitin's second point in favor of the nuclear deal relates to energy security. My response is that this addresses the issue purely from an economic standpoint. The discussion on marginal cost and marginal benefit is a case in point. While there is merit in such a perspective, it needs to be complemented by a defence perspective as well.

Nitin refers to the need for power sector reform in India. I wholeheartedly agree. The privatization of the generation, transmission and distribution of power with provision for full cost recovery will help address India's energy bottlenecks. This very argument, however, can be used to delay the proposed Indo-American nuclear deal. There is no hurry to conclude a deal that might have flawed additional riders to it. Power sector reforms will help address India's immediate shortfall of energy requirements. The country meanwhile could negotiate better terms in the interim. The Sino American deal took 10 years to be completed.

Integration with the supplier countries might be a good thing as long as it does not constrain future defence options. India needs to retain all options in the fluid international environment where China is poised to assume even greater security clout in the continent. There remain outstanding issues between the two countries and India needs to factor that in, not just integration with nuclear suppliers.

This need for flexible options in foreign policy demands that India retain its links with Iran and Syria regardless of the leadership in either country. India does not gain anything from joining American efforts to undermine both countries. Neither Iran nor Syria have undermined Indian interests. In fact, they have been useful
in several instances.

The pro-American regime of Sa'udi on the other hand has undermined Indian interests. Riyadh has financed Pakistani military expenditure. It has provided support for Kashmiri militants. It has backed Islamist fundamentalism in India.

Best regards

Anonymous said...


The bottomline is India's energy problems can be fixed by reforming the power sector and/or buying hydrocarbons and/or investing in alternate energy sources such as biodiesel and ethanol. Look at Brazil : in a span of less than 20 years, it has developed an economy that is entirely independent of hydrocarbon imports and produces all of its energy needs within the country. Why give up nuclear sovereignty for a partial and expensive means procuring energy that creates a strategic dependence upon the NSG cartel which could've been also procured by alternative means at a lower cost *without* introducing such strategic dependency? Basic principles of strategic analysis will show you that this is just utterly stupid.

Chandra said...

Anonymous, I am not sure you need to be that disgusted with arguments you don't agree with.

My point is this: If India needs a nuclear industry, India needs this deal. It doesn't matter whether ONGC can buy gas fields and CIL can buy coal fields in Latin America or Central Asia. It is not a matter of either or. It's both. Where are you going to get uranium if you want to keep building nuclear reactors whether privately or non-privately?

And what is this nonsense about some how Condi Rice is going to scuttle India's strategic program? She can say what she wants. (She also said she had proof that Saddam had WMD program.)

The problem with people who think suddenly Washington can control all aspects of India strategic program is that they give too much credence to yapping in Washington, not much to fact on the ground. Just because some people bark in Washington, it doesn't become true.

And BTW, China is nuclear power under NPT. India can't be on par with China when it comes to having much negotiating power with respect to uranium (Jaffna, I am not comparing India and China in other aspects – agree with most of what you say). That's the current state. To say we have to reject the deal because China did or didn't something is silly.

Your power talks are good and fine. But they also have to be based on facts on the ground.

And I don’t agree with you that the stupid brown Indian negotiators will take the deal with changes made in US congress with a begging bowl. Not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

My point is this: If India needs a nuclear industry, India needs this deal.

Now we're getting somewhere. India does not *need* a nuclear industry, india needs *energy*. Big difference. If India takes the same $20-30 billion that it would cost to build a nuclear industry and redploy it in other energy sources domoestically or abroad, India will get energy that is a)much less expensive in terms of $/MW and b)will not compromise its nuclear sovereinty. That's exactly why this is such a bad deal : you bargained away your nuclear soveriengty for a more expensive source of energy that comes with creating a strategic weakness through dependence upon uranium from the NSG cartel that creates a sword of Damoclese hanging on your head and therefore makes you less powerful. For an added bonus, you get to play host to the CIA spies through the IAEA. Pray tell me how this is of any benefit to India at all.

And BTW, China is nuclear power under NPT. India can't be on par with China when it comes to having much negotiating power with respect to uranium.

Exactly! In that case, shouldn't India's objective be to *acquire* enough negotiating power *until* it can negotiate from a position of strength? Why negotiate *now* from a position of weakness and give away a huge source of leverage?

Just because some people bark in Washington, it doesn't become true.

Dude, this is what they are going to get signed in a law by the US Congress that the President of the US is obligated to enforce!! And even if none of this comes to fruition, why has India opened its nuclear lungi and bent over for the enjoyment of the CIA spies?

And I don’t agree with you that the stupid brown Indian negotiators will take the deal with changes made in US congress with a begging bowl.

Well, they have not achieved anything so far that would inspire confidence. A hardline negotiaor would have got the US to get a Presidential nuclear negotiating authority before even starting to talk and then walked away from any deal that is even an inch shorter than the deal the Chinese signed with the US. Walking away wuold've been great because the inexorable forces of history are on India's side : India has to do *nothing* but just sit tight for another 10-20 years, get the Thorium cycle going and become the third largest economy of about 8-10 Trillion dollars real GDP and the NWS status would've automatically come to India. The NPT is getting slowly unravelled anyway, all India had to do was sit on the sidelines and watch the fun as the US got entangled into North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and so on. Instead India had to do it now and give away the farm. As a patriotic Indian, my blood boils to see how India is cutting off its hands and relegating itself to a second-rate power.

Anonymous said...

"As its impact on the U.S. economy expands, China is also growing less vulnerable to American pressure on key issues".

Jaffna said...

Cynical Nerd in an earlier post on his blog had referred to Representative Edward Markey and 19 fellow legislators having tabled a resolution H.Con. Res 318 titled "Expressing concern regardling nuclear proliferation with respect to proposed full civilian nuclear cooperation with India and for other purposes". I sincerely hope that the proposed resolution helps trigger a wider public debate within India on the advisability of the additional riders sought to be imposed on India.

Dude said...

India-US deal will destroy nuclear research
Deccan Chronicle, 15 April 2006
By P.K. Iyengar and M. Gupta

The initial impression of the July 18 Joint Statement as an outline of the nuclear deal Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed with President George W. Bush was that it may herald a new chapter in India-US scientific cooperation. But the PM's suo motu statement in Parliament of March 7, 2006 and the recent release of the "Separation Plan," disabused the scientific community of any such hope.

Particularly surprising was the Indian government agreeing to put research facilities like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR); Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Institute for Plasma Research, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Institute of Physics, Tata Memorial Centre, Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology, and Harish Chandra Research Institute, which are legitimately safeguards-irrelevant, under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

This is especially disturbing since the Prime Minister owned up to the fact that India had surrendered the right to decide for itself which facilities will come under IAEA safeguards. Moreover, since the Manmohan Singh government has virtually accepted a non-nuclear weapons State status for the country in the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, negotiating India-specific safeguards and Additional Protocol with the IAEA, will be worrisome. It is well known that the Additional Protocol has evolved in recent years specifically to deal with "rogue States" attempting to acquire sensitive technology clandestinely.

The problem has clearly arisen due to artificially imposed requirements of categorising the various components of the Department of Atomic Energy into "civil" or "military." Thus the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research have been rendered strictly "military" to avoid attracting safeguards, when more than 90 per cent of the work carried out in these institutions is "civilian."

It is well known that safeguard inspections by IAEA when applied to non-nuclear States, are extremely intrusive, immensely disruptive, and are often conducted in an atmosphere vitiated by suspicion. Without any substantiated assurances to the contrary, there is little reason to assume that such will not be the case for India. That the "judicious" use of suspicion may serve to irreversibly tilt the balance is best illustrated by the Iranian affair where the right of an NPT signatory to develop technology (in this case, the centrifuge to enrich uranium), is subject to advance approval from the IAEA.

The resulting inspection regime, if applied to fundamental research facilities in India, would imply that any or all research may come under scrutiny or have to be first vetted by the large 65 member Board of Governors ruling the intricate IAEA bureaucracy. With India not being a Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory, would the topics "allowed" for scientific investigation not be decided within the framework of rules applicable to non-nuclear weapons countries or, worse, rogue States? What would be the yardstick for deciding what research is "sanctioned"? Would this mean that "civilian" scientists cannot collaborate with their "military" counterparts since separation must be maintained?

To extend the argument, since such constraints would necessarily have to be focused on indigenous research, criteria could be selective (foreign collaborations with "acceptable" countries may not be scrutinised) and/or restrictive (it may become increasingly difficult for India to choose its research collaborators if they happen to belong to the "wrong" country). In such an environment, there will be little scope for pursuing India's tried and proven self-reliance policy in the future since all indigenous work would invite invasive scrutiny.

It has been mentioned that in the event of a national crisis, perhaps none of the trained workforce, equipment or any technology fall-out from such research will be available for military work since India has accepted "in perpetuity" safeguards on all civilian facilities and purportedly given up its sovereign right to cite national security reasons for withdrawal — a privilege enjoyed by all technologically advanced nations.

Such an artificial "segregation" would create multiple problems of its own. There is adequate proof that the DAE's applied programmes have drawn heavily from human resources developed in these institutions. In the absence of sensible and responsible negotiations, if inspections include "pursuit" in principle as they may in the case of nuclear fuel, associated universities, grant funding institutions such as the Department of Science and Technology and other organisations like the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, etc., will be forced to submit to humiliating and intrusive supervision.

Gone will be the days of unfettered technology development via collaborative research with, say, a private biotechnology company. An international "licence-permit raj" on Indian scientific creativity will be here to stay and the army of IAEA inspectors will invade all related public and private sector entities, sometimes even without prior intimation. At the very least it would guarantee that scientists and engineers would be endlessly tied up in bureaucratic red-tape so as to satisfy an infinite number of queries so that very little constructive work is actually achieved.

It is far from true that the entities on the list are "merely" academic institutions when one realises that BARC in its entirety was born from TIFR which was the first institute of its kind in the nation devoted to the physical sciences and mathematics. Recall that Homi Bhabha's vision was to build up indigenous capability through promoting manpower generation in the basic sciences. He wrote in 1944 to J.R.D. Tata that the Tata Institute should be created in order to produce the experts for nuclear energy in India when it becomes feasible. With the firm grounding that such training inculcates, professionals can adapt themselves with alacrity to the requirements of creating technology and its spin-offs.

Indeed, this has been the way all technological innovations have happened throughout the world. To enable this in India the DAE created autonomous institutions like SINP, VECC and others to create and sustain a strong and wide base of specialisations providing an unshakeable foundation for a healthy technological future. Such institutions have also enabled us to initiate new research, such as in the fusion programme. It helped India gain entrance to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, and register successes in computing technologies, and space and nano-particle research and a whole gamut of laser based scientific research to name a few areas.

Regardless of the exact nature of the safeguards, the scientific community in India is extremely upset and alarmed that the autonomy of these institutions may now be severely eroded and their research programmes subjected to the worst external interference. Having been put to great inconvenience of the kind related here. NPT signatory Brazil, for example, has finally been forced to object to IAEA inspections on projects funded by the Brazilian atomic energy agency in the university sector.

But as a non-NPT state, the Indian government may not have retained an escape route in its haste to please Washington. In advanced nuclear countries such as the United States, premier institutions and universities funded by its atomic energy commission would consider it inconceivable to give up their autonomy, which is jealously preserved to enable new and innovative research in the frontiers of science to take seed, grow and flourish.

There can be no artificial constraints on the dissemination of scientific thought and the world has reaped the benefits of a free system, as has India. To put centres of excellence under safeguards of whatever type, would be to serve a body blow to the future of indigenous Indian science. Since scientific and technological strength has brought us to where we are today, this is obviously too high a price to pay. The negative ramifications of such a drastic step would be hard to envisage in their entirety.

On the whole, it is clear that inserting these facilities into the already complex problem of separating the DAE's civilian and military programmes as required by the nuclear deal is a fatal mistake. If it has happened as a result of bureaucratic oversight, this must be corrected. Scientists must come forward with their concerns and initiate a constructive dialogue with the Prime Minister's Office and the ministry of external affairs to prevent such an outcome. The government of India needs to be far more transparent and to consult with a range of retired and serving scientists from the science establishment before actively assisting in the demise of basic research in this country.

[Dr P.K. Iyengar retired as Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission. Dr M. Gupta is a physicist at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka]

cynical nerd said...


The problem is the lack of clarity on the Indian side. It is clear that the detonation clause was introduced by the US administration later coming as a big surprise to the MEA blokes who were handling the negotiations. Ofcourse, the political leadership seems no way in the picture. Shyam Saran gave a lame response after his dud trip to DC.

Before talking about status quo, GoI has to explain the consequences of US sanctions in case of a weapons test. All the high-tech cooperation will come to a halt. In addition, the Americans wants to sell us fighter jets - all prone to the sanctions regime.

Also note this article by KS. He now says that India does not have enough fissile material for a CMD and needs to boost of fissile material production before the eventual signing of FMCT! He then blames the NDA for letting things drift apart - strange because he was part of the National Security Advisory Board then as well!

Also we should not brand those raising concerns as conservative/hawks effectively making their positions maximalist (eg Bharat Karnad). Remember KS earlier was ready to declare FBR into safeguards. It was only after Dr. Kakodkar let the cat out the bag that FBR was a main source of weapons grade Pu and raise the alarm bell that Indians held on to it tight till the end. Need to clean the house first, there seems to be a severe case of miscommunication within the scientific and policy making establishments, giving lots of space of sold-out journalists like Raja Mohan.



Blog Archive