Indo-US relations have come a long way since the Pokhran blasts of May 1998. In the aftermath of the tests, bilateral relations had taken a nosedive followed by a prolonged period of sanctions. The recently concluded Indo-US nuclear deal has raised the hope of cordial ties. In the joint statement released on 18 July 2005, Washington has pledged to encourage civilian nuclear commerce with India. India has agreed to adopt several measures to strengthen its commitment to the non-proliferation regime. However, the non-proliferation votaries have raised several objections over the nuclear deal in the US.
In the full committee hearing, India has been exhorted to halt further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The aim is to integrate India into the non-proliferation mainstream. India has been consistently moving in that direction. Immediately after the 1998 tests India declared a moratorium on further tests and adopted a NFU policy. India also agreed to work towards the establishment of an effective FMCT. It demonstrated its commitment to the non-proliferation regime by passing the WMD Bill in May 2005. India has an exemplary record of preventing unlawful trafficking in nuclear weapons and technology.
On the issue of declaring a moratorium on the manufacture of fissile materials, it is certainly not in India's interest to terminate its nuclear weapons programme, especially when it has two nuclear-armed neighbours - Pakistan and China - on either side of its border. The clandestine nuclear proliferation that exists between them cannot be disputed. India has an autonomous capability to produce nuclear weapons. To place all our facilities under international safeguards would jeopardize India's security interests.
US official Nicholas Burns has set pre-conditions for India to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities before the US administration effects any legislation to implement the nuclear deal. This is in complete variance with the understanding reached between the two democracies in the joint statement. The separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities will be conducted in a credible and transparent manner and it shall be the sovereign right of the Indian politico-defence and scientific establishments to decide which nuclear facilities shall be within the purview of civilian sector and to designate the rest as military. That is the Indian understanding.
Over the last fifty years, India has persevered in maintaining an impeccable non-proliferation record. . It never had any problems in placing civilian nuclear power reactors under the IAEA inspection system. In 1993, Tarapur was voluntarily placed under such inspection when our treaty obligations had expired. India has also put two Russian supplied reactors near Chennai and the Kota reactors under IAEA safeguards.
US experts have accused India of being a horizontal proliferator of nuclear weapons that has shown other states how to proliferate despite stringent international sanctions and export control regimes. They have also questioned how many nuclear bombs India will need and have expressed concern that India might use US-supplies for nuclear weapons production. India has never been a horizontal proliferator of WMD. On the contrary, it has remained a sovereign independent nation in the face of crippling sanctions and export controls and steered the nation out of an economic apocalypse.
India is the largest democracy in the world that requires nuclear energy for its development. With US assistance, India can attain 8 per cent economic growth over the next decade. The military nuclear project is only a component of its larger nuclear power programme. Its goal is to secure our national interests and safeguard our development. The cardinal principal of India's nuclear doctrine is a minimum credible deterrent. It is not possible to fix the exact number of nuclear bombs that India will need. But we assure the world that India will have only as many bombs required to combat our adversaries effectively.
India has a distinguished history of a non-proliferator. Its nuclear philosophy is premised on the idea of global disarmament. Even after acquiring nuclear capability, India has refrained from using it as a lever to perpetuate a multipolar world system. Hence, it is unreasonable to set any difficult pre-condition on India as a trade-off for the nuclear deal. India will never be a supplicant of the US. If the deal is scuttled, Washington stands to lose a lot. It loses a new strategic partnership with India which is now emerging as an important power in global politics. It stands to lose control over a burgeoning market of one billion people. The nuclear deal would also be beneficial to the US, and be an incentive to North Korea and Iran to realize the benefits of adopting the path of non-proliferation.
The Americans must realize that India's nuclear genie cannot be capped. The greatest difference between the years 1997 and 1999 is May 1998. We are now a legitimate and responsible nuclear power which can play an effective role to win the global war on terrorism, prevent the spread of WMDs and enhance the prospects of peace, stability and democracy in Asia.