IPCS Book Release
‘Indo-US Nuclear Deal: Seeking Synergy in Bilaterlism’ (Ed.) PR Chari
Second (revised) Edition
25 April 2012
Chief Guest: Mr Yashwant Sinha, Member of Parliament and former Minister for External Affairs, Government of India
Chair: Amb Salman Haidar, Former Foreign Secretary
Amb Salman Haidar
Since the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed, much has changed. India’s own standing in the world has increased by leaps and bounds. This has a bearing on the theme of the book. The Indo-US Nuclear Deal is not a done deal; the work is still in progress.
Mr Yashwant Sinha
The topic that the book deals with – the Indo-US nuclear deal – is important in view of the evolution of India’s nuclear policy and the development of India-US relations.
The Indian Parliament conducted profound discussions on the deal. A move to release a sense of the house statement, like that in the US legislature, was unsuccessful. It is, nevertheless, true that the Indian Parliament was not kept properly informed by the Government and those who followed the deal closely had to depend more on the US sources for information.
In this book, Chari deals with such issues on which the Parliament was deliberately misled like the Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) technology. The Prime Minister’s solemn assurances on the transfer of sensitive technology to India including ENR technology were untrue. The Indian people were made to believe that the deal would bring electricity to their houses. However, the deal cannot account for even a single megawatt of electricity yet produced.
The Civil Nuclear Liability Act represents a compromise which is not agreeable to the US companies. The book deliberates whether these companies, who were one of the main driving forces for the deal, will agree to compromise. Besides, the US is not going to accept a situation in which India gets its reactors from France and Russia without giving the American companies any business.
Land acquisition is a serious issue that has risen in the context of this deal. Kudankulam and Jaitapur are cases in hand. The people have an emotional attachment to their land, not just an economic one. They are saying “Jaan denge par jameen nahi denge” (we will die but will not give up our land). It is uncertain whether they will give up their land.
As Chari clearly observes in the book, the 123 Agreement and Hyde Act are completely in sync with each other and, therefore, India is bound by them both. The Hyde Act imposes many conditions on India’s decision making options. Under this Act, India will end up giving more information to the US legislature than to the Indian legislature.
The nuclear deal is not the only relation between the US and India. Since 1998, the bilateral relations have moved on; we are now moving apace towards ‘strategic partnership’. It is would be correct to assume that Indo-US relations will always be driven by economics rather than politics and its future lies in cooperation on high-technology like space, nuclear power and so on. But strategic partnership should not mean strategic subservience. India cannot give up autonomy of foreign policy decision making which it has always zealously guarded.
About the Book and the Subject
Prof PR Chari
The project for this book began in 2007; almost two years after discussions began on the Indo-US nuclear deal. The book’s contributors are people who have been associated with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies – presently and in the past. They came to put together the revised edition of the book. This book gives equal weight to the US and Indian perspectives, as well as to political and technical issues. Individual chapters have been dedicated to the breeder programme, the role of the media and special interest groups and the domestic politics. The texts of some of the major agreements have been included as documentation. Another unique feature of this book is that it chronicles the sharp U-turns in the evolution of the deal. In May 2008, the deal seemed as good as dead, largely because of domestic opposition to it in India. However, in a dramatic U turn, the deal was signed in July 2008. Thereafter it was accepted by the IAEA and the NSG.
Geopolitical compulsions drove both, India and the US, into the nuclear deal. The US wants to build India as a counterweight to China in the strategic architecture of Asia. It also wanted to gain access to the growing Indian energy markets. India, on the other hand, was facing technical difficulties; India’s supply of natural uranium was so low that by 2008 the nuclear reactors were producing electricity at 40 percent of their capacity. Without the supply of more natural uranium India’s heavy water-based nuclear programme faced the danger of grinding to a halt. India also wanted access to advanced nuclear technology and entry into the missile technology control regimes. The deal exempts India from joining the NPT or undertaking full scope safeguards. This deal would not have gone through without President Bush’s personal interest in it.
Many loose ends still remain like the confusions between the Hyde Act and 123 Agreement. Three major issues remain unresolved - the clean waiver for ENR technology, China’s decision to grandfather Pakistan’s nuclear reactors and the civil nuclear liability concerns. The controversies, thus, created have aggravated three techno-legal problems.
One, the government’s statistics about how much nuclear energy contributes to India’s total energy mix is exaggerated. Nuclear energy is expensive and land acquisition is difficult. The people are not reassured about the safety of nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster.
Two, the enlarging problem of nuclear waste is not adequately addressed. At Tarapur, there is a huge accumulation of spent nuclear fuel. The government does not know what to do about it.
Three, there is little optimism about the capacity and desire of President Obama and Prime Minister Singh to push the deal forward at this point. Both leaders are in defensive mode with elections coming up in two years.
Finally, it is hoped that this book stirs a debate on the subject in India. The Indo-US Nuclear Deal needs to be studied in a holistic way, keeping in mind its many techno-legal features. Yet another interesting aspect would be a comparative study of the decision making processes on the deal in the US and India.
Report drafted by Tanvi Kulkarni, Research Officer, IPCS