The Public spotlight that was on the Indo-US nuclear deal until it was passed by the US Congress and signed by President Bush into law in December last year has dissipated. But it is now that the real drudge work to hammer out an 123 agreement, getting NSG approval and an India specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA has to be done.
Brahma Chellaney in an op-ed piece titled Long-Maul Exercise in The Asian Age analyses the action that is taking place behind the scenes.
The controversial US-India nuclear deal may not be in the news these days but it quietly continues to ferment new issues. Even as America and its friends persist with their hard sell of the deal, increasing doubts about the wisdom and costs of pushing ahead with it on terms set by the US Congress have gripped the Indian establishment.
The projected timeframe for stitching up the final deal continues to slip. When the agreement-in-principle was unveiled on July 18, 2005, it was sanguinely claimed by both sides that by spring of 2006, the deal would take effect. Then when the Hyde Act was passed, US officials voiced optimism that the final deal would be before Congress by July 2007.
Now Washington has further revised the deadline to late 2007 or early 2008. Even that seems overly optimistic when one bears in mind that after almost 20 months, only the first of the five phases has been completed to clinch the final deal. There is still a long road ahead for the two sides to traverse.
Let’s not forget that the US-China nuclear deal, signed in 1984, took nearly 14 years to come into force, and another nine years thereafter for Beijing to place its first import order for US reactors. The US-India deal, in fact, involves more processes and complicating factors. Long after the original actors involved in the July 18, 2005, accord have faded into history, India would still be grappling with the deal-related issues.
Indeed the deal’s main benefit for India remains the symbolically important message of July 18, 2005 that the United States, reversing a three-decade punitive approach toward India, has embraced it as a “responsible” nuclear state.In other words, India is already savouring the main gain from the deal.
The actual incentive proffered by the US — the lifting of civil nuclear sanctions — is of less significance because high-priced imported commercial power reactors can play only a marginal role in meeting India’s energy needs.
And the dumb Indians will fall for that line.
The telephonic call from Bush came two days after he made it clear that the legislation he signed on Monday did not mean he endorsed all its contents and that he considered certain portions like seeking to restrict fissile material production and transfers of enrichment technology as merely ‘advisory.’
Well Bush, the current US President might mean what he says. But then what is written down and signed on paper is what matters at the end of it all. What if a future administration seeks to rack up the pressure on India to toe their line? Then those very “advisory” provisions could come back to haunt us.
Unfortunately Indian diplomacy always tends to pursue the ‘feel good’ factor rather than hard reality. They have shown this tendency time and time again since the hoary Panchsheel days and it is obvious where this utter disregard for reality and the carelessness towards the fineprint of what they end up signing has led to.
Some people never learn from past blunders.
The US President George W Bush today signed the Indo-US Nuclear Co-operation Bill dubbed the Henry J Hyde India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Act into law.
December 18, 2006– Signing the act at a special White House ceremony, he(Bush) said: “The deal will help keep America safe by paving the way for India to join the global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.”
Describing India and the US as natural partners, Bush said the agreement will enable India to meet its growing energy needs and was evidence of growing bonds of trust between them.
“After 30 years outside the system, India will now operate its civilian nuclear energy programme under internationally-accepted guidelines and the world is going to be safer as a result,” the US president said with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice standing by his side.
The Indo-US Nuclear Co-operation Bill is on its way to become law. Barring a full scale Martian invasion of the Earth this weekend it is more or less certain that it will become law when it is signed by US President George Bush early next week. He along with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has worked very hard to get this bill through the Congress and this will go down as one of the legacies of his Presidency, that of helping build a new strategic partnership between the two largest democracies in the world.
December 08, 2006– Reacting cautiously, India on Friday said it welcomed the United States bill on the nuclear deal but noted that it contained certain ‘extraneous’ and ‘prescriptive’ provisions.
“The government welcomes the outcome of the conference in the US Congress that has reconciled the waver bills earlier passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate respectively that would enable resumption of civil nuclear energy cooperation between India and the US,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.
He, however, said that government also noted that the draft contained certain extraneous and prescriptive provisions. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be making a statement on the issue in Parliament soon, the spokesman said.
“We appreciate the personal effort and commitment demonstrated by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in taking this initiative forward. We are also encouraged by the broad bipartisan support of the Congressional leadership for stronger Indo-US ties,” Sarna said.
Observing that the legislation that will be passed is an amendment to the law of the US, he said: “Our obligations and commitments will be those that we undertake in the bilateral 123 agreement.”
He said: “We expect that to adhere to the July 18 joint statement and the separation plan. We look forward to working with the US administration for an early conclusion of a satisfactory agreement.”
December 07, 2006– US says the final bill on Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation will be through in the Congressional process in the next 36 hours.
Burns said the administration hoped the conciliation bill will go through the Congressional process in the next 36 hours and the President would thereafter sign it into law.
Maintaining that he had not seen the final legislation, he said the administration did not expect “any major surprises” from the conciliation measure.
Update– The House-Senate conference committee compromise legislation to faciliate the US-India civilian nuclear agreement has passed both chambers of Congress and will now go to the President’s desk for signature.
The Indo-US nuclear deal has hit another roadblock. According to this article by Dr A Gopalakrishna, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board(AERB).
During the debate on November 16, amendments were approved in Section 105 and Section 108 of the original bill, and also two new sections (Section 114 and Section 115) were freshly inserted. What else was introduced and defeated is of little consequence to us, since we need to only concentrate on the acceptability of what is eventually put into HR-5682.EAS, instead of wasting time to rejoice on the false victories over ‘killer’ amendments!
Of the changes that were made, what is most appalling is the inclusion of Section 115, which the Senate approved without any vote-counting or voice vote. After reading out the text of this Section, Senator Lugar just said one sentence, ‘I urge adoption of the amendment’, and without objection or discussion it was directly ‘agreed to.’
He goes on to add that this Section 115 gives authority to the DoD and DoE in the pretext of “joint R&D in the area of nuclear non-proliferation” to basically spy on the Indian nuclear program and sabotage it by internal subversion through the agency of the NNSA which is allegedly involved in covert nuclear activities across the world in active collaboration with the CIA, NSA and DIA.This is not a farfetched thought considering the history of US clandestine operations even against its supposed ‘allies’.
The Indo-US nuclear deal is supposed to be for civilian nuclear cooperation in the hope that it will enhance the energy security of the country. Section 115 of the bill deals totally with matters of nuclear proliferation control. In the guise of conducting joint R&D in nuclear non-proliferation, with emphasis on nuclear safeguards, the US attempt appears to be in using the Indo-US nuclear deal as a vehicle to facilitate a formal entry for the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) into India.
The US’ NNSA is widely suspected to be involved in a variety of covert nuclear interventions and clandestine operations in many countries around the world, on behalf of the US government, and they work in close cooperation with intelligence agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, the US National Security Agency and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The US State Department, US Defence Department and the Department of Energy are also closely involved with the NNSA. Section 115 states that the Secretaries of DoD and DoE will be consulted in carrying out the envisaged R&D program.
The original text of the relevant bills HR-5682.EAS, HR-5682.PCS and the Senate bill S-3709 passed on Nov 16,2006 can be searched for here.
The US Senate passed the Indo-US Nuclear bill on Thursday with a overwhelming majority of 85-12. But the Indian scientific community has cautioned against unnecessary euphoria.
It’s good but don’t uncork the champagne yet, say some of the former chieftains of India’s nuclear programme. Responding cautiously, they say that the devil of interference was hidden in the small print of the deal that was approved by the Senate on Friday and only the final version reconciled by both legislatures on the Hill will reveal the full extent of the burden on India.
Former AEC chairman P K Iyengar said: “The real question is whether it is acceptable to India. No, I do not think it is still a time for celebration. We can celebrate only after seeing the end product which should conform to the July 18, 2005, agreement between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush.”
Former Barc director A N Prasad said what the Senate approved appeared to be a little more stringent compared to the one presented by the House of Representatives. Therefore, it may not be really in India’s interests. “Both the versions have to be reconciled and conform to the assurances given in the July 18 statement.”
Talking from Singapore, defence analyst Bharat Karnad said the deal may have crossed a major obstacle, “But a number of wrinkles have to be ironed out.” .“The moratorium on any further nuclear testing has been incorporated in the July 18 agreement which is unfortunate. We should be free to test,” he added.