May 20, 2007

Nuclear Deal will gut India’s security

By Bharat Karnad

US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns is confident
that the nuclear deal will be done soon. Fresh from
his Washington trip, foreign secretary Shivshankar
Menon too sounded optimistic. This is a bit baffling,
as none of India’s concerns has been addressed, leave
alone resolved.

The mystery can be explained by the government’s game
plan outlined by external affairs minister Pranab
Mukherjee. Speaking at an India-US business forum in
Delhi on May 4, he voiced the desire to obtain the
nuclear deal "expeditiously in a way that it adheres
as closely as possible to the framework of the July
2005 joint statement and the March 2006 separation
plan."

"As closely as possible" is another way of saying
that, under American pressure, Delhi has chosen to
de-link the mention in the Joint Statement about

India’s accepting the same "responsibilities and
practices" as the United States from the requirement
that the same "benefits and advantages" enjoyed by
America, accrue to India. The reciprocity principle of
"no equal treatment as a nuclear weapon state, hence
no deal" has been ditched; Manmohan Singh’s solemn
promises in his suo moto statements in Parliament in
March 2006 and again in August last year
notwithstanding.

The new Indian thinking is the outcome of the American
strategy combining a full-court press by the US
(inclusive of the orchestrated hoo-ha over an alleged
DRDO role in passing an obsolete missile-useable
microchip to Iran) with targeting the weakest link in
the decision chain — the strategically blinkered
Manmohan Singh!

Personal calls by the US President to be followed up
by George W. Bush squeezing the Indian Prime Minister
in the proposed one-on-one meetings, are expected to
deliver Washington the goods.

To minimise the risk of failure, US officials
reportedly convinced Sonia Gandhi to encourage Dr
Manmohan Singh to accept the 123 agreement. Happily
for the Americans, Sonia Gandhi understands no more
about nuclear matters, about what is involved in the
deal and how it will irreparably damage India’s
sovereignty and nuclear security, than do the Prime
Minister, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the MEA
negotiating team.

Attempts by the nuclear establishment to involve
scientists in the negotiations have been rebuffed.
Indeed, the government seems not to care whether the
Department of Atomic Energy supports this initiative
or not. In a meeting the foreign secretary sought
before he left for Washington, DAE chairman Dr Anil
Kakodkar reportedly hinted to Menon that he would
resign if the MEA failed to protect and preserve the
country’s nuclear estate and interests.

Earlier, Manmohan Singh had ignored the plea by
retired senior nuclear scientists and supported by
Kakodkar to involve scientists in the negotiations so
that the technically proficient American negotiators
don’t make monkeys out of their Indian counterparts.

Keeping the scientists out, resulted, for instance, in
the March 2006 separation plan that bears the stamp of
generalist novices on the Indian side. Hence, the
criteria for safeguardability found mention in the
preamble of the separation plan — something Washington
is bound to use to hinder the development by India of
dual-purpose nuclear facilities and technologies in
the future.

With the advice from the Trombay Complex going
unheeded, the predictable has happened. The US has
consistently bamboozled first Shyam Saran, the PM’s
special envoy, and now Menon, by using empty phrases
the Indians have mistaken for substantive concessions.
Remember Saran’s crowing in the wake of the Joint
Statement that the US had accepted India as "a state
with advanced technology" and therefore as a nuclear
weapon state?

Condoleezza Rice had responded quickly and sought to
disabuse gullible Indian policymakers by asserting
that the deal in no way conferred nuclear weapon
status on India. But Delhi continues to be guided by
Saran’s original confused take.

Had scientists been involved in the talks leading to
the Joint Statement they would, for example, have
quickly pinned the Americans down technically and
specifically on just what they meant by this phrase,
and how it would affect India.

What transpired in the run-up to the Hyde Act and in
the negotiations on the 123 agreement since then have
confirmed Washington’s priority of pushing India into
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty regime and the
Non-Proliferation Treaty net. Little else has mattered
to the Americans than thus "capping and freezing" this
country’s nuclear weapons programme.

Ironically, it is an unelected (and unelectable) Prime
Minister who is seeking permanently to strategically
hobble this great democracy.

Consider this. The offer of uninterrupted fuel supply
for imported reactors (that Menon carried back with
him) tries to get around the clause preventing the
stockpiling of fuel by offering no reliable
alternative other than restating what is in the
explanatory note attached to the Hyde Act.

The continuity of fuel supply, this note says, is
limited to contingencies when there is "disruption due
to market failures or similar reasons" whereupon
"friendly supplier countries" can be expected to
redress the situation. Permission to reprocess spent
imported fuel, and the mooting of a joint mechanism to
consider how best to mitigate the effects of the
inevitable economic and technology sanctions should
India ever test again — that Menon supposedly wrangled
— are executive measures that the Bush administration
may, in fact, concede in order to seal the deal, but
these mean nothing.

The permission to reprocess fuel will be ended as
abruptly as the fuel supply when, not if, owing to the
politico-technologi cal

necessity, India tests again. Here the government’s

willingness to make the resumption of nuclear tests by
India palatable to Washington by linking it to renewed
testing by the US and China presumes that the
unproven, unsafe, unreliable and hence non-credible
Indian thermonuclear designs, whose performance need
desperately to be validated by rigorous physical
testing, are on par with the thoroughly tested,
verified and versatile thermonuclear American and
Chinese arsenals, which can do without further tests.

This is taking delusional strategic thinking to a new
high, and India will pay dearly for it.

Testing aside, the truth is, in case India violates
any of the Non-Proliferation Treaty constraints in any
manner or form or falls short in any of a myriad ways
detailed in the Hyde Act and in the umbrella US Atomic
Energy Act like, for instance, in observing the
stringent reporting requirements and the non-nuclear
weapon state-related IAEA safeguards and norms, and in
adhering to the restricted technology trade strictures
of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Missile
Technology Control Regime — how has the mention of the
unconnected missile technology sneaked into the Hyde
Act? — neither of which technology denial regimes
India subscribes to, its Section 129 kicks in and the
nuclear deal is instantly terminated in whole and in
its parts.

Agreeing to these provisions, moreover, signals the
Manmohan Singh government’s formal acceptance of
non-nuclear weapon state status for India under the
nearly defunct NPT.

The likelihood of other Nuclear Suppliers Group
members helping out is voided by the Hyde Act
enjoining the US government to ensure NSG solidarity.

As far, as the joint mechanism is concerned, what can
it reasonably be expected to do once India tests, as
it must for its nuclear weapons to pack even minimal
credibility, considering a presidential waiver can be
countermanded by a Congressional vote at any time?

Short of radical overhaul of the Hyde Act and the
overarching US Atomic Energy Act, which is ruled out,
there is little to prevent the economic and technology
sanctions from coming down automatically, the underway
nuclear transactions from ending mid-stream, and India
being left high and dry.

And note, if the US applies closure to the deal at any
time and for any flimsy reason, the Indian civilian
nuclear facilities will continue to be under the
non-nuclear weapon state-related International Atomic
Energy Agency safeguards and Additional Protocol.

Further, there has been no movement whatsoever in
resolving major differences regarding a host of other
negative provisions in the Hyde Act. For instance, the
US Congress, under the guise of end-use monitoring
has, vide Section 104, conceived of "fallback
safeguards" and under Section 115 accorded the US
National Nuclear Security Administration a parallel
role with the International Atomic Energy Agency in
policing Indian nuclear activities, gathering
sensitive information, and as per Section 109, in even
suborning Indian scientists! Besides GNEP (Global
Nuclear Experimental Project), that India can access
but only as a customer, will be used, as Secretary
Rice indicated in an April 2006 US Senate hearing, to
tap Indian nuclear and other high technology talent.

Worse, even as the Hyde Act requires India to respect
the NSG and MTCR prohibitions, it clarifies that India
cannot benefit from open commerce with the member
states. And the impracticable clause in the Hyde Act
requiring India to return all materials and
technologies in case of the deal breaking down remains
untouched.

As does the part of the Hyde Act predicating "civil
nuclear cooperation" on India’s harmonising its Iran
policy with US objectives — a linkage confirmed by
leading US legislators in their recent provocative
letter to the PM.

And finally, there is absolutely nothing in the Hyde
Act or the proposed 123 agreement offering financial
relief to India in terms of reimbursing the costs of
importing reactors and building up the related
infrastructure and compensating for the economic
losses incurred by an abrupt cut-off of fuel supply
and hence of electricity in the grid.

This deal will not only gut India’s nuclear security,
compromise foreign policy options, and hold energy
security, economic progress and the testing option
hostage to the threat of fuel supply cut-off, but cost
the exchequer hundreds of billions of dollars.

The innumerable provisions in the Hyde Act
contextualising the 123 agreement, which are
detrimental to India’s sovereignty and strategic
independence and contravene the Joint Statement and
the Prime Minister’s promises in Parliament, remain
intact. Prudence, abundant caution, and some sense of
national self-respect ought, therefore, to persuade
Manmohan Singh to reject a 123 agreement and the
nuclear deal. Or, is that expecting too much of a PM
who seems bent on proving himself a sap and India a
sucker?

Bharat Karnad is Professor at the Centre for Policy
Research, New Delhi, and author of Nuclear Weapons and
Indian Security now in its second edition. Related
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