July 20, 2007

Indo-US N-deal compromises India's national security

By Bharat Karnad

National security adviser M.K. Narayanan will formally offer further compromises to Nicholas Burns when he visits Washington. These will reportedly go beyond the offer to construct at our expense a plant to reprocess imported fuel under safeguards and to accept the concept of a multilateral fuel-bank to get around the Hyde Act prohibition of US guaranteed fuel supply. It is supposed to get the stalled nuclear deal moving.

But sidestepping the other, equally damaging, provisions in the Hyde Act won’t be as easy. Among these are the issues related to safeguards in perpetuity, end-use verification under Section 115 allowing the US National Nuclear Security Agency to snoop on Indian nuclear military activities, reconfiguring Indian policies on Iran and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in line with the US thinking, return of US-sourced material and technology in case the deal breaks down, and the American option to terminate nuclear cooperation for any reason, other than resumption of Indian testing, that Washington at any time deems as being in its "supreme national interest."

Manmohan Singh’s historically false belief that economic growth supersedes national security concerns, is the Indian-supplied propellant for this deal. Finding his government bare of the requisite talent, the Prime Minister has relied on K. Subrahmanyam to make the popular case, until now when he has invested the latter’s efforts with an official seal. Subrahmanyam, as head of a committee with two MEA stalwarts — Shyam Saran, the PM’s special envoy, and Arundhati Ghose, former ambassador to the UN Commission on Disarmament in Geneva — is tasked with moulding India’s long-held positions on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty to fit the requirements of the Hyde Act; in other words, to invent history.

As part of its deliberations, this committee has met with senior members of the strategic community but generally avoided those who have opposed the nuclear deal. Many who have interacted with this committee have come away with the impression that Subrahmanyam, in the guise of seeking a consensus, is preparing the ground, for instance, for India’s accepting Washington’s point of view that the FMCT should not be verifiable other than by "National Technical Means." This is a signal departure from India’s traditional insistence that, to prevent the possibility of cheating, compliance of the FMCT has to be physically verified by international inspectors, something the US objects to because it fears its secret weapon-related research and development activity will be exposed.

Why is this issue important? Because "National Technical Means" (NTM) refers to satellite sensors and other such advanced technologies able remotely to sniff out fissile material production. It is technology available only with the United States, its European intimates and, perhaps, Russia.
Do Messrs Subrahmanyam, Saran and Ghose envisage that, lacking any such technical wherewithal itself, India will plug into the American NTM system in the hope of detecting treaty violations by countries of concern? If so, what is the assurance that all the intelligence obtained by the US NTM will be communicated to Delhi directly in its raw form and not in bits and pieces of processed, sanitised, and pre-digested information?

In any case, is India in a position to know the difference? And, what guarantee is there that the NTM will not be turned against India, as former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, correctly apprehends? (Refer his statement released on July 6, 2007.)

Further, is it wise for India to bank on America in this respect, considering that Washington has, for reasons of state, winked at sustained proliferation by China? Who is to say, US’ signature on the FMCT notwithstanding, it will not turn a blind eye to similar developments in the extended region detrimental to India’s security? Or, does this committee believe that India is already on par with the US, Russia and even China on the NTM technology front and, therefore, has nothing to fear?

The fact is that as a result of India’s signing the US-drafted FMCT already tabled in Geneva — something not anticipated by the masterminds in the Manmohan Singh government responsible for the deal, this country’s fissile material production will be rendered transparent to America and the other big powers, but Delhi will have no like insight into the fissile material production activities of the five so-called Non-Proliferation Treaty-recognised nuclear weapon states (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France), and Pakistan and a host of nuclear weapon threshold states.

This verification aspect, incidentally, is actually of secondary concern. The primary worry of the nuclear establishment and the military is, as it should be, that if the FMCT comes into force anytime soon — and Washington will ensure precisely this — it will result in corking India’s still quite meagre fissile material stockpile. Unless one buys the line retailed by the nuclear minimalists that warheads in double digits are enough by way of a deterrent, even as they pooh-pooh the strategic and political consequences for India of a galloping Chinese strategic weapons programme, the continuing impact of the huge and modernising US and Russian weapon inventories, and of the retention of lethal nuclear arsenals by Britain and France.

The fact is India will simply not be able to do in the FMCT negotiations what it managed in the talks on the CTBT — stretch these out over years in order to buy time for a new series of tests, the continued augmentation of its fissile material holdings, and for development of advanced weapons-related technologies.

But thanks to Manmohan Singh’s seemingly stubborn simpleton-ism (reflected, for example, in his repeated insistence that the deal is an energy panacea despite every evidence to the contrary), acquiescing in the "no testing" condition will result in India’s entering the CTBT by the backdoor. And signing a flawed FMCT will severely limit the country’s fissile material stock. US’ long-held non-proliferation goals of stunting India’s nuclear weapon technology and capping the size of the Indian deterrent, will thus be achieved, as some of us Cassandras have been incessantly warning. It is the realisation of these non-proliferation aims that will be the proverbial foreign policy feather in the cap of the outgoing US President, not the deal itself.

And finally, in a setting where abject surrender has followed indefensible compromise, for the Prime Minister to label those opposing the nuclear deal, and that includes almost the entire political Opposition (Bharatiya Janata Party, the newly minted "Third Front," and the Left parties propping up the ruling coalition), and the community of alarmed nuclear scientists and just as anxious senior serving and retired military-men, and a few strategic analysts as "unpatriotic," is an extraordinary display of cheek and Orwellian "doublespeak."

Manmohan Singh is personally committed to delivering the deal to his good friend George W. Bush even if it undermines India’s vital national security interests. Now, what’s that old saw again about "patriotism being the last refuge of scoundrels"?

Bharat Karnad is Professor at the Centre for Policy Research and author, most recently of Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security, now in its second edition


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whether such a risk is worth taking, please reply immediately (Your comments are needed urgently)

What is the Deal?

US would be providing technological assistance to INDIA for installation of Nuclear Power based plants (Fast Breeder Technology) that would be generating 50000 Mega Watts of power.

25 Plants would be installed at various places in India with each plant generating 2000 Mega Watts of Electric power.

US would be supplying the fuel that would be needed for operating the plants and would also keep a watch that the fuel is not used for military purpose.

Where are the problems?

Facts about the fast breeder Nuclear power plants

Plutonium would be produced as a result of fission of Uranium.
25 Gms of Plutonium could break up into 1 trillion particles and few particles if inhaled could cause lung cancer. (Plutonium is named after lord of hell).
Half life of plutonium oxide is 24000 years and could emit radiations for 1 lac years.
Leakage of moderator always takes place while the plant is in operation.
Vapors of radioactive moderator are released through stack and the liquid form of moderator is discharged to local water stream or lake.
10 km x 10 km of land that surrounds the power plant receives the harmful radiations and regular consumption of milk from cattle grazing in the area, fish from pond would make 1000 times more radiations than the safe limit into the human body.
Land surrounding the power plant would become unsafe for 500 years till the radioactivity ceases.
96000 cases of leukemia are estimated for dose of 0.17 rad / year (Prof Linus Pauling Nobel price winner).Annual Health cost would be 1 billion dollars
In view of experts, the min safe dose of 0.17 rad / year should be 100 times less (Nobel Leureate in genetics Prof Joshua Lederberg). Technically it is not possible to reduce the radiations to this level.
Every 2 years the fuel is taken out from the plant and is reprocessed to remove plutonium that gets deposited on fuel. The fuel is carried through rail or road to reprocessing facility.
Successful Terrorist Attack on train carrying the fuel flask would affect 100 km x 100 km area and 1,60000 people would die of leukemia.
The cooling tank where the fuel is kept initially to bring down radioactive level normally leaks and could cause dangerous radioactive material to mix with underground water.
1000 Mw reactor operating for 2 years produces radioactive poisons equal to 2000 atom bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Status of Nuclear power plants world wide:

75% of average life time load factor is only achievable.
Average life of power plant achievable is 36 years against 60 Years of design life.
Nuclear power plants in UK are going to close down in next 20 years.
Fast Breeder Reactors in France, Japan and Russia have closed down after detection of leak. Only one BN-600 in Russia is still operating but not as a breeder but as a plutonium burner.
Britain's fast breeder reactor was abandoned in 1994 after long series of break down and accidents.
In April 2005, Thorp nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield was shut after detection of leak of 20000 tones of radioactive fluid from used nuclear fluid that went unreported for 9 months.
At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cancers were produced 20 years after bombing.
Chernobyl incident had caused 30000- 60000 deaths due to leukemia. In UK thousands of miles away from USSR, thousands of infant deaths may have been caused by Chernobyl.