June 29, 2011

NSG shifts goal posts: Will UPA make further compromises?

NSG shifts goal posts
June 28, 2011 11:06:01 PM

Will UPA make further compromises?


Apprehensions about the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group shifting the goalposts after getting India to agree to its tough conditions by compromising national strategic interests for what was touted in 2008 as a ‘clean waiver’ of guidelines appear to be slowly but surely coming true. In a recent move, the 46-member NSG has indicated plans to ‘strengthen’ its guidelines on supplying fuel enrichment and reprocessing equipment. If the changes were to be carried through, it is more than likely India will be adversely impacted when it seeks to acquire ENR technology. Needless to add, setting up nuclear power plants would be meaningless in the absence of enrichment and reprocessing technology. The much-publicised India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement and the subsequent ‘clean waiver’ given by the NSG were supposed to have set the nation free from the shackles of sanctions related to technology and fuel supply; it was claimed that the two together marked the end of our ‘isolation’. But with the NSG now moving to “strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies”, a big question mark has come to loom over that claim. True, the exact details of the US-backed changes being incorporated in the NSG guidelines are not known. But the little that is known — for instance, making it mandatory for those seeking enrichment and reprocessing technology to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, or the NPT as it is popularly known and to which India is not a signatory — could undo the ‘great achievement’ of the UPA regime, unless it agrees to capitulate and abandon national interest altogether. Given the craven desire of this Government to appease America at any cost, neither should come as a surprise. The Prime Minister would claim this to be another feather in his cap. The issue, however, is far more serious than an individual’s predilections as it involves the future of India’s nuclear policy and programmes.

Ironically, the proposed changes in the NSG’s guidelines have come at a time when India has already entered into agreements with the US, Russia and France for the setting up of nuclear power plants and the supply of fuel. These countries have also promised to provide fuel enrichment and reprocessing technology, apart from pushing for India's inclusion in an expanded NSG. The sudden move to amend the guidelines, therefore, raises the question: Is there a hidden motive? The NSG says the proposed amendments are meant to rein in rogue states like Pakistan, North Korea and Iran, but that is not entirely convincing. For, the NSG could only twiddle its thumbs when China decided to set up new nuclear power plants in Pakistan and supply fuel for them, cocking a snook at the suppliers’ group and the US. Nor has the non-proliferation regime prevented Pakistan from adding bombs to its arsenal. Therefore, it is unlikely that tightening of guidelines will impose curbs on either transfer of technology or supply of fuel. Are we then to believe that all this amounts to pressure tactics to force India into watering down its nuclear liability law? Or will we be asked to accept full scope safeguards for all nuclear facilities and subject them to international inspection? The coming days will provide answers to these and related questions. Meanwhile, the Government would be well advised not to make tall claims like the proposed amendments will not impact us adversely as we have a watertight ‘clean waiver’.

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