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19 July 2008

India-US Unclear Deal III

Surajit Dasgupta
Going by science, electricity from nuclear energy was an afterthought. Going by history, China eyes Arunachal Pradesh the way Saddam Hussein eyed Kuwait. Talking about the present, India is still surrounded by hostile countries. In terms of dealing with defence apparatus, this country, which never built a dangerous weapon before its enemy did, is being asked to trust the United States, the sanctimonious international preacher that is itself a proliferator. In terms of both legalese and its interpretation, most international laws to check nuclear weapons are not ratified by the country that urges every other country to sign them. In these circumstances comes the 123 Agreement, all in all, a conspiracy to deviate India’s attention from where India needs nuclear energy to where it does not

The science of afterthought
Let’s begin from the beginning. When a motley group of maverick American innovators first set about to harness nuclear energy (the 1942 construction and launch of the first critical assembly by Robert Moon and Enrico Fermi), was their motive peaceful? No. It was the culmination of a scientific endeavour that was triggered by physicists Leó Szilárd and Albert Einstein who, in August 1939, had written a letter warning then US president Franklin D Roosevelt of the probability of Nazis building an ‘atom bomb’. That incident was to lead to what is referred to as the “Manhattan Project”, the project to develop the first nuclear bomb during World War II by the US, the UK and Canada.

The possible application of that unprecedented amount of energy — from a source discovered in 1896 by Henri Becquerel — for electricity, biophysics, archaeology etc was only an afterthought. After all, once you are left with a lot of costly energy whose primary objective is too dangerous to be realised in day-to-day life, you can’t let all that energy lie idle or go in vain. Hence its civilian application. But if a science is originally meant to execute a certain technology, say, ‘A”, and it is later used to execute a different technology, say, ‘B’, the cost involved has got to be prohibitive.

You know that an electric bulb gives you light; that was the fundamental objective behind its invention. But when you discovered that the bulb was also releasing heat, would you start manufacturing bulbs designed specially to produce heat instead of light? Well, those who discarded nuclear-energy-for-bomb in favour of nuclear-energy-for-electricity attempted a similar feat. And this capricious afterthought has cost millions and delivered little in the last half a century at the expense of non-polluting, non-hazardous, renewable sources of energy in several ‘innovative’ countries led famously by France, about 78% of whose electricity is generated by nuclear energy. In the US, the figure is roughly 20%, being generated by some reactors suffering obsolescence (three new reactor designs have been pending for the administration’s approval and funds for ages).

The massive arrangement of logistics a government has to make to safeguard radioactive fuel spilling or leaking out of its nuclear facilities — they can cause various kinds of cancer, make a victim produce severely deformed offspring and create generations of chronically diseased populations — makes little sense in a country like India where hydro and solar power can be harnessed at a fraction of that cost. And France, which has petroleum and coal as the only other feasible energy options left, cannot be a good example to be emulated by India.

Those who keep harping on the 59 ‘awe-inspiring’ nuclear reactors operated by Electricité de France with total capacity of over 63 GWe, supplying over 430 billion kWh per year of electricity to France and 60-70 billion kWh net worth export each year, forget that France still imports more than half its energy. Nuclear energy gives France more than 75% of its electricity needs, not 75% of its total energy needs. That is to say that nuclear energy has certainly not proved a panacea for France’s energy ills, no matter how much of its electricity it exports to other countries.

Further, if democracy is meaningless in a state without an educated population, France’s decision to go nuclear for civilian energy smacked of its top leadership’s authoritarianism to begin with. Two decades after it suffered the “oil shock”, a nationwide poll held in France in 2003 showed that 70% of French people thought they were poorly informed on the country’s energy problems and solutions. That, in turn, forced the Government of France to declare a “national energy debate” open. The political opposition in India will, justifiably, never allow such a decision to be taken by a government of the day without a similar — or even more rigorous — long-drawn countrywide debate.

Revolt against a discriminatory world order
If a massive arrangement to keep the people of India at a safe distance from nuclear fuel pollution must still be made, it is worth doing so only for national security. For, India is surrounded by more hostile states than what it can stomach. And these international adversaries are as big champions of lies and half-truths as the domestic proponents and opponents of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

Indians are reminded of a crude jest that used to be played in circuses till the 1980s. A clown would challenge another to a strange game of fisticuffs. First, he would set a convenient rule of the game: He would say to the other clown, “When I say ‘start’, the game starts; when I say ‘stop’, it stops.” Without any pause thereafter, he would say “start”, punch the second joker hard and, before the assailed recovered, shout, “Stop.” And the game would end with the player-cum-adjudicator as the winner! The formulation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the NPT by the recognised nuclear weapon states after all of them secured their positions as permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council — following their belligerent show of might through underground, under-sea and atmospheric tests — was no less a joke than this buffoonery by circus clowns. “Belligerence”, in fact, is an understatement. Some of them were brazen, too. Britain, for example, used Australian territory to carry out its tests, perhaps considering the Commonwealth member a common wealth the British enjoy an unquestionable right to!

So, how did India fight this prejudiced international environment? Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi was of a different mettle than her father whose flawed policy had ensured India’s ignominious defeat at the hands of China in the war of 1962. The concern for national security rose all the more after China’s Lop Nur nuclear tests in 1964. Before October that year, all that India wanted was nuclear capability which could be developed into nuclear weapons in case a ‘remote’ possibility arose. But after the 16 October Chinese test, India could not have remained a mute spectator any more. Then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the green signal for a “subterranean nuclear explosion project” and after setting up Dubna-like reactors in BARC in the late 1960s (ref: India-US Unclear Deal II), on 18 May 1974, it conducted the country’s first nuclear test in Pokhran. The act, on eventually being able to muster enough courage and braving a plethora of post-1974 international sanctions, was to be repeated 24 years later with more advanced tests conducted on 11 and 13 May 1998. Each time, somewhat like the way the KGB used to fool the CIA’s data collection gizmos during the Cold War era, India made a mockery of the US’s intelligence gathering system that is excessively dependent on satellites and electronic gadgets rather than human eyes and ears. Indira Gandhi, the prime minister during Pokhran I, however, developed cold feet while asserting the country’s deserved status as the sixth nuclear weapon state; she called the first test in Pokhran a “peaceful nuclear explosion”. Yet another Indian National Congress Government in the first half of the 1990s did all the hard work to facilitate the necessary second round of tests, but was caught and browbeaten by the US Administration to desist from executing its plans. It took the calculated bravery of the NDA Government to conduct a plutonium-type, a thermonuclear (or hydrogen) type, a low-yield-device type, a weapon-grade assessment type and a sub-critical (testing by computer simulation in a laboratory) type nuclear tests in May 1998. And the people erupted in spontaneous joy.

Domestic politics
The delight was for the country’s first courageous defiance of a biased international order. It seemed as if India had won a war. When this country’s cricket team wins a tournament, crackers burst in the streets just for a night. Here, they kept bursting for days on end. The merry-making on the streets, lanes and by lanes of the country was so overwhelming that for three more days, the then political opposition kept wondering if at all it would be politically correct to object to the tests. Between the evening of 11 May and the night of the 15th, Indian National Congress spokespersons, unsure of their party’s reaction, kept running for cover, hiding their faces from the media’s searchlights.

And in the heat of the nationwide debate that started the next week and continued for several months, in June, perhaps for the first and the last time on any Indian television channel, an ‘intellectual’ communist was forced to keep his mouth shut for his “ignorance”. That communist was Sitaram Yechury. And the person who treated him with the contempt that a disgusted teacher has for a dull student was defence analyst K Subramanyam. Yechury’s lack of confidence was for all viewers to see in the sky-blue set of that TV channel. This happened much before the present era where an English-medium channel with a red backdrop in its studio set has made idiot box heroes out of mortal leftists through sustained campaigns of the kangaroo court kind. So, a visibly shaken Yechury of June 1998 could just manage a murmur in the name of protest: “This is not fair. If I don’t understand the nuances of India’s security needs, please explain (them). You cannot shout me down, calling me ignorant.”

It is interesting to note that the Indian communists were speaking the language of a frustrated Bill Clinton Administration right after 11 May 1998, asking a BJP-led government why it conducted the nuclear tests. And today they are asking a Congress-led government why it has virtually committed that no further nuclear tests will be conducted!

Anyway, the NDA Government had no intention of resorting to diplomatic tomfoolery once again. Unlike Indira Gandhi’s lame clarification that Pokhran I was a “peaceful nuclear explosion”, and unlike Rajiv Gandhi who called the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Agni I a “technology demonstrator”, the Prime Minister of India in 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said, “India is now a nuclear weapon state.” The diplomats and scientific advisers of the regime too made it clear that Pokhran II was for the country’s defence. Yet, to reassure the world about the nature of the country that has never attacked a foreign territory in the thousands of years of its existence, the NDA Government declared a “no first use” policy accompanied by an indefinite moratorium on further tests. It is to be noted that a “no first use” policy is more comprehensive than “no first strike”. We are not just telling our rivals that we won’t hit their nuclear installations to pre-empt retaliation from their end, but also telling them that we won’t bomb any part of their territory unless attacked by nuclear weapons first. The moratorium — and the NDA regime’s subsequent willingness to sign the CTBT — should mean that the fifth test in Pokhran II, the sub-critical type, must have enabled Indian scientists to carry out virtual tests through simulations in laboratories, should the need arise. But the present objection to the 123 Agreement in the light of the Hyde Act, which inhibits (though it does not prohibit) India from conducting further physical tests, suggests that the claim to simulations in 1998 was a bluff. If not, then today the BJP is bluffing.

Its bluff called, P5 fumes in rage
As for the reaction from overseas, a sub-consciously racist West, which still considered Indians lesser humans who were incapable of technological innovations, resorted to their own brand of malarkey. While the Indian nuclear scientists claimed the tested thermonuclear device to have a yield of about 43 to 45 kilotonnes, and the total yield to be 58 kilotonnes, American ‘experts’, habitually sitting atop the ivory tower of artificial intelligence, belittled the claim saying it couldn’t have been more than 9 to 16 kilotons. If they were convinced that was the case, why were they so worried about our ‘Diwali crackers’?

A hell lot of sanctions to critical technology transfer were imposed on India in 1974, and their provisions made harsher in 1998. This, despite the fact that India, not being a signatory to the NPT, had not violated any international law. After Pokhran II, the US banned 200 Indian firms to which American companies were ordered not to export anything. It also withheld $ 143 million worth aid and more than $ 1 billion loan to India. Japan suspended the annual grant of $26 million to India. Germany, Sweden and Denmark froze all development aid to India but allowed aid to projects in the pipeline to be continued. The funniest sanction came from Australia, a country to which India hardly exports anything. While recalling its ambassador like New Zealand, it also suspended its ridiculously negligible defence contracts with India and withdrew its rather insignificant non-humanitarian aid to protest the nuclear test. In effect, the Aussies shot themselves in the foot by damaging their own export market in India, no product of which was a life-saver for this country.

Backed by economics
India couldn’t care less. It had survived the post-1974 sanctions despite being a weak economy under the quasi-socialist regimes of Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh and Chandrashekhar. It could definitely survive the sanctions in a much-liberated and stronger market of the 1990s, Vajpayee knew for sure. And he was right. “Globalisation multiplies choices of where to invest, produce, buy, sell and cheat in order to achieve national goals,” wrote The Washington Post’s Stephen S Rosenfeld, adding, “A country blocked on one avenue simply tries another.”

India's international payments position remained strong in 1999 with adequate foreign exchange reserves, reasonably stable exchange rates and booming exports of software services. Lower production of some non-foodgrain crops offset recovery in industrial production but a strong demand for India's high technology exports bolstered growth in 2000. Real GDP growth rate was 6.4% in 1999-2000 and 6.6% in 1998-1999. Agricultural output rose 13.7 per cent in January-March, 1999. Further, if you ask any middle class person who bought his house on loan in 1998-99, he will tell you he got it at a repayment rate of interest of about 9%, the rate that has shot up to a prohibitive ≥ 13% in today’s age of bonhomie with the US Administration. “The Reserve Bank's 100 basis points reduction in interest rates in March and the improved competitiveness of the Indian rupee… helped the economy revive…,” Deutsche Bank had said in its 1999 report.

Pakistan’s falsehood
Those Indians who lament that the NDA Government forced Pakistan to turn nuclear must be holding Islamabad’s brief. For, that was then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s refrain after that country’s tests in the Chagai Hills. Never mind that it was the same Sharif who had threatened to hurl a nuclear bomb at India during his election campaign in October 1990, equalling, repeating — and, thus, authenticating — the threat issued by his predecessor Benazir Bhutto in March that year. They were both on the course of fulfilling the dream Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had seen in the 1970s.

In 70s when Pakistan's then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched his campaign to win funds for the nuclearization, he sold the idea to Libya, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran as an Islamic project. All these Muslim countries supported the project whole heartedly. Pakistan never faced any shortage of funds as far as her nuclear ambitions were concerned. And therefore it feels obliged to share the technology with other Muslim countries.
There has always been a tacit understanding that Pakistan's bomb will be used to regain the glory of Islam and defend the "rights" of the Muslims wherever they are persecuted by infidel powers. This was truly an Islamic bomb.

by Tashbih Sayyed, Pakistan Today, 26 December 2003

In 1990, the United States finally acknowledged that the Pakistani nuclear weapons program existed — and, under the law, cut off military aid…

Beginning in 1990, Pakistan is believed to have built between 7 and 12 nuclear warheads — based on the Chinese design, assisted by Chinese scientists and Chinese technology. That technology included Chinese magnets for producing weapons-grade enriched uranium, a furnace for shaping the uranium into a nuclear bomb core, and high-tech diagnostic equipment for nuclear weapons tests, according to the Monterey Institute of International Studies, which tracks the spread of nuclear weapons and technology.

by Tim Weiner for The New York Times, June 1, 1998

In the 1990s Pakistan began to pursue plutonium production capabilities. With Chinese assistance, Pakistan built the 40 MWt (megawatt thermal) Khusab research reactor at Joharabad, and in April 1998, Pakistan announced that the reactor was operational. According to public statements made by US officials, this unsafeguarded heavy water reactor generates an estimated 8-10 kilotons of weapons grade plutonium per year, which is enough for one to two nuclear weapons. The reactor could also produce tritium if it were loaded with lithium-6. According to J. Cirincione of Carnegie, Khusab's plutonium production capacity could allow Pakistan to develop lighter nuclear warheads that would be easier to deliver with a ballistic missile.

Courtesy: Federation of American Scientists

Probably, Pakistan had acquired the capability of making a nuclear bomb much earlier, as in 1984 three Pakistani nationals were indicted in the US for attempting to smuggle out 50 krytrons (high speed switches suitable for implosion detonation systems), and in 1987 the purchase of US maraging steel was attempted. Large quantities of materials were successfully purchased without being detected, including a German uranium hexafluoride manufacturing plant.


Drawn to the limelight, the leader of Pakistan's uranium enrichment program Abdul Qadeer Khan held periodic interviews boasting about Pakistan's nuclear prowess. It was in such an interview in February 1984 that he first made the claim that Pakistan had achieved nuclear weapons capability. In July 1984 the New York Times reported that US intelligence had learned that the previous year that China had supplied Pakistan with the design of an actual tested nuclear device - the design of China's fourth nuclear weapon tested in 1966 with a yield of 25 kt. This is said to be a low weight (200 kg class) solid-core bomb design. Reports have also surfaced that China also provided sufficient highly enriched uranium to construct one or two weapons in 1983. In 1998 AQ Khan stated that Pakistan had acquired the capability to explode a nuclear device at the end of 1984.

Courtesy: Nuclear Weapon Archive

Those who point to the 1999 Kargil War to debunk the claim by the nuclear deterrent’s proponents also forget that Kargil would have been more devastating with Pakistan’s nuclear bombs of 1984 vintage, if Pokhran II had not happened in 1998.

Vajpayee’s statecraft
If anything, Vajpayee exposed Pakistan’s ‘secret’ and turned that country a broke. First, howsoever provoked, no country can produce nuclear devices of the kind Pakistan tested within a fortnight of provocation. It was rather foolish of that country to waste six of their already tested, illegally imported devices. Second, Vajpayee calculatedly invited the same sanctions upon his country that would apply to Pakistan too. The predictably bellicose, army-controlled Government of Pakistan couldn’t see the trap and subjected their poor countrymen to unspeakable hardships, whereas Indians all that while didn’t even feel some international prohibitions were in place.

Finally, after about three more years that saw frequent parleys between then foreign minister Jaswant Singh and his contemporary, then US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott, the Americans ate a humble pie and herded all the countries — which it had urged to impose sanctions on India in 1998 — to lift the sanctions (the ones that really mattered) in September 2001, roughly two weeks after 9/11. What timing! And what an American somersault! It was NDA’s misfortune that it could not claim the entire credit for the lifting of the US sanctions. In the wake of 9/11, the US needed Pakistan to launch an attack on Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. Since Pakistan had to be pleased then, India had to be relieved similarly. Had the twin towers of the World Trade Centre not been demolished by some terrorists, Vajpayee’s master plan behind Pokhran II and Jaswant Singh’s diplomacy would have bore fruit for India alone, without any respite to Pakistan.

But that does not mean the BJP is all courage and no fear. Since the party claims to be nationalist, one had expected that in the annual budget proposals of 1999, it would at least offer France and Russia some sops, in case it was too much to expect it to ‘punish’ US exporters for their government’s act of roughing India up. But it didn’t. And France and Russia wondered what they got in return of not succumbing to diplomatic pressure to isolate India in 1998.

It is the same BJP that now plans to blunt the effect of the Hyde Act by enacting a counter-law, were it to come to power after the next general elections. If it can, it must be said that LK Advani is braver than Vajpayee insofar as imposing an Indian brand of sanctions on the US is concerned.

Hypocrites’ advices
Post-Pokhran II, sanctimonious advices flew in thick and fast from overseas. Then US president Bill Clinton said that with India’s democratic traditions, the nuclear path is not a way to “greatness”. Other ‘moralists’ cited the example of Germany and Japan that are in G-8, the league of the most industrialised — hence, the most developed — countries. It was being said that they were as strong contenders as permanent member states as and when the UN Security Council’s membership is increased. That was but a bad comparison.

Why would India like to be compared with two such countries that were vanquished in World War II, which have been protected ever since under the US’s nuclear umbrella, which are happy playing a second fiddle in the NATO behind France and Britain? It is a similar status the US wants to bestow upon India through the civil nuclear cooperation agreement. The Americans forget that they are not as fortunate as an imperial Britain that had to deal with a 17th century India that was politically dumb and nationalistically numb. A young Indian is well aware of the international history of at least the last 500 years and has grown up as nationalists far fiercer in patriotism than his great, great grandfather. Jobs with salary in dollars lure him, but the returns you get from him are not the same as that an obliged Indian Rai Bahadur would offer to the British Empire 200 years ago.

Yet another ‘adviser’ was the least credible of all. Right after Pokhran II, the state-run Chinese media commented: “India was once a world power. It is obsessed with a desire to be a regional and world power again.” Yes, India desires to be a world power. But the Indian idea of being a world power is perhaps too subtle for Chinese politicians to understand. Let’s compare the corresponding ideas of India and China: The Chinese have traditionally seen themselves as the centre of the world due to their history of occupation by foreign invaders. In fact, the Chinese word for "China" is Zhōngguó (中國), which literally means "Middle Land?Kingdom?Country". Compare that with India’s local nomenclature. “Bhārat(a)” (भारत) gets its name from Prince Bharat, the son of Dushyant and Shakuntala — the first couple in the Mahabharata. Bhā means “light and knowledge” and rat(a) means “devoted”; therefore, “Bharat” means "devoted to light ". There is nothing geographically imperial in the name.

The Great Wall of China symbolises its sense of being besieged, as it had been conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan (1167-1227), the Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan (1260-1368), and by the Manchu Dynasty (1911) from a northern invasion after the reestablishment of Ming control. But despite ten times that many invasions, India never erected any such wall. In fact, it still cannot secure its borders from Pakistani and Bangladeshi infiltrators (mostly militants and other kinds of crooks).

China has also been under the de facto control of Japanese, European and American commercial imperialism throughout the 1900s. As Lieutenant General Li Jijun, the Vice President of the Academy of Military Science, the Chinese People's Liberation Army, put it in his address at the US War College in August 1997, “This was a period of humiliation that the Chinese can never forget. This is why the people of China show such strong emotions in matters concerning our national independence, unity, and integrity of territory and sovereignty.”

China further advised, “India has a strong armed force, which was out of line with its status as a developing country.” As if China is not a developing country that has a strong armed force! India, of course, has not much to be wary about if the Chinese Army is just “strong” and nothing else. The problem is that it has nuclear warheads stationed in its territory along Tibet, pointed towards India. And its intentions are suspect because of its blue navy with its submarine base and electronic surveillance facility at the Coco Islands in Myanmar, which is too close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for Indian comfort. It says “Indian Ocean is not India’s ocean.” Well then, it shouldn’t panic when Japan, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan think that the China Sea is not China’s sea.

Beijing contends that its nuclear tests were conducted in an international environment “that was different from the current one in which India has conducted its own tests” (Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Deng Jie’s statement in 1994). Wrong. The two situations were entirely comparable; perhaps the Indian need was more urgent. In the 1960s, China feared the overbearing presence of the Soviet Union all around it and was disturbed by the outstanding border demarcation issues with that country, though the Russians could hardly ever be described as a rival or enemy of China. On the contrary, India was in the 1990s — and still remains — troubled by an inimical Pakistan and a bully China that also assumed the role of a ‘consultant’ to India post-Pokhran II.

Fanatic Pakistan, imperialist China
The first country still sponsors insurgency in India, fires at the Indian posts from across the Line of Control every now and then, thinks the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir should have fallen in its kitty during the partition of 1947 and, most importantly, is obsessed with the idea of matching or superseding India militarily. It gives a qualified answer when inquired whether it would sign NPT and CTBT: only if India signs them. It’s a country that often acts instinctively and cannot be expected to see reasons of economics and sanity while envisaging an attack on India. Pakistan makes its aggressive intentions clear by naming its liquid fuelled offence missile Ghauri, whose April 1998 test was the ultimate provocation for the Pokhran test in May, after an obnoxious mediaeval invader who had plundered India. The solid fuelled missile Shaheen III (the Shaheen series of missiles are remodelled versions of the Chinese M9 and M11 missiles), too, was and is a major threat for India. Even the latest Prithvi interceptor missiles move at a fraction of the speed of these Pakistani missiles. A rather unruly country holding no special grudge against India, too, helps the enemy: North Korea supplied Pakistan with its Nodong I and II and Taepo-dong I, and the devious Kahuta-based AQ Khan Research Laboratories turned them into Ghauri I (or Hatf-5 with a range of 1,500 km), Ghauri II (Hatf-6 with a purported range of 2,000 km) and Ghauri III (range – 3,000 km), respectively. Pakistan exposed itself as a shameless liar when its director general, National Defense Complex, Samar Mubarikmand thoughtlessly stated that only a single successful test was required to induct the Shaheen into its army.

Pakistan also made it clear that its policy was one of aggression when it refused to sign a no first use treaty with India. It refuses to believe that the Indian nuclear programme is not Pakistan-specific (had it been so, India wouldn’t have needed missiles with range greater than 2,000 km). China had one such pact with Soviet Union during the Cold War era, but both China and Russia refuse to commit themselves to that pact now.

China is more of a nagging headache for India. China recognised Sikkim as an Indian state in 2003 and subsequently by allowing trade through Nathu La in 2006, it accepted Sikkim as part of India not only in theory but also in practice, something it had refused to do earlier. However, mentally it does not seem to have let go the historical baggage of 1791 when the Qing dynasty had sent its troops to stop Gorkhas from taking control of the territory. Not giving two hoots to its agreements with India during the Vajpayee and the Manmohan Singh dispensations, on June 16 this year, Chinese troops came more than a kilometre inside Sikkim's northernmost point — a 2.1 km stretch of land called Finger Point. Only a month ago, Chinese soldiers had threatened to demolish stone structures in the area. That warning has been subsequently echoed and endorsed by Chinese officials. Moreover, China still claims large swathes of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and occupies a big chunk of Ladakh. And quite shamelessly, the Chinese claim to Arunachal Pradesh is worded in the kind of language that Saddam Hussein used to stake Iraq’s claim on Kuwait. Iraq used to claim Kuwait on the pretext that the latter had been a part of the Ottoman Empire. And China claims Arunachal Pradesh on the pretext that it had caught the fancy of the Qing dynasty rulers whose kingdom ceased to exist after 1911. It is but rather unfortunate that no Indian government has ever had the spine to call the Chinese bluff. Curiously, it stops pressing for Tibet’s independence and when China shuts its mouth up temporarily on Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh ‘in return’, India seems quite content even though the status of none of these Indian states is same as that of Tibet.

So on what basis does China, which was never attacked after its independence and which occupies thousands of square kilometres of Indian land illegally and stubbornly, lecture India on which four wars have been imposed in each of which it was the defender of its territory? Indian territory under the occupation by China in Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 38,000 square kilometres. In addition, under the so-called China-Pakistan Boundary Agreement, 1963, Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China. Further, it “illegally claims approximately 90,000 sq km of Indian territory”, according to India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Any country the international community should trust the least is China.

  • 1981: What China said: “Like many other peace-loving countries, China does not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation, and we are emphatically opposed to any production of nuclear weapons by racists and expansionists such as South Africa and Israel.”
    Yu Peiwen, head of Chinese delegation to Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Xinhua, 8/4/81.

    What China did: China supplies South Africa (at that time not a member of the NPT and pursuing a nuclear weapons program) with 60 tonnes of non-safeguarded enriched uranium. This enriched uranium may have enabled South Africa to triple weapons-grade uranium output at the Valindaba facility.

  • 1983: What China said: “China does not encourage or support nuclear proliferation.”
    Vice Premier Li Peng, Xinhua, 10/18/83.

    What China did: China contracts with Algeria, then a non-NPT state, to construct a large, non-safeguarded plutonium-production reactor. Construction of the reactor complex began after November 1984 — well after China's April 1984 pledge to subject all future nuclear exports to IAEA safeguards, and while China is negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with the US. China also supplies Algeria with large hot cells, which can be used to handle highly radioactive spent fuel to separate plutonium.

  • 1984: What China said: “We are critical of the discriminatory treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, but we do not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation. We do not engage in nuclear proliferation ourselves, nor do we help other countries develop nuclear weapons.”
    Premier Zhao Ziyang, White House state dinner on 1/10/84, Xinhua, 1/11/84 (Note: A US official later said that `These were solemn assurances with in fact the force of law,' AP, 6/15/84).

    What China did: US officials reveal that, in the early 1980s, China provided Pakistan with the design for a nuclear weapon, and probably enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for one to two bombs.

  • 1985-86: What China said: 1. "China has no intention, either at the present or in the future, to help non-nuclear countries develop nuclear weapons."
    Li Peng, Chinese Vice Premier, Xinhua, January 18, 1985.
    2. “The Chinese made it clear to us that when they say they will not assist other countries to develop nuclear weapons, this also applies to all nuclear explosives . . . We are satisfied that the [nonproliferation] policies they have adopted are consistent with our own basic views.”
    Ambassador Richard Kennedy, Department of State, Congressional testimony, 10/9/85.
    3. “Discussions with China that have taken place since the initialling of the proposed [nuclear] Agreement have contributed significantly to a shared understanding with China on what it means not to assist other countries to acquire nuclear explosives, and in facilitating China's steps to put all these new policies into place. Thus, ACDA believes that the statements of policy by senior Chinese officials, as clarified by these discussions, represent a clear commitment not to assist a non-nuclear-weapon state in the acquisition of nuclear explosives.”
    ACDA, `Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement,' submitted to Congress on 7/24/85 with the US/China Agreement for Cooperation, 7/19/85.
    4. “China is not a party to the NPT, but its stance on the question is clear-cut and above-board . . . it stands for nuclear disarmament and disapproves of nuclear proliferation . . . In recent years, the Chinese Government has more and more, time and again reiterated that China neither advocates nor encourages nuclear proliferation, and its cooperation with other countries in the nuclear field is only for peaceful purposes”
    Ambassador Ho Qian Jiadong, speech given at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, 6/27/85 (quoted by Amb. Richard Kennedy in congressional testimony, 7/31/85).

    What China did: In addition to covering up its export of the non-safeguarded reactor to Algeria, China secretly sells Pakistan tritium, an element used in the trigger of hydrogen bombs as well as to boost the yield of fission weapons.

  • 1987-89: What China said: 1. “China does not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation, nor does it help other countries develop nuclear weapons.”
    Vice Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, Beijing Review, 3/30/87.
    2. “As everyone knows, China does not advocate nor encourage nuclear proliferation. China does not engage in developing or assisting other countries to develop nuclear weapons.”
    Foreign Ministry spokesman, Beijing radio, 5/4/89.

    What China did: In 1989, China agrees to building a light-water reactor for Pakistan, begins assisting Iran's development of indigenous manufacturing capability for medium-range ballistic missiles, and assists Iraq in the manufacture of samarium-cobalt ring magnets for uranium-enrichment centrifuges.

  • 1990: What China said: "...the Chinese government has consistently supported and participated in the international community's efforts for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons."
    Ambassador Hou Zhitong, Xinhua, 4/1/91.

    What China did: In September 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the imposition of an international trade embargo, China provides Iraq with lithium hydride, a chemical compound useful in both boosted-fission and thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs, as well as in ballistic missile fuel.

  • 1991: What China said: “The report claiming that China provides medium-range missiles for Pakistan is absolutely groundless. China does not stand for, encourage, or engage itself in nuclear proliferation and does not aid other countries in developing nuclear weapons.”
    Foreign ministry spokesman Wu Janmin, Zhongguo Ximwen She, 4/25/91.

    What China did: Sometime around 1991, China provides ballistic missile technology to Syria, including the nuclear-capable M-9 missile. In 1993, a Chinese corporation exports ammonium perchlorate, a missile fuel precursor, to the Iraqi government via a Jordanian purchasing agent. In August 1993, the United States imposes sanctions on China for exporting nuclear-capable M-11 ballistic missiles to Pakistan.

  • 1991 again: What China said: “China has struck no nuclear deals with Iran . . . This inference is preposterous.”
    Chinese embassy official Chen Guoqing, rebutting a claim that China had sold nuclear technology to Iran, letter to Washington Post, 7/2/91.

    What China did: China supplies Iran with a research reactor capable of producing plutonium and a calutron, a technology that can be used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade. (Calutrons enriched the uranium in the "Little Boy" bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and were at the centre of Saddam Hussein's effort to develop an Iraqi nuclear bomb)

  • 1994: What China said: “China does not engage in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction . . .”
    Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, AP newswire, 10/4/94.

    What China did: China supplies a complete nuclear fusion research reactor facility to Iran, and provides technical assistance in making it operational.

  • 1995: What China said: “China has never transferred or sold any nuclear technology or equipment to Pakistan . . . We therefore hope the US Government will not base its policy-making on hearsay.”
    Foreign Ministry Deputy Secretary Shen Guofang, Hong Kong, AFP, 3/26/96 (after discovery of the ring magnet sale to Pakistan).

    What China did: China exports 5,000 ring magnets to Pakistan. Such magnets are integral components of high-speed gas centrifuges of the type used by Pakistan to enrich uranium to weapons-grade.

  • 1996: What China said: 1. “. . . we have absolutely binding assurances from the Chinese, which we consider a commitment on their part not to export ring magnets or any other technologies to non-safeguarded facilities . . . The negotiating record is made up primarily of conversations, which were detailed and recorded, between US and Chinese officials.”
    Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff, congressional testimony, 5/16/96.
    2. “China's position on nuclear proliferation is very clear . . . It does not advocate, encourage, or engage in nuclear proliferation, nor does it assist other countries in developing nuclear weapons. It always undertakes its international legal obligations of preventing nuclear proliferation . . . China has always been cautious and responsible in handling its nuclear exports and exports of materials and facilities that might lead to nuclear proliferation.'
    Statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Cui Tiankai, Beijing, Xinhua, 9/15/97.

    What China did: In July 1997, a CIA report concludes that, in the second half of 1996, "China was the single most important supplier of equipment and technology for weapons of mass destruction" worldwide. The report also states that, for the period July to December 1996 — i.e. after China's May 11, 1996 pledge to the United States not to provide assistance to non-safeguarded nuclear facilities — China was Pakistan's "primary source of nuclear-related equipment and technology...”

  • 1997: What China said: 1. “The question of assurance does not exist. China and Iran currently do not have any nuclear cooperation . . . We do not sell nuclear weapons to any country or transfer related technology. This is our long-standing position, this policy is targeted at all countries.”
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang, Los Angles, 11/2/97, Reuters, 11/3/97
    2. “I wish to emphasise once again China has never transferred nuclear weapons or relevant technology to other countries, including Iran . . . China has never done it in the past, we do not do it now, nor will be do it in the future.”
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang, Kyodo, 10/21/97

    What China did: According to a CIA report, China is "a key supplier" of nuclear technology to Iran, exporting over $60 million worth annually. Fourteen Chinese nuclear experts are reportedly working at Iranian nuclear facilities.

Courtesy: Nuclear Control Institute, Washington DC

Tartuffe’s regime
Now, we must discuss the world’s biggest dodger, the United States of America. No other country in the world has as many sets of double standards with respect to its bilateral relations with various countries and the overall manner in which it manages international relations.

The US asks whoever it is wary of to sign NPT, keeping itself non-committal about signing it. The Missile Technology Control Regime propounded by the Americans is practised more in its breach, and each time that happens, the US turns a blind eye to the incident. It does nothing to its apparent bugbear North Korea, let alone a tolerable China and a necessary ‘partner’ Pakistan, when they exchange nuclear fuel and missiles illegally. After then US President George Bush (Sr) refused to certify that Pakistan was not engaged in nuclear weapons development, the Bill Clinton Administration cleared a $368 million worth of military aid to Pakistan through the Hank Brown Amendment to the Pressler Amendment.

In fact, the US does not have the face to frown at China, Pakistan or North Korea, being a brazen violator of its own rules and principles. In the New York Times’ 4 April 1998 edition, Jeff Gerth and Raymond Bonner exposed a manipulation wherein the US government and two major American arms companies transferred ballistic missile technology to China. Then president Clinton had reportedly approved of this transfer. Even Israel is a violator of international law. China covertly obtained Patriot anti-missile system technology from Israel during the 1990s. US intelligence agencies discovered the Israel-China Patriot technology transfer in March 1993. The transfers came from US-made Patriots sent to Israel to counter Iraqi missile attacks during the Persian Gulf War.

Worse, the US (like all other P5 states) not only refuses to disarm itself, but also declines Germany’s proposal of no first use for NATO in the absence of threats. One recalls that in November 1998, German Foreign Minister Joseph Martin Fischer had made this suggestion. The US denounced the proposal and, instead, stirred up NATO allies with proposals for the new strategic concept that would broaden the alliance’s core mission from defending common territory to defending common interests outside NATO borders and, reportedly, allow NATO to use force without UN approval. This is yet another example of the hypocrisy of the superpower that was preaching us restraint around the same time that year.

France is not averse to transferring dual-use technology to India, but wants India to sign CTBT in return. That country, known to often take decisions diametrically opposite that of the US in various international fora, had conducted 210 nuclear tests between 13 February 1960 and 27 July 1996. The first 17 explosions, in the period up to 1966, were detonated in North Africa, four in the atmosphere and 13 underground. Between 1966 and 1996, France conducted 193 tests at Mururoa and Fangataufa atolls in the Pacific (46 in the atmosphere and 147 underground). France has had to admit that some of these explosions caused dangerous levels of radiation in the nearest inhabited islands. And in August 2006, a survey by an official French medical research body found a "small but clear" increase in thyroid cancer among people living within 1,000 miles of nuclear tests on French-owned Polynesian atolls between 1969 and 1996.

It’s a big, bad world where everybody is cheating everybody else and shamelessly refuting all such charges without batting an eyelid at the same breath. Turning equally shameless, India too can contemplate officially declaring the 123 Agreement and IAEA safeguards to be in vogue, and violating both in the dark of the night in gay abandon while pleading innocent in international fora in the daytime! If this is the UPA Government’s secret plan or Bush-Singh’s clandestine understanding, why should we keep carrying a Nehruvian moral baggage?

Consider NPT, CTBT, MTCR and FMCT together and tally it with the philosophy of disarmament. Each of these regulatory regimes fall short of assuring that the world will be free of nuclear weapons. The very existence of these laws shows the fraudulent intentions of the legislator. If that weren’t true, CTBT, for one, would be CNWBT — Comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. It’s sheer hypocrisy for recognised nuclear weapons state to preach non-proliferation to others. Yes, India is a trustworthy exception, as it has no intention to attack any country ever in the future, as it never attacked any country in the past. But India’s detractors will find this inconvenient to appreciate. Objectively speaking, this cannot be an argument you can sell to Iran or whoever else wants to join the nuclear club. Therefore, one set of rules for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and another set for others won’t do. And a third set for India in the NSG club, considering its goody-goody past — conceding this argument of the 123 Agreement’s proponents for a second — would seem a subjective decision. It is clear that no partial control will work; only total elimination will. For, several pairs of countries have separate as well as overlapping, tacit, mutual proliferation treaties. This includes the sanctimonious P5.

The self-righteous P5 and their second fiddles, the 45-member NSG group, could have cornered India but for Pokhran II. By September 1999, CTBT would have effectively come into force, virtually applying to every country including India without our signing it, as the exclusivist group would have then decided the provisions of entry of more members. As India squeezed out of the hole, there was a message for its unsolicited international advisers: Tough luck!

So, how much will be too much for India? What is the minimum nuclear deterrence the country talks about? This is another qualitative issue to which not only China but also the US wants a quantitative answer. If India’s threat perception evolves and changes, how can the deterrence remain stuck to a static value? That is why it is no longer the official line; “minimum” has been replaced by “credible”. For details, ask India’s war veterans.

Because nobody’s buying disarmament
Unlike what a joke above suggests, India has no intention whatsoever to play foul with any international agreement. Pokhran II was rather meant to press for total disarmament from a position of strength. India is the only country that has officially declared to have nuclear weapons and yet wants to let all that go, provided the P5 let it go too. When India saw that disarmament was conceded as a great philosophy but no powerful country was ready to apply it on itself, it even tried to settle for less but most controls were found to be skewed in the favour of aggressors. When they were not, the aggressors simply refused to ratify such laws.

Using its good offices with Moscow, New Delhi could try to persuade China to enter a three-nation no first use pact. This writer does not think a no first strike pact would impact south Asia much. Why at all should we let relations worsen so much that one country contemplates bombing the nuclear facilities of another to pre-empt retaliation? Let nuclear energy be only for defence and let’s assure each other of no offence. Away from military considerations, it really beats reason as to why an economically booming China should want to nuke any country and risk its own businesses in retaliatory action from the other side. It makes eminent sense for China to befriend India that is prospering like it instead of its traditional ally that is just a more refined face of the Taliban. Is China listening? We’re afraid, not. Hence our need for nuclear preparedness.

Can the next best thing work? Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty? That too won’t be easy as concluding the FMCT would require member states of the Conference on Disarmament to define three key technical aspects of the treaty: definition of the term ‘fissile material’, the cut-off level, and, more importantly, the scope of the verification procedure. Unfortunately, these are also such areas where there are disagreements between the member states as is evident from the widely varying texts submitted by some of the member states to the CD in 2006.

India is right to have upgraded its stand on FMCT after 1998. It now demands an end of nuclear stockpiles not only of the past but also in the future. This is quite in line with disarmament; making a country end its stock of weapons on the one hand and allowing it to build them all over again is an illogical exercise. But Pakistan protests. While India’s ultimate objective is worldwide disarmament, Pakistan’s obsession is parity with India. It is interested in clearing existing stocks — not merely stockpiles — of nuclear weapons, assuming India already has more of them. This logic is similar to that country’s thinking that they need nuclear bombs to balance India’s superiority in conventional arms and army (but the fact that Pakistan cannot be foolhardy enough to ‘balance’ the impact of a conventional strike-back by India was proven in the Kargil War). Pakistan, instead of using the term FMCT, therefore, uses the term Fissile Material Treaty to refer to the proposed treaty. This is because cut-off implies a mere stop in future production whereas the real aim of the treaty is to ban the production and stockpiling of fissile material. But fissile material control has a different catch. In this case, Pakistan is not the party India is wary of. It’s America that plays see-saw with Pakistan. The US could take India for a ride by pressurising it to stop production of fissile materials even before the treaty is negotiated and signed in order to help Pakistan achieve parity with India in possession of fissile material.

And the neighbours have just turned worse
Several Chinese missiles point towards India and there has not been any sincere attempt by the Government of India to engage China in talks to get those missiles turned away. As recently as May this year, A US-based civilian researcher uncovered a massive new Chinese missile base in Delingha, central China, where the China’s Second Artillery Corps 812 Brigade has deployed nuclear tipped DF-4 and DF-21 missiles with different types of launch pads, command and control facilities and missile deployment equipment, The missiles and the widely scattered 58 launch sites indicate that the main target of the nuclear force is either Russia or India. The DF-4 and DF-21 missiles deployed at the base do not have the range to attack American targets in the Pacific, or Japan. From that spot, even Taiwan is far away. And however weaker than its Soviet days, Russia is still too big (in every sense of the word) for China to challenge. Who else but India should be concerned?

A much more palpable threat is that of an “Islamic bomb”, an objective the Government of Pakistan may have abandoned but Islamic fanatics haven’t. Today Americans have conveniently forgotten that a decade ago, then Senator Patrick Moynihan had characterised the Pakistani bomb as an “Islamic bomb” and apprehended that finally it “will inevitably be pointed at the Middle East.” Pakistan’s then information minister Mushahid Hussain had characterised the bomb as a possession of pride, Pakistan being “the only Muslim country to have the bomb”. Even earlier, Minister for Interior in the Bhutto Cabinet Major General (Retd) Naseerullah Babar had stated in the Pakistani Senate in May 1994 that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was meant not only for the security of its own people but for the entire Muslim community.

As per an assessment by US military and intelligence officials in June 2005, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is vastly superior to that of India, with up to five times the nuclear warheads. Pakistan not only has more warheads, but also has far more capability to actually use them. This came five years after television network NBC made the startling disclosure in June 2000. The earlier impression had been that India was far ahead of its traditional rival in the field of nuclear technology and arsenal both in terms of quantity as well as quality simply because India had exploded its first nuclear device in 1974 whereas Pakistan did so (officially) in May 1998. The original US estimate was Pakistan having 10 to 15 nuclear weapons while India having 25 to 100. But they later realised that they had overstated India's homegrown arsenal and that the bigger number (25 to 100) better applied to Pakistan. Several American officials told the network that the crucial element was the delivery of nuclear payloads in which Islamabad was far ahead of New Delhi, especially in ballistic missiles.

Hence, beyond the brouhaha of nuclear energy for electric power (of which it will practically get little), India must think of military power to defend the country. Its nuclear weapon programme still lacks both direction and teeth. For, it is still vulnerable to a first strike either by Pakistan or China or jointly by them. A launch vehicle that is relatively safe from first strike is a submarine. India did test K-15 submarine-launched missile successfully in February this year to complete the triad of missile defence, but it was a pontoon from which the missile was launched, Russia’s Akula Class submarines need to be acquired fast for the purpose. India further needs to transfer its much awaited command and control of nuclear weapons from the paper onto the field. At least the Indian people still do not know much about the country’s preparedness in case of the eventuality of war as to how the supreme command would move away from New Delhi in case the capital city is bombed.

Another essential aspect that needs immediate attention is the constitution of the Indian Army. It’s rather too bulky, maybe also fatigued by the fight against insurgents in various parts of the country. War against a conventional army is a different ball game, which the Government of India does not seem to appreciate. India's ultimate aim should be to possess a lean, mean and technically oriented army with a lethal punch. Adequate paramilitary forces should immediately take over the fight against militants and the army with its sophisticated weaponry must make postures of “dissuasive deterrence” vis-à-vis Pakistan and “dissuasive deference” towards China.

This is no war-mongering. In fact, as instances have pointed out in this article, several of ASEAN countries feel threatened by China’s burgeoning military might. Let those countries not be “stunned” as they were in 1998 by Pokhran II. India’s relations with the ASEAN are less than satisfactory despite their and our facing a common intimidator.

123-IAEA disagreement
Does the 123 Agreement allow India credible nuclear deterrence? That’s not clear. If the India-US nuclear deal is civilian, why is India’s self-imposed moratorium on conducting further physical tests after Pokhran II mentioned in the text of the 18 July 2005 Bush-Singh Joint Declaration as a reference? Why isn’t that coupled with a reference to the Indian nuclear fuel that is under military control and hence not safeguarded by the rules set by the IAEA? Ideally, the first shouldn’t have appeared as a clause. But since it did, the second conditionality too should have been. Next, if the US is an equal partner in this deal, and not a superior one, why is the American moratorium on conducting further nuclear tests of its own not mentioned in the declaration?

The problem is that deciding on either side of the debate is difficult also for the incongruity in the flow of events starting from the 18 July 2005 declaration. It seems the legal writers of the declaration and the 123 Agreement were either not the same or the second team of writers were not briefed about the previous developments properly. For, “AFFIRMING that cooperation under this Agreement is between two States possessing advanced nuclear technology, both Parties having the same benefits and advantages, both committed to preventing WMD proliferation” is one of the parameters on which the agreement is based. If the absence of this condition was a lacuna in the 18 July declaration that the Indian negotiators insisted must be ironed out, it is good. But our scepticism rises again as we see something similar in the 123 Agreement and the draft agreement with the IAEA: Things conducive for India are mentioned only in the parameters’ section, not the main agreement section. Moreover, when juxtaposed, the draft agreement with the IAEA looks far less inspiring to an Indian than the 123 Agreement. It seems as though the US has not kept its part of the promise, that is, “Article 5. 6. b (ii) The United States will join India in seeking to negotiate with the IAEA an India-specific fuel supply agreement.” The IAEA document puts virtually no obligation on the supplier(s) — neither on the US nor on any other NSG member state, though the upkeep of the nuclear fuel received by India would, among other things, also depend on the nature of fuel supplied.

Next, has there been some confusion between American and Indian English while drafting the 123 Agreement? This is supposed to be a civilian deal, isn’t it? Then what is meant by “Article 5. 6. b (iii) The United States will support an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India's reactors”? In India, the word “strategic” is associated with the military. Did the Americans mean “emergency reserve” rather than “strategic reserve” in this sentence? Must be. But this is careless; legalese cannot afford to convey dual meanings.

In school graduation examinations, to prevent students from copying contents of answer sheets from each other, more than one set of question paper is made with the same questions occurring in different orders. Similarly, quite a few, if not all, provisions of the India-IAEA draft agreement have been given a different serial number than the corresponding provisions in IAEA Circular 66 that applies to non-nuclear weapon states. For example, what appears as “Provision of Information to the Agency” in the draft had already appeared as “Principles of implementation” in IAEA Circular 66:

India-IAEA draft agreement: 19. The information provided by India pursuant to paragraphs 16, 17 and 18 of this Agreement shall specify, inter alia, to the extent relevant, the nuclear and chemical composition, physical form and quantity of the nuclear material; the date of shipment; the date of receipt; the identity of the consigner and the consignee; and any other relevant information, such as the type and capacity of any facility (or parts thereof), components or equipment; and the type and quantity of non-nuclear material. In the case of a facility or other location subject to this Agreement, the information to be provided shall include the type and capacity of that facility or location, and any other relevant information.

INFCIRC/66/Rev.2: 17. The principal factors to be considered by the Board in determining the relevance of particular provisions of this document to various types of materials and facilities shall be the form, scope and amount of the assistance supplied, the character of each individual project and the degree to which such assistance could further any military purposes. The related safeguards agreement shall take account of all pertinent circumstances at the time of its conclusion.

The next clause in Circular 66 is to warn a defaulter. It says, “18. In the event of any non-compliance by a State with a safeguards agreement, the Agency may take the measures set forth in Articles XII.A.7 and XII.C of the Statute.” Now, let’s check what Articles XII.A.7 and XII.C are. Under Article XII.A.7 of the IAEA Statute, the agency has the right to “withdraw any material or equipment made available by the agency or a member” in furtherance of an agency project in the event of non-compliance and failure by the recipient State to take fully corrective action within a reasonable time.

Article XII.C too has a similar provision. IAEA Statute Article XII.C directs that as a matter of course safeguards noncompliance is to be reported to the UNSC and the UNGA: “The inspectors shall report any non-compliance to the Director General who shall thereupon transmit the report to the Board of Governors. The Board shall call upon the recipient State or States to remedy forthwith any non-compliance which it finds to have occurred. The Board shall report the non-compliance to all members and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations.”

And clause # 103 under “XII Non-compliance” in the India-IAEA draft agreement states: “If the Board determines in accordance with Article XII.C of the Statute of the Agency that there has been any non-compliance by India with this Agreement, the Board shall call upon India to remedy such non-compliance forthwith, and shall make such reports as it deems appropriate. In the event of failure by India to take full remedial action within a reasonable time, the Board may take any other measures provided for in Article XII.C of the Statute. The Agency shall promptly notify India in the event of any determination by the Board pursuant in this regard.”

But the application of Article XII C to both India and any Non-Nuclear Weapon State alone should not mean that India is being treated as an NNWS. For, this article applies to the P5 too. Under clause 18 of the safeguards agreement between the US and the IAEA, “If the Board, upon examination of relevant information reported to it by the Director General, determines there has been any non-compliance with this Agreement, the Board may call upon the United States to remedy forthwith such non-compliance. In the event there is a failure to take fully corrective action within a reasonable time, the Board may make the reports provided for in paragraph C of Article XII of the Statute and may also take, where applicable, the other measures provided for in that paragraph.”

The discrimination is seen while tallying the last sentence in each. While in case of the draft agreement with India, it is “The Agency shall promptly notify India in the event of any determination by the Board pursuant in this regard”, in case of the US, it is “In taking such action the Board shall take account of the degree of assurance provided by the safeguards measures that have been applied and shall afford the United States every reasonable opportunity to furnish the Board with any necessary reassurance.” Clearly, the IAEA is eager not to anger the US even in case of its non-compliance with the safeguards agreement, but to India, the IAEA will give no second chance to clarify its position; it will only “promptly notify”.

Besides, as China’s proliferation record explained in details above shows, in no case could the IAEA do anything about it.

Eggs in the wrong basket
The 123 Agreement, in return of 5%-7% civilian nuclear energy and a wishful thinking of dual use technology, is aimed at fooling India into submission. Compounding the worry is the IAEA that clearly comes across as a protector of P5 and an intended prosecutor of NNWS.

It is strange to note that the Indian opponents of the India-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement are over-emphasising the restrictions on the country’s future nuclear tests, if needed. Though that is an important issue, that is not the only thing Indian defence must worry about. As per the separation plan for India’s nuclear plants into civilian and military facilities, the country must place its nuclear facilities associated with its naval nuclear fuel cycle, too, under international safeguards (details below). For, the IAEA thinks that exempting such naval-related facilities from safeguards may undermine efforts to safeguard such facilities in non-nuclear weapon states who are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Brazil, for one, accepted safeguards on its prototype naval reactor and its enrichment plants at Aramar dedicated to the production of naval reactor fuel. Safeguards applied in India should be consistent with the IAEA’s approach in Brazil.

Before we analyse how the IAEA would expect India to separate its facilities, the broad classification of India’s nuclear facilities should be studied:

First, there are facilities that all countries consider civilian in nature and that have no known connection to India’s nuclear weapons programme. Facilities in this group would be declared as civil and would be safeguarded. They include power reactors, spent fuel reprocessing plants, and breeder reactors, which would all produce or utilise civil plutonium.

The second group has facilities that are associated with India’s nuclear weapons production complex. Most of these facilities are likely to be declared as military facilities that would not be subject to safeguards. One exception is the Cirus reactor, which was purchased from Canada under a peaceful use pledge. If India declares this reactor as military, it will violate its commitment to Canada. The Rare Materials Project (RMP), India’s main uranium enrichment plant, may produce a limited amount of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, although the main purpose of the plant appears to be to make enriched uranium for naval reactors and possibly a small amount of enriched uranium for civil research reactors.

The third group lists known nuclear facilities in the naval fuel cycle. This group of facilities should be placed under safeguards. In particular, India should place its prototype naval reactor and the RMP under safeguards and commit them to non-nuclear explosive purposes. Under such an arrangement, India would not use RMP to produce any enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, although it could use enriched uranium in both the naval and civil fuel cycles.

Just glance through the number of facilities India is committing to safeguards for a mere 5%-7% increase in electricity from nuclear energy!

  • Fuel fabrication plants:
    Enriched Fuel Fabrication Plant…………..……..................................Hyderabad
    New Uranium Oxide Fuel Plant…………...…………...........................Hyderabad
    PHWR Fuel Fabrication Plant……………..…………............................Hyderabad
    Advanced Fuel Fabrication Facility……………..................................Tarapur
    New Uranium Fuel Assembly Plant……….…….…….........................Hyderabad
    MOX Breeder Fuel Fabrication………………………............................Kalpakkam

  • Power reactors:
    Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AWHR)….……….........................Trombay
    Kaiga 1……………..……………..………...……………………........................Kaiga
    Kaiga 2……………..……………..………...…………..……….........................Kaiga
    Kaiga 3……………..……………..………...…………..……….........................Kaiga
    Kaiga 4……………..……………..………...…………..……….........................Kaiga
    Kaiga 5……………..……………..………...…………..……….........................Kaiga
    Kaiga 6……………..……………..………...…………..……….........................Kaiga
    KAPS 1……………..……………..………..…………..………..........................Kakrapar
    KAPS 2……………..……………..………..…………..………..........................Kakrapar
    Kundankulam 1……………..……………....…………..……........................Kundankulam
    Kundankulam 2……………..…………………………..…….........................Kundankulam
    MAPS 1……………..…………………………………..………..........................Chennai
    MAPS 2……………..…………………………………..………..........................Chennai
    NAPS 1……………..……………………….…………..………..........................Narora
    NAPS 2……………..……………………….…………..………..........................Narora
    RAPS 1……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 2……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 3……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 4……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 5……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 6……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 7……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    RAPS 8……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Rajasthan
    TAPS 1……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Tarapur
    TAPS 2……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Tarapur
    TAPS 3……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Tarapur
    TAPS 4……………..……………………….…………..………...........................Tarapur

  • Breeder reactors:
    Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) …………………..….........................Kalpakkam
    Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) ……………...........................Kalpakkam

  • Reprocessing plants:
    Power Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant (PREFRE)............................Tarapur
    Kalpakkam Reprocessing Plant (KARP) ………………...........................Kalpakkam
    Fast Reactor Fuel Reprocessing Plant (FRFRP) ……...........................Kalpakkam
    Lead Minicell Facility………...………...………...…………….........................Kalpakkam

  • Enrichment facilities:
    Center for Advanced Technology………...………...……............................Indore
    Rare Materials Project………...………...…….………...……..........................Mysore
    Laser Enrichment Plant………...………...…….……….................................Trombay
    Uranium Enrichment Plant………...………...…….………............................Trombay

  • Research reactors:
    Andhra University………...………...…….……….………..…...........................Vishakhapatnam
    Purnima 1………...………...…….……….………..………...……..........................Trombay
    Purnima 2………...………...…….……….………..………...……..........................Trombay
    Purnima 3………...………...…….……….………..………...……..........................Trombay
    Compact High Temperature Reactor………...………...…….......................Trombay

  • Other Facilities
    Away From Reactor Facility………...………...…….………............................Tarapur
    Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) ………...………...…….………..........................Hyderabad Zirconium tubing Partially safeguarded
    Uranium Corp of India Ltd/U Recovery Plants.......................................Various locations

  • Heavy Water Production Plants (Not subject to traditional safeguards in NPT states)
    Baroda, Hazira, Kota, Manuguru, Nangal, Talcher, Thal-Vaishet, Trombay, Tuticorin

  • Naval reactor programme:
    Advanced Technology Reactor Programme…………................................Kalpakkam
    Rare Materials Project (RMP) ……………..……………................................Mysore
    Nuclear Submarine Reactors……………..………………................................Unknown

No other country has placed such a large number of its reactors under safeguards. The material under safeguards cannot be used for weapons production. Therefore, if the fast breeder reactors come under safeguards, the plutonium cannot be used for weapons production. Therefore, while the fear of Pakistan — that India will somehow manage to sneak in highly enriched uranium — is baseless, India’s concerns are fully justified. True, a big chunk of the country’s nuclear facilities will deliver a small amount of civil-use energy (given infrastructural constraints). Second, that the cost of separation will be prohibitive. Last but not the least, the remaining, unsafeguarded facilities cannot give India’s nuclear weapons programme the tremendous pace it requires to catch up with Chinese and Pakistani (already more advanced than the Indian stock, as explained earlier) arsenals.

The plutonium percentage which was around 35% that was available for nuclear weapon purposes has now come down to about 10% after the deal. While it is true that weapons made out of plutonium are for strategic deterrence and numbers don’t matter, this assurance may work only in case of a nuclear conflict with Pakistan. When it comes to China, several times bigger than India in both geographical extent and military might, size would matter. Recall the difference between first use and first strike. India’s tactically stationed weapons have to be placed far and wide apart in large numbers, making it virtually impossible for a first strike by the enemy to pre-empt retaliation.

Of course, the more China becomes economically prosperous with foreign businesses spread all over its territory, the more inhibited it will be to go in even for a conventional war with India, let alone a nuclear war. Also, it is strategically prudent for India to let Chinese business spread here, overlooking the short term impact of its low-quality goods on Indian businesses and consumers. The irritant is Pakistan, a country that gets too worked up to think rationally the moment the word “India” is uttered. So, even the prospect of getting decimated by India’s retaliation may not stop it from hitting first. It’s curious to note that Pakistan remains worried about India, a country that hesitates to frown even at Bangladesh whose HuJI militants have become daily monsters, a country that seeks from Sri Lanka a thousand apologies for the IPKF operations, a country that pleads its case for better relations with a Nepal that’s gradually turning inimical, a country that could do nothing to make Myanmar prevail upon the terrorists operating in India’s north-east and fleeing to Yangon’s refuge at will…! What will such a docile country do to Pakistan without provocation?

Both energy and national security: a possible solution
If India wants to be energy independent, its thorium reserves — the untapped energy source — is literally godsend, as its processing will also be a programme that will remain untouched by the India-US civil nuclear deal that does not guarantee uninterrupted fuel supply without qualifications. A thorium processing project will not have to adhere to a foreign country’s dos and don’ts. And while thorium is used for power generation, other nuclear facilities of the country can dedicated more of its time and resources on making the country secure from being attacked.

This is one of the ideas as to how India can go about processing thorium. A thorium breeder reactor can be fuelled with fissile material like uranium once when it is started. It can run for its full operational life on Uranium-233 bred in its core from thorium, as thorium, howsoever abundant in India, cannot be directly burned in a reactor. It has to be converted into fissile U-233.

The reactor may start up using conventional uranium-based nuclear fuels and incrementally convert to an all-thorium fuel cycle over a period of 10 years, using India's abundant supply of thorium ores to maintain energy independence. A single load of 25% uranium oxide fuel and 75% thorium oxide can keep the reactor running for a decade. In that time enough U-233 will be bred in the thorium oxide fuel to increase the output power of the reactor core by 50%, adding only fresh thorium oxide as fuel. After that, no uranium ores are needed.

Conventional breeder reactor designs — including the one contemplated by Indian scientists — require chemical reprocessing to retrieve bred fuel from used uranium fuel rods or from irradiated thorium blankets. India needs to shift to a different methodology. After approximately 10 years of operation, much of the activated thorium fuel would be transferred without any reprocessing into a more advanced reactor core with higher power output than the first. And fresh thorium breeder bundles can be added to perpetuate the cycle.

This fuel plan relies on a robust, low-neutron absorbing, radiation-resistant, proprietary fuel encapsulation system. Unlike the zirconium fuel cladding of most breeder reactors, the fuel capsules may be derived from industrially available material, much less expensive than nuclear-grade zirconium alloys. A modular core design will offer scalability.

International agreements between India and uranium-source nations to use proliferation-resistant fuels in the reactor programme, subject to IAEA monitoring, could sever the link between civilian and military nuclear programmes in India, without adversely affecting India's ability to scale up the reactor programme using native thorium in future generations.

The above method has been adopted by a few foreign companies. Indian scientists’ proven competence in turning a foreign idea into an indigenous practice was established in Pokhran I. With effort even the above can be achieved.

Recall the metaphor used in the beginning of this exposition. Let’s not manufacture bulbs to produce heat instead of light.

The writer is a mathematician and linguist, now a corporate communicator and has been a science journalist, a teacher and a marketing manager (in reverse chronological order) in his previous vocations

13 July 2008

India-US Unclear Deal II

Scrap it. The messengers being wrong does not make the message wrong
Surajit Dasgupta
Guess who is lying! On 8 August 2008, the IAEA uploads this statement on its website: “Note to editors: The text of the draft Agreement is not public. IAEA Officials will not be giving interviews at this time.” That very night two blogs upload a portable document format file of the India-specific safeguard agreement along with the Additional Protocol, as agreed by the Government of India.

Guess who is lying! Now the Government of India admits that this country's draft safeguards agreement with the IAEA was initialled on July 7 and moved to the Board of Governors for its approval on July 8 "soon after the Left parties said they did not wish to have the meeting scheduled for July 10," says National Security Adviser MK Narayanan.

This national 'insecurity' adviser needs immediate treatment for his foot-in-the-mouth disease. As if his embarrassing or shocking disclosures of terrorists sneaking into the Indian Army and blaming Pakistan for every terrorist attack on Indian interests before collecting enough pieces of evidence were not enough, now he's got a child-like "who said... ?" riposte in his repertoire. Perhaps considering the journalists facing him a credulous lot that can be silenced with counter-questions, Narayanan thunders at the press conference, "Who said we had initialled the draft on the 7th (before the Left had withdrawn support)?" He is told that Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar, his colleague in the Department of Atomic Energy, RB Grover, and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon had said so earlier — with all of these men seated next to him — and a drop of sweat trickles down his temple. Menon comes to his rescue to clarify that "initialling" a draft in such a forum means no more than a formality to show that "this is the document they (both the negotiators) have agreed (upon)".

Guess who is lying! In the introductory part of the India-specific draft agreement on safeguards, we have: “B. 5. … the Agency shall implement safeguards in a manner designed to avoid hampering India’s economic or technological development, and not to hinder or otherwise interfere with any activities involving the use by India of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology produced, acquired or developed by India independent of this Agreement for its own purposes.” However, read on and you will come across: “II. CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRING SAFEGUARDS/ A. ITEMS SUBJECT TO THIS AGREEMENT/ 11. The items subject to this Agreement shall be: (b) Any nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment and components supplied to India which are required to be safeguarded pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral arrangement to which India is a party.”

The phrase, “to a bilateral or multilateral arrangement to which India is a party,” is legally ambiguous. If the two clauses above together mean that any related equipment outside the ambit of the agreement with the IAEA won’t be checked but those in its ambit will be, then a few of the NSG countries with which India has had agreements on nuclear as well as non-nuclear equipment will be in a quandary for being part of some agreements that they have had with the IAEA, independent of their respective deals with India. Russia, for one, has nuclear dealing with India. It deals with the IAEA too. The same position is that of India which deals with Russia and, now, the IAEA too, the two relations being hitherto independent of each other. So, which of India’s nuclear facilities will the IAEA check and which all will it spare? This is a grey area and the airtight compartments of jurisdiction that the Government of India and the IAEA have jointly agreed upon to build cannot practically exist.

Guess who is lying! Advocates of the 123 Agreement in India argue that China has settled for much less in its civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US. They forget that China is a recognised nuclear weapons state, which still India is not, as per the term’s international, legal definition. The US, notwithstanding its hard-sell of the deal with India, has stated categorically again and again — refer to the Hyde Act along with its post-123 Agreement explanations — that the safeguards agreement, howsoever India-specific, has to adhere to the standard IAEA practices. It’s natural to question the judiciousness of the Indian negotiators who should have pressed for a safeguards arrangement similar to the one applicable to the weapons states, but did not. Obviously, China, a recognised nuclear weapons state, does not need from the US the kind of assurances that India, a de facto nuclear weapons state, needs. From the 123 Agreement to the agreement with the IAEA — nothing is in the spirit of the George Bush-Manmohan Singh joint statement of 18 July 2005 where there was an expression of intent that India will be treated at par with other advanced countries such as the US.

Today, there is an additional argument from these advocates that it is not just civilian nuclear energy that they want — moreover, given India’s spotless non-proliferation record and the detailed safeguards agreement with the IAEA (explained later), it’s an obsessive compulsive behaviour by entities like Pakistan that think this country could deviate imported nuclear fuel to its military hardware — but they support the deal also for its wider “dual use” benefits. This shows that the writer of the cited article has not read this provision (this is just one of several dampeners in the draft agreement): “II. D. 31. If India wishes to use safeguarded source material for non-nuclear purposes, such as the production of alloys or ceramics, it shall agree with the agency on the circumstances under which the safeguards on such material may be terminated.” Dual use is in no way going to be hassle free. In fact, the peaceful secondary use of our indigenous nuclear technology is much easier.

These ‘benefits’ include the transfer of know-how as uncontrollable by governments as information technology hardware and software! It’s too much to assume in this age of globalisation and privatisation that Indians still care for a nanny US Administration to let it have access to any kind of chip, integrated circuit, fibre optical equipment or a software programme.

It was difficult to assume so even in the last era when governments, especially the communist USSR and a quasi-socialist India, used to have everything under their control. Recall that when Raja Ramanna was at the helm, Rajagopala Chidambaram — then a researcher of molecular biology at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, later the Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman and now a scientific adviser to the Prime Minister of India — investigated the equation of the state of plutonium, that is the density-temperature-pressure relation, required to design an implosion bomb, in the autumn of 1967. During December 1968 - January 1969, scientist PK Iyengar (later, IAEC Chairman) and three of his colleagues visited the plutonium-fuelled pulsed fast reactor at Dubna in what was then Soviet Union. The next thing we know is that Iyengar set about developing its virtual replica in India. On receiving the approval for the plan in January 1969, the project for reactor Purnima (Plutonium Reactor for Neutron Investigation in Multiplying Assemblies) took off in March 1969.

So, if Indian brains did not need deliverance from a sanction-happy West in the control-freaky 1960s, they do not need to be rescued by a West eager to take our brains along in today’s free-market world. The British might have blunted the Indian innovative brains in about two centuries of its colonial rule. But the Indian ability to learn fast and reproduce even faster is arguably still unparalleled in the world. We, the ‘ordinary’ Indians, know so many useful things that government would rather we don’t.

No wonder, Iyengar as well as former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Chairman A Gopalakrishnan do not like the draft agreement with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards. When they say that the draft text is identical to the IAEA Circular 66 on safeguards to non-weapon states and that it provided no assurance on fuel supply, they are right. Here is how:

When the NPT was being negotiated in the late 1960s, the IAEA safeguards rules were called “The Agency’s Safeguards System,” IAEA Information Circular 66/Revision 2 (issued in 1965 as IAEA document INFCIRC/66/Rev.2). This document — the basis for 1960s safeguards inspection agreements between the IAEA and the nation states having nuclear facilities — contained the basic IAEA non-proliferation safeguards inspection requirements. Its main focus was on accounting for “nuclear material”.

However, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which as per the US’s perception India has de facto agreed upon by signing the 123 Agreement, talks of an equivocal nuclear “energy” instead of nuclear “material”: The first sentence of the NPT inspection article (Article III.1) describes the goal of inspections. It states that their purpose is to verify compliance with the promise of a non-nuclear-weapon state not to acquire nuclear weapons. It says that each non-nuclear-weapon state must accept IAEA safeguards inspections “for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons.…”

This means that the IAEA may consider itself authorised to inspect any location related to “nuclear energy” whether or not nuclear material is actually what has been imported under the aegis of India’s agreement with the IAEA and understanding with the NSG. This Indian apprehension is not a hypothesis-borne fear. After all, on several occasions, INFCIRC/66 authorised inspections even though no such material was likely to be present at the time and place of inspection. For example, it said that “routine inspections” could include “audit of records and reports” without requiring that the records and reports be located where the nuclear material was located. “Initial inspections” of principal nuclear facilities were to take place before the facilities had started to operate, and this could mean before nuclear material had been installed.

According to the INFCIRC/153’s statement of purpose for safeguards, the IAEA has the “right and obligation to ensure that safeguards will be applied, in accordance with the terms of the (safeguards) agreement, on all (nuclear) material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of the state… for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons…”

To achieve this end, the IAEA needs to ensure two things: First, the nuclear material declared by the subject country is not being made into weapons; and, second, no undeclared nuclear material exists within the inspected state. Now, for the second job, inspections beyond the facilities or locations where declared nuclear facilities exist may sometimes be essential to achieve the basic purpose for safeguards. This provision is, thus, prone to abuse, if any P-5 country hostile to Indian interests wants to act funny. What is the guarantee that India will not be harassed this way?

The nuclear facilities of western European countries — which did not have nuclear weapons but did have nuclear reactors, viz, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and then Federal Republic of Germany — were inspected at regular intervals by the west European atomic energy agency, Euratom, which had begun operations before the IAEA did. Some Euratom governments saw no reason why their nuclear facilities should have to be inspected by IAEA inspectors as well as by Euratom inspectors acting pursuant to Euratom inspection standards.

While the US and the UK insisted that the western European countries must allow inspection by the IAEA, the latter insisted that they must be trusted on account of the “inspected, ok” certificate from Euratom. This was mainly because the IAEA inspectors could include one or more official from the then USSR. Why should Indians accept a Chinese or a Pakistani official sniffing our nuclear premises?

And one question raised by India’s left parties holds enough water: What are the corrective steps that India can take if fuel supplies are interrupted by the US/NSG countries? The draft agreement with the IAEA is silent on this count. It’s only in the introductory part (page 2) that the draft says, “India may take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies.” But what are those “corrective measures”? The word “corrective” never appears in the document thereafter.

On the contrary, the draft rather notes “for the purposes of this agreement that: India will place its civilian nuclear facilities under (the) agency(’s) safeguards so as to facilitate full civil nuclear cooperation between India and (the) member states of the Agency and to provide assurance against withdrawal of safeguarded nuclear material from civilian use at any time.” This makes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance to Parliament on 29 July 2005 on corrective measures doubtful.

“108. This agreement shall enter into force on the date on which the agency receives from India (a) written notification that India’s statutory and/or constitutional requirements for entry into force have been met,” says the draft. Let’s hope it never “enters into force” with the 123 Agreement as the backdrop in its present form. The left has said categorically it will make it “impossible for the government to go ahead with the deal.” The right is still, at least publicly, toying with the idea of renegotiating the deal with the US, should it come to power after the next Lok Sabha election. It cannot be denied that the communists are pathologically averse to America and the BJP is suffering from selective amnesia of the period 1998-2004. But the messengers being wrong does not make the message wrong.

If the left and the right have quoted facts as selectively and conveniently as the Congress, that does not make it either a good or a bad deal. Judge the deal neither by what some nuclear scientists said and their peers refuted — they say different things when occupying a government office and when out of it. Judge the agreement never by the statements of a former president and a former national security adviser who had once said 'no' and now they are saying 'yes' to the deal — the questions thrown at them were mischievously worded. If you must, judge the deal on its independent merit, irrespective of its endorsement by the defender and criticism by the detractor.

Food for thought: Wonder why the supporters of the India-US civil nuclear deal shy away from arguing on the technicality of either the 123 Agreement or the draft agreement with the IAEA...

The writer is a mathematician and linguist, now a corporate communicator and has been a science journalist, a teacher and a marketing manager (in reverse chronological order) in his previous vocations

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.