Nuclear deal is an unmitigated disaster
Ajit Doval, KC - Former Director, VIF

The India-US nuclear deal will stunt India's emergence as a genuine nuclear weapon state, cripple its strategic deterrence, and reduce it to a US satrapy. Government's motivations in pushing ahead with it are, therefore, open to speculation, particularly as informed opinion is against it.

Government has stymied a sense of Parliament resolu­tion, designed to have set the basic parameters for the nuclear deal, on the grounds that the move was prema­ture, since the related US legislation had still to be finalised and that, in any case, it would ensure that the deal would remain with­in the framework of the July 18 understanding. This line of argumentation is uncon­vincing. The July 18 under­standing, even if imple­mented as is, would irreparably compromise our nuclear programme, both V jivil and military, and place us squarely under the US yoke. Moreover, this under­standing has been changed out of all recognition, over the last one year, in a man­ner adverse to India. Gov­ernment, if not actually complicit in such changes, has been incapable of thwarting them.' A sense of Parliament resolution would have helped put some spine into the government and would have signalled to the US Congress the immutable red lines which must not be crossed in drawing up the legislation on this issue. Government's stubborn resistance to a sense of Par­liament resolution has clear­ly been motivated by fears that this would curtail its wriggle room to make fur­ther concessions.

The July 18 under­standing, conceived in stealth and without a national debate, is intrinsically flawed, because many of the responsibilities being assumed under it by India have not been assumed by other nuclear weapon states. Thus, neither the sep­aration of civil and military nuclear facilities nor the placement of all of the for­mer under IAEA safeguards, as agreed to by us, is the norm for nuclear weapon states. Separation would have to extend to personnel, materials, equipment etc., and in addition would require that nuclear weapon relevant information is not transferred from safeguard­ed to unsafeguarded facili­ties. These onerous obliga­tions will cost us dear in financial terms, as well as in the evolution of our nuclear programme — both military and civil. Furthermore, since our moratorium on testing is a part of the deal, it foreclos­es in perpetuity our option of effecting nuclear warhead design improvements through this route even if other states including Pak­istan resume testing.

The July 18 understanding has been justified on the grounds that it would help us vastly enhance nuclear power generation, not possi­ble otherwise due to the paucity of locally available natural uranium. These arguments are specious, as there is sufficient uranium in India to fuel all 22 of our ongoing and programmed nuclear reactors, through their entire lifecycles, as well as maintain our nuclear weapon development pro­gramme. Indeed, the DAE has projected that we could generate over 200,000 MW of nuclear power by 2050, based entirely on indige­nous reserves of thorium, which are the largest in the world, and natural uranium. Moreover, nuclear power generation based upon imports will be much more expensive than the indige­nous option. The latter, which should have been pri­oritised, will now be placed on the back burner, as the bulk of our resources will be allocated for costly imports.

The July 18 understanding has been justified on the grounds that it would help us vastly enhance nuclear power generation, not possible otherwise due to the paucity of locally available natural uranium.These arguments are specious, as there is sufficient uranium in India to fuel all 22 of our ongoing and programmed nuclear reactors, through their entire lifecycles, as well as maintain our nuclear
weapon development programme

Finally, nuclear energy which currently accounts for only 3% of India's power generation can never be critical for its energy security which can be better ensured by turning to alter­nate sources of energy and methodologies which would be cheaper, safer and more effective.

The nuclear deal has gone from bad to worse in the process of its being fleshed out. Contrary to governmen­t's assurances India has had to accept in perpetuity safe­guards, separation has not been decided "voluntarily, solely on the basis of our own judgment," but on the basis of prolonged negotiations resulting in the place­ment of the bulk of our facil­ities in the civil list, "current and future strategic needs and programmes" have been disregarded as borne out by the decision to close the recently refurbished Cirus research reactor, which pro­duces 30% of our weapons grade plutonium, and to place 65% of our reactors under safeguards, which will reduce tritium produc­tion by 65%, safeguards are to precede and not come after the lifting of all restric­tions on India, and civil nuclear cooperation is to be less than "full" as the US will desist from nuclear exports in the areas of enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production. An already blighted nuclear deal will become even more pernicious under the impact of the US legisla­tion under consideration. Some of the more disturb­ing features of this legisla­tion are as follows:

  • US nuclear civil coopera­tion with India to be contin­gent on annual presidential determinations on India's good behaviour on the entire range of proliferation related issues.
  • US not to engage in coop­eration with purely Indian programmes related to ura­nium enrichment, repro­cessing of spent fuel and heavy water production, and to work with NSG members to further restrict such trans­fers.
  • India to be debarred from testing and encouraged to indicate a date when it would stop producing fissile material for weapons.
  • India to support US efforts, in addition to inter­national efforts, to prevent spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology. This, inter alia, requires India's "full and active par­ticipation" in US efforts to "sanction and contain" Iran.
  • India to participate in the US created Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and to conform to Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement guidelines in addition to MTCR and NSG guidelines which alone had been agreed to as per the July 18 understanding.
  • India to face highly intru­sive accountancy in regard to US nuclear related trans­fers including end use inspections in addition to IAEA safeguards.
  • Constant surveillance to be exercised on India on all nuclear related issues through a series of annual reports including on Indian production of natural urani­um, fissile material, weapons etc. This gives the lie to the contention that the deal is only concerned about civil nuclear energy.

It is amazing that apologists for the deal have enthusiastically greeted the passage of the Bills containing the aforesaid obnoxious provisions. Pas­sage of this legislation by such large majorities in the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committee is proof enough, if any was required, that it satisfies a variety of US demands on India, designed to erode its nuclear weapon capability and to reduce it to a sub­sidiary state which would have to abide by the US diktat.

Why then is the Indian government so gung-ho in concretising this shady deal? Does not prudence demand a re-examination of the desirability of rushing into it, given the widespread opposition to it and the fact that future generations will be saddled with its consequences? Is it not perplex­ing that a weak minority government which dithers on the simplest of issues, and is prone to appoint com­missions and committees on virtually every problem under the sun, should choose to swim against the current on so knotty an issue? Queries such as these inevitably give rise to spec­ulation, most of it naughty and not particularly flatter­ing to government, about why it is hell-bent upon forcing as unmitigated a disaster as the nuclear deal down the throat of an unwilling nation.

The article is a joint contribution from Satish Chandra, Ajit Doval and Vikram Sood, former heads of the National Security Council Secretariat, Intelligence Bureau and R&AW respectively. All belong to the Policy Perspective Foundation — a newly established think tank

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