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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Parliament on July 29 during the debate on the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement that India would “never accept discrimination”. But discrimination is what’s on offer. In their testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 2, senior Bush administration officials said India would not be entitled to the same kind of safeguards agreement the U.S. and the other four “internationally recognised nuclear weapons states” have with the International Atomic Energy Agency. In contrast to those agreements, the Indian safeguards must apply “in perpetuity” and preclude any future transfer from civilian to military use.
4 November 2005
U.S. raises the bar on nuclear deal
New Delhi: In their clearest detailing to date of what the Indian Government must do to see the United States uphold its side of the July 18 nuclear agreement, Bush administration officials have stipulated that India sign a more restrictive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency than either the U.S. or any of the other four “recognised” nuclear weapon states has done.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert G. Joseph said a “voluntary offer” safeguards arrangement of the kind the U.S. has with the IAEA would not be acceptable for India. “We indicated at the recent G-8 and NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) meetings that we would not view a voluntary offer arrangement as defensible from a non-proliferation standpoint or consistent with the [July 18] Joint Statement, and therefore do not believe that it would constitute an acceptable safeguards arrangement.”
Mr. Joseph stipulated two further preconditions: safeguards “must be applied in perpetuity” and “must confirm … [that] nuclear materials in the civil sector should not be transferred out of the civil sector.”
The “voluntary offer” agreements the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China have signed with the IAEA — and their associated Additional Protocols — contain national security exclusions, which allow the removal of civilian facilities from safeguards and the transfer of nuclear materials out of them.
Mr. Joseph’s testimony undercuts a key claim made by the United Progressive Alliance Government after the July 18 agreement that India has only agreed to the “same responsibilities and practices … as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology.”
A note issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on July 29 had stated that India “has committed [itself] to taking reciprocally exactly the same steps that other nuclear weapon states have taken. … An argument has been made that separation into civilian and military programmes will rob India of flexibility if that is required by unanticipated circumstances. Nuclear weapon states, including the U.S., have the right to shift facilities from civilian category to military and there is no reason why this should not apply to India.” (emphasis added)
India must move first
Confirming the statement made last week by the U.S. State Department spokesman that the separation of India’s civilian and military nuclear facilities was a “precondition” for Congress being asked to relax its nuclear commerce rules, the Bush administration officials said the Indian side would have to begin implementing this commitment before the administration would present any related legislative drafts to the Hill.
They also outlined a broad vision for the U.S.-India relationship of which civilian nuclear cooperation was just one part. Cooperation in the promotion of democracy in Central Asia and Myanmar, the sale of U.S. nuclear equipment and civil and military aircraft, and future Indian participation in U.S.-led military undertakings like the Proliferation Security Initiative were described as some of the strategic and economic benefits which would accrue to Washington once the proposed nuclear deal goes through.
But for the entire process to begin, India has to effect a separation between its civilian and military nuclear facilities, the officials stressed.
“Our judgment is that it would not be wise or fair to ask Congress to make such a consequential decision without evidence that the Indian Government was acting on what is arguably the most important of its commitments — the separation of its civilian and military nuclear facilities,” Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told the Senate hearing. He said during his visit to New Delhi in October, he had told the Indian leadership “that it must craft a credible and transparent plan and have begun to implement it before the Administration would request Congressional action.” He added that Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has “assured me that the Indian Government will produce such a plan.”
Both Mr. Burns and Mr Joseph favourably cited Mr. Saran’s October 24 speech on non-proliferation where he stated — contrary to what Department of Atomic Energy chairman Anil Kakodkar had said earlier — that “it makes no sense for India to deliberately keep some of its civilian facilities out of its declaration for safeguards purposes, if it is really interested in obtaining international cooperation on as wide a scale as possible.”
Both the “separation and the resultant safeguards must contribute to our non-proliferation goals,” Mr. Joseph stressed. On his part, Mr. Burns said “as India begins to meet its commitments under our agreement, we will propose appropriate [legislative] language that would be India-specific and would demonstrate our dedication to a robust and permanent partnership.”
Providing details of the issues raised by Mr. Burns during his last visit to Delhi, Mr. Joseph said the U.S. side had laid out “some straightforward principles.” “I will not enumerate them fully here since the negotiations remain ongoing, but would like to underscore just a couple of these. For example, to ensure that the United States and other potential suppliers can confidently supply to India and meet our obligations under the NPT, safeguards must be applied in perpetuity. Further, the separation plan must ensure — and the safeguards must confirm — that cooperation does not “in any way assist” in the development or production of nuclear weapons. In this context, nuclear materials in the civil sector should not be transferred out of the civil sector.”
Mr Joseph said that “several countries” had told the U.S. that India must not be granted “de jure or de facto status as a nuclear weapon State under the NPT.” This was the reason, he said, “a `voluntary offer’ arrangement of the type in place in the five internationally-recognised nuclear weapon States would not be acceptable for India.” The U.S., he said, agreed with this argument. Only if New Delhi put forward a “credible and defensible plan” of separation would many States “become more steadfast in their support” of the plan to allow nuclear commerce with India.
Once India comes up with a “credible, transparent, and defensible separation plan,” the U.S. “will be ready to engage with our NSG partners in developing a formal proposal to allow the shipment of Trigger List items and related technology to India, Mr. Joseph said. “Obviously, the number of facilities and activities that India places under IAEA safeguards, and the method and speed with which it does so, will directly affect the degree to which we will be able to build support for full civil nuclear cooperation.”
Saying that he hoped India would “also take additional non-proliferation-related actions beyond those specifically outlined in the Joint Statement,” Mr. Joseph noted “with satisfaction” the Manmohan Singh Government’s vote against Iran at the IAEA in September. Turning to the commercial benefits, he said: “As a result of our involvement in India’s civil nuclear industry, U.S. companies will be able to enter India’s lucrative and growing energy market, potentially providing jobs for thousands of Americans.”