Journalist | Writer | Analyst
In a previous post, I had promised to analyse the report put out by David Albright and Susan Basu of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) on India’s Rare Materials Plant (RMP). Well, I don’t have to, because my colleague, Dr. R. Ramachandran, Science Editor of Frontline magazine, has done the needful in today’s edition of the Hindu.
The report, “India’s Gas Centrifuge Program: Stopping Illicit Procurement and the Leakage of Technical Centrifuge Know-How” makes the astonishing claim that
“ISIS has uncovered a well-developed, active, and secret Indian program to outfit its uranium enrichment program and circumvent other countries’ export control efforts. In addition, ISIS has concluded that Indian procurement methods for its nuclear program leak sensitive nuclear technology”.
Now, any programme that has been subject to years of sanctions will have evolved methods of producrement that are, shall we say, a little unconventional. There is no need to be defensive about that. If chinks exist in the sanctions dragnet, it is only natural that these will be exploited by countries on the receiving end.
Having said this, I am amazed at just how thin the case prepared by Albright and Susan against RMP and India Rare Earths is. Since I can only assume they have been spoonfed the case file by diehard nonproliferation-wallahs in the erstwhile NP bureau of the U.S. State Department [see here for David Ruppe’s excellent account of the fight within the Bush administration on the question of nuclear cooperation with India], one would have thought the ISIS could come up with something a bit more clinching than a bunch of advertisements (or tenders) that are all in the public domain.
Ramachandran points out the obvious contradiction in Albright’s report:
According to the ISIS report, the procurements for the RMP are coordinated by BARC through the Indian Rare Earths (IRE) Ltd., a public sector undertaking under the DAE and public information about this procurement process is shrouded in secrecy. After stating this, Mr. Albright goes on to contradict himself by saying that, since at least 1984, IRE has regularly procured items for the RMP by inviting bids from potential suppliers. Now, if items have been procured openly through the public tendering process — as required by the Government’s purchase and audit regulations — how does it become “shrouded in secrecy.”