Journalist | Writer | Analyst
20 December 2006
Bush seeks to allay India’s concerns
President issues three caveats to construe policy statements as advisory
New Delhi: In an effort to allay official Indian concerns about several aspects of the nuclear cooperation legislation passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this month, President George W. Bush declared on Monday that he would not be bound by some of the law’s provisions.
In a formal statement issued shortly after signing into law the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, Mr. Bush introduced three specific caveats based on the executive’s constitutional prerogative to conduct foreign policy.
“Not foreign policy”
Noting that Section 103 of the Act “purports to establish U.S. policy with respect to various international affairs matters,” he said his approval of the Act “does not constitute my adoption of the statements of policy as U.S. foreign policy.” Among the clauses in this section that Indian officials found particularly objectionable were directions to limit the amount of nuclear fuel India could store, and to “seek to prevent the transfer” to India of nuclear material by other countries in the event that the U.S. cuts off supplies.
“Given the Constitution’s commitment to the presidency of the authority to conduct the Nation’s foreign affairs,” Mr. Bush’s statement notes, “the executive branch shall construe such policy statements as advisory.”
The second caveat attempts to undo the presumption of denial of enrichment and reprocessing-related equipment to India, built into Section 104(d)(2) of the Act. India objected to this clause because it tended to rule out the resumption of “full” nuclear cooperation as promised by the July 2005 agreement.
In his statement, Mr. Bush noted that this restriction could give rise to a potential conflict between U.S. domestic law and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group guidelines, and raise “a constitutional question.” Thus, in order to avoid such an eventuality, “the executive branch shall construe Section 104(d)(2) as advisory.”
Finally, Mr. Bush’s statement said he would “construe provisions of the Act that mandate, regulate, or prohibit submission of information to the Congress, an international organisation, or the public” in a manner that would be consistent with his “constitutional authority to protect and control information that could impair foreign relations.”
In this regard, he specifically mentioned Sections 104 and 109 of the Act, which deal, inter alia, with reports on whether India is in compliance with its obligations, as well as on the establishment of a “joint scientific cooperative nuclear non-proliferation programme,” and which mandate close scrutiny of India’s strategic programme.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted last August that some of the annual reporting requirements, even if non-binding, introduced an element of uncertainty and should be done away with. Though the Hyde Act tempered these requirements somewhat, New Delhi was not fully satisfied with the outcome, and wanted the White House to clear the air on these.
Officials said though Mr. Bush’s caveats allayed some of the major concerns India had about attempts to shift the goalposts of the July 2005 agreement, New Delhi’s aim was to ensure that the bilateral “123 agreement” fully incorporates all U.S. commitments, including those implied by the latest statement. This is considered crucial since Presidential statements and clarifications can always be reversed depending on changed political circumstances.
<>On denial of dual-use technology<>
On 19/12/2006, I sat riveted in front of my TV, listening to the discussion on Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation in the Rajya Sabha, broadcast live.
During the discussion, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi (Rajasthan), giving two specific examples, said that sale of a supercomputer and a 3-axis lathe machine had been denied to India because they had been classified as “dual-use” items; that is, they could be used, both for “civil” purposes and for “military” applications. A 3-axis lathe is a sophisticated CNC (‘Computer Numerical Control’) precision machine tool which can be used for the manufacture of parts having complex shapes and requiring high accuracy. A supercomputer does not need further elaboration here. While he did not indicate the civilian application for which we wanted to buy the 3-axis lathe, Dr Singhvi did mention the great power of the supercomputer in our weather prediction applications. (Indeed, nothing could be more civilian than that!) He used this example to indicate that with the porposed Indo US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, a huge gamut of dual use technology will become available to India, along with the main nuclear equipment.
However, perhaps the following considerations merit attention:
1. Probably, <>because<> it was denied to us, India was spurred towards its own development of supercomputers and has been successful in that endevour, something about which I am sure Dr Singhvi and all of us Indians have every right to be proud of. From the Internet, one can find information about Param Series of supercomputers developed by CDAC and Anupam series developed by the Department of Atomic Energy. Perhaps there are other agencies as well in our country, which are deeply and fruitfully involved in this field. As of November 2006, amongst the top 500 supercomputers in the world there are ten in India ranking between 237 and 482 in terms of their computing power (< href="http://www.top500.org/stats">http://www.top500.org/stats<>). Likewise, it is very likely that India’s premiere machine tool design and manufacturing organisations such as HMT, CMTI etc are engaged in design and development of sophisticated machine tools including the 3-axis lathe required for our country. If not, we must embark on such development to meet our national requirements. After all, this is what “becoming a developed nation” means.
2. Let us not forget that this is supposed to be a civilian and a nuclear cooperation. India has successfully designed, built and is operating civilian nuclear power plants in spite of denial of sale of a supercomputer or a 3-axis lathe.
The Indo-US Agreement will not help India to purchase these equipment (or any other equipment categorised as “dual-use” by the US / NSG) if they are intended to be used in any “military” application. The end-use verification regime put in place by the US/NSG/IAEA will ensure that.
3. OK, let us say, we do have a need to use such sophisticated equipment, but purely in civilian applications. Then why can’t we think of outsourcing from abroad such operations (for example, calculations as per our algorithms in the case of supercomputer, or machining of a given feature of a part in the case of a 3-axis lathe), until such time we develop these equipment ourselves. Since the applications are non-military, there should be no objections to outsourcing partial operations in convenient chunks of work. Our nation would then not have to put up with either binding or non-binding – nevertheless demeaning – restrictions, infringing on our sovereignty, stipulated by the US / NSG. In fact they may be just as happy with such subcontracts as they might be with the orders for nuclear power plants, for it anyway enriches their coffers and provides job opportunities for their workers at our expense!
Placing our indigenously developed nuclear power plants and facilities, under intrusive foreign inspection regime in perpetuity, at the cost of national sovereignty, just to enable import of some equipment (classified dual-use by the US / NSG) for use in civilian applications is not right. The wiser course would be to ourselves develop the high-technology we need; leaping frogs end up leaping only within their own wells.