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On September 10, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon sent a letter to U.S. Under Secretary William Burns.
I have enclosed a scan of the letter below, courtesy Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association.
The letter — which was apparently requested by the U.S. as part of the package the White House was preparing for Congressional approval of the 123 Agreement — outlines India’s intention to do four things and is quite cleverly worded so as to not prejudice the country’s future position:
1. Make sure the 123 Agreement enters into force “on the basis of the relevant bilateral understandings and agreement” — i.e. as long as “the rights and obligations of both parties to the agreement” are not affected, India will not run away now that the NSG has opened the door for commerce from elsewhere.
2. Place nuclear reactor orders for at least 10,000 MWe of power capacity from US firms “on the basis of mutually acceptable technical and commercial terms and conditions that enable a viable tariff regime for electricity generated” and in a manner that “takes into account affordability, sustainability of nuclear fuel resources and credibility of nuclear waste management”. — i.e. if you offer the right terms, we’ll buy not two but 10 reactors from you. But if not, then sorry.
3. Ensure nuclear equipment and fuel bought from the U.S. will remain under IAEA safeguards in accordance with the India-specific Safeguards Agreement approved by the IAEA Board of Governors on August 1, 2008. — i.e. ‘IAEA safeguards’ rather than ‘safeguards’.
4. Take all steps to adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage prior to the commencement of international civil nuclear cooperation under the Agreement.– The ‘agreement’, as the opening para of the letter emphasises, is the 123 Agreement, and since any reference to international civil nuclear cooperation under the agreement can only mean trade with the U.S. and not France, Russia and others, it is clear that there is no commitment from the Indian side to ratify the CSC, let alone wait for it to enter into force before buying stuff from Russia and France…
The actual text of the letter casts the Manmohan Singh government in better light than the impression created by Bill Burns’s bald assertions on September 18. Yet another example of how the GOI’s obsession with stealth and secrecy is actually counter-productive…
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