Journalist | Writer | Analyst
Some preliminary thoughts (suggestions/corrections/emendations welcome)
President Bush will sign the 123 enabling Act into law around 2330 IST on Wednesday. But don’t hold your breath about its contents. All Indian concerns about the way the 123 has been qualified and approved remain. So here’s what we should do from here on…
1. After Bush statement is out, MEA issues statement in name of the External Affairs Minister making an assessment of the 123 Act, and stating clearly what India believes are its rights and obligations under the 123 and International Law.
2. Do not send EAM to DC to sign the 123 as is currently proposed but have the unpleasant deed done by the Indian ambassador or acting ambassador. Why waste fuel, and the Indian taxpayer’s money for the event, which is of far less practical significance for the Indian nuclear industry than the NSG guideline change of September 6 or the French agreement or the forthcoming Russian agreement?
3. The Indian ambassador/ dy. amb signs it.
4. MEA again notes, in response to all the questions that will be asked, what the GOI view on the 123 is.
5. Manmohan Singh makes statement in Parliament on October 17 and is very blunt about what Indian and US obligations are. MMS also makes it clear that no commercial contracts are possible for reactors which do not come with suitable fuel arrangements and permanent reprocessing consent rights.
6. MMS statement to parliament is worked into Note Verbale that is handed over along with the diplomatic notes required to allow the 123 to enter into force.
7. Practical elements of the Indian position, esp. mandating reprocessing, and fuel as prerequisites for reactor imports with private sector participation are worked into the amended Indian Atomic Energy Act. Also, no reactor or material can leave India if it affects normal running of Indian reactors.
8. Open negotiations for reprocessing arrangements and procedures with the U.S. and allow one year to elapse without suitable result.
9. Put the 123 into deep freeze. Or the same storage tanks in Tarapur where all that American spent fuel is (not) rotting.
10. MMS declares that any dilution of the “full cooperation” part of the July 18, 2005 bargain either through an adverse post-facto change of national legislation or a proposal at the NSG to ban ENR sales to non-NPT signatories will not only be seen as an unfriendly act but will lead to zero nuclear business being transacted with the concerned state.