Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Bush signing statement – Don’t hold your breath

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.

Additional Point:

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.

13 comments on “Bush signing statement – Don’t hold your breath

  1. Anonymous
    October 10, 2008

    Buy the tech from French , they have a beter handle on power reactors, (With tech transfer)

  2. dhavaladhara
    October 10, 2008

    Endorse each of your points, Siddharth. That said, as anonymous stated … “End of an era and beginning of a new one. The battle will now get into the gear”. Hope the powers be see the writing on the wall…

  3. Sid
    October 9, 2008

    @ NI must confess MMS leaves me perplexed at times. I know babudom is divided about the best way to proceed…

  4. Anonymous
    October 8, 2008

    I find opinions expressed here biased, pathetic and opportunistic. 123 Agreement is hale and hearty, the GOI fortunately does not listen to crazy foxes here and will send Pranab Mukherjee to sign it.People seem to think that it is agreements and legal points that ensure implementation. Why then the fuel of Tarapur is rotting and we did not exercise our right under the agreement to take Tarapur out of safeguards when US stopped supply in 1980.Agreements and legally binding clauses are meaningless. Congressional pronouncements in 1998 were radically different. What makes us think they will not chnage again in future. Only thing that matters is power – economic and military.Somebody suggested that Brahma Chellaney was the evil twin of David Albright. But there are more evils souls in the US like Sokolski et al. I guess some of the people want to view for a twinning with these.End of an era and beginning of a new one. The battle will now get into the gear.

  5. Sukla Sen
    October 8, 2008

    May also like to compare the prescription given here with my earlier comment:QuoteFrom the “Indian” point of view, a point of view which is dying to see India emerge as a legitimate and great “nuclear power” on the world scene, to the utter detriment of prospects for global nuclear disarmament, with the express blessings of the world super-power, because it does not stand any chance otherwise, the sensible option would be to go in for the second, in the immediate term, with no actual orders to follow (on US firms) unless the doubts and uncertainties are cleared. Such clearing of doubts is of course unlikely to happen.UnquoteRef: there is a perceptible shift from “3. Tell Condi, thanks but no thanks.” to “2. Sign it with a strong reiteration of its national understanding, repudiating the riders that have been inserted by President Bush and Congress?”.

  6. Sukla Sen
    October 8, 2008

    The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) Demands Parliamentary Review before Signing of 123 Agreement—————————————————————–The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) notes with great concern various reports to the effect that the government of India is to sign the “123 Agreement” with the US as regards civilian nuclear trade between the two countries anytime now. In fact the signing of the agreement appears to be overdue in that it has reportedly already been twice postponed for certain reasons. And a similar agreement has already been signed with the French government.This does clearly contradict the solemn promise made by the Indian Prime Minister on the floor of the parliament on July 22 last in his concluding reply to the debate on the confidence motion moved by him a day earlier. He then had categorically assured: “I have said on several occasions that our nuclear agreement after being endorsed by the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group would be submitted to this august House for expressing its view.”While the CNDP desists from speculating whether going ahead with signing of bilateral agreements with foreign nations pursuant to the waivers granted by the NSG and the IAEA constitutes a breach of parliamentary privilege, it emphatically demands that before taking up any such bilateral agreement the GoI must come back to the parliament to obtain its view on the whole gamut of issues and the momentous developments since July 22 as per the solemn commitment made by the Indian Prime Minister.The CNDP takes this opportunity also to reiterate its firm, consistent and principled opposition to the “nuclear deal” as it surely undermines the prospects of global nuclear disarmament, promotes the cause of nuclear militarism and nuclear-weapon build-up in India, threatens to intensify the arms race between India and Pakistan , carries forward the perilous US-India “strategic partnership”, and seriously distorts India’s energy priorities.__________________________________________________________________________Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace – CNDP A – 124 / 6, 1st Floor, Katwaria Sarai New Delhi – 110016, telefax – 011-26517814e mail –

  7. Anonymous
    October 8, 2008

    The US has demonstrated over the past 3 years that MMS statements in Parliament are meaningless.Therefore, instead of following the same meaningless path, I propose – in the spirit of your request:Step #2: Thank the US for all their efforts. Inform the US that we are closely studying the implications of HR 7081 and the Bush signing statement (after all, this new bill showed up only in the past 10 days or so and became law on Oct 8) and appropriate steps needed in that context. We will let them know as soon as this process is complete. We hope to sign before President Bush leaves office on Jan 20, 2009.Step #3: MMS introduces our Jekyll Act in the Lok Sabha session starting Oct 17, instead of making another meaningless statement.

  8. Rajesh
    October 8, 2008

    It is a pity, India is not willing to wait for an appropriate Jekyll Act and then sign the 123 Agreement with the USA. At least then, the US Government would be in full consent with the Indian position also when they sign. This will enhance trust between the two strategic partners.

  9. Anonymous
    October 8, 2008

    Wouldn’t signing this 123 at this time (without our Jekyll Act in place) imply an acceptance of everything underlying it from the US side? How then can we question the US interpretation of any 123 provision in future? Is MMS afraid of being called “ungrateful” by this Bush admn? Is it more important to show your gratitude or to protect national interests? When a Jekyll Act is passed (as it inevitably will at some point in the future) and India uses it to push its interpretations of 123, the western media will go to town about India’s “underhand” tactics and Indians being “untrustworthy partners”.What is more important for the Indian national interest: to show misplaced gratitude now or to avoid the tag of “untrustworthy partner” in the future?

  10. N.
    October 8, 2008

    By the way, BR = Bharat Rakshak. Please visit the discussion forums if you have not already.

  11. N
    October 8, 2008

    Sid – I have appreciated your balanced and even nuanced approach to this “deal” from day one. You have followed every twist and turn of the negotiation and given what I consider to be a lucid account and analysis of what was happening. So my questio to you is this — You have argued that NSG itself is the big achievement of the process, and I am with you here. So why is Man Maohan Singh so keen to crown that major achievement with this worthless adornment of thorns known as the 123 agreement? I know you have argued that 123 itself was ok last fall. But you also advocated, if I am not mistaken, an Indian ‘Hyde’ act (many on BR call it Jekyll Act), to protect our national interest. Now, however, as you have rightly argued, the 123 has been negated by the US side even before it has been born. So why is MMS keen to sign? Why snatch a defeat (123) from the jaws of victory (NSG)?? Or is this the old sporting ‘plaint of Indians being ‘chokers’ at work?

  12. Laxman
    October 8, 2008

    I agree.Especially, in fact, 123 agreement can be signed by someone from INDIAN EMBASSY or CONSULATE, why the need for Pranab Mukherji to go from Delhi?

  13. Anonymous
    October 8, 2008

    Why this tearing hurry to sign? Is someone holding a gun to GoI’s head? It took 7 months to negotiate this 123 agreement; it may take a few more months to sign it! What’s so difficult for anyone to understand about that?

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2008 by in Nuclear Issues.



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