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Home > News > PTI

India, US think differently on N-deal: US think tank

August 24, 2007 11:42 IST
Last Updated: August 24, 2007 13:40 IST

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The Indo-US nuclear tango

Claiming that India and the United States appear to be interpreting key provisions of the nuclear agreement, including the consequences of resumption of testing by New Delhi, differently, two American scholars from a reputed think tank have warned that it could strain bilateral relations in future.

"The governments of Manmohan Singh [Images] and George W Bush [Images] appear to be interpreting key provisions of the agreement very differently, which can only cause more headaches in future," said Michael Krepon and Alex Stolar of the Washington DC-based Stimson Centre.

One area of the potential dispute relates to the consequences of the resumption of nuclear testing by India, they said.

"The US public law is clear in this regard, but the India finds solace in pledges that the Bush administration has given to cushion the potential blow. One provision in the 123 Agreement pledges to provide India, one way or another, with an ample fuel bank to guard against disruption caused by nuclear testing," they said. However, the legislative intent of the Hyde Act "places clear constraints on fuel supplies", the scholars said.

The scholars said that using the nuclear deal to break the decades of mistrust between the two countries was an odd and unfortunate choice.

"The previous Indian government -- led by the same BJP leaders who now oppose the deal -- showed poor judgement in making nuclear cooperation the litmus test of bilateral relations, and the Bush administration compounded this error by trying to change the rules of nuclear commerce -but only for a friend," they said.

Accusing the Bush administration of disregarding the legislative intent behind the Hyde Act while finalising the 123 Agreement, they said, "If crucial stakeholders demand exceptions for their friends, and place profit-taking above non-proliferation norms, the global system created to prevent proliferation will be battered."

If  India decided to operationalise the deal,  they said, the next stage would be to negotiate a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"New Delhi has insisted that the agreement be India-specific, implying that if fuel is disrupted, safeguards can be dispensed with. In this regard, the 123 Agreement makes reference to India's right to corrective measures if fuel supplies are interrupted," they said.

"It also includes a clause that the US will assist India in its dealings with the IAEA," they said.

However, they contend that that it is very likely, that the IAEA will insist on safeguards in perpetuity, without conditions or reference to disrupted fuel supply.

"These and other implementation provisions are bound to cause greater difficulties in India and further fray relations with the US once it becomes evident that the 123 Agreement has papered over differences in interpretation, while disregarding congressional intent to reduce the deal's negative proliferation consequences," they said. "The Bush administration is inclined towards historic, game-changing, geo-strategic initiatives. The proposed US-India deal certainly fits this mold. This bold manoeuvre was launched with great fanfare and had immediate political appeal. But it was ill-advised and poorly executed. Payments for poor judgement are now coming due," Krepon and Stolar said.

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