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Home > News > Columnists > A N Prasad

Does N-deal really solve issues?

July 27, 2007

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Instead of coming out clean on the text of the 123 agreement by making it public, both India and the United States in collusion have chosen to keep it under wraps and are selectively issuing rosy statements that all is well and all our concerns have been fully addressed.

While one wishes it is really satisfactory, it is unfortunate that the Cabinet committees, the political parties and the public are deprived of constructive analyses and unbiased expert opinions.

What we are fed up with is one-sided interpretation of the text by the official side though there is promise that the text will be made public soon in consultation with the US.

The article India has same rights as nuclear weapons States based on off the record briefings, which appeared on rediff.com makes one wonder how far the government is attempting to sugarcoat.

Some of the points made in this article do not need the full text to comment.

If the July 18, 2005 joint statement where India was lifted to the moral high ground is kept by the side of the Hyde Act, a legally binding document based on which the 123 Agreement will largely actually be implemented, it is not difficult to see to what extent India has been given the same rights and privileges of a Nuclear Weapons State.

As just one example, while a Nuclear Weapons State can voluntarily place under civilian list any of their nuclear facilities and exclude any facility as military facility and make changes at will, India was made to fight for every facility during the preparation of the separation plan.

Also, the safeguards' implementation as far as Nuclear Weapons States are concerned is hardly intensive and India can never hope to get that sort of parity judging by many of the stipulations in the Hyde Act.

It is to be expected that while negotiating a bilateral agreement there will always be constraints on both sides. However, in this case it is the US, by passing the Hyde Act disregarding the concerns expressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and his commitments to Parliament has left India to compromise.

More than the substance, the negotiators seem to have concentrated more on fixing the language to make the text look palatable on paper.

So far we have only the negotiators' interpretation of the deal without the access to how the various issues are actually worded. The government seems to be working on garnering support from various quarters to gain psychological advantage before releasing the text.

The reprocessing issue is still confusing.

Contrary to what is being told in the briefings there seems to be conditional clearance with actual bottlenecks still not being fully removed. This is where the text is important to really ascertain whether our interests are fully protected.

It is reported that the Japanese model is followed. If it is so, I can say with my experience it is not too pleasant in practice. They have in the past suffered under the US restrictions.

On the issue of the fate of the cooperation agreement in case of testing, there is no ambiguity as far as Hyde Act is concerned. What seems to have been achieved is language couching, vague complex wordings to circumvent and give an impression of having adequately addressed the issue.

This is nothing but absolute fooling!

When implemented in the present form, there is no doubt that in future any government in power will be constrained to decide in favour of testing having dug deep into foreign investments in nuclear power plants and pressures on the political and economic fronts among others.

The government during the negotiations may be under advice from certain influential quarters that actual testing could be replaced by computer simulation. This is a dangerous prospect indeed! On this issue there seems to be no escaping the Hyde Act and supreme national security concerns.

On the issue of full civilian nuclear cooperation it is amazing to see the new definition given by the spin-masters on both sides. What is simple and straight forward at least in definition is being made to look oversimplified. Part cannot be full as US wants to define.

If recognising our strategic programme, allowing us to import reactors and fuel and have the right to reprocess and enrich uranium and also export heavy water through our own efforts could constitute full civilian cooperation, what is the big deal?

It is being argued that we have the technology in the entire fuel cycle and why do we bother? If it is so, we have the technology for designing, building and operating reactors. Why are we going in for this technology import?

Are we getting over the embargoes on import of equipment and components and any other materials on all parts of the fuel cycle, specifically including enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water, flagged by the Hyde Act or restricted to only those parts of the fuel cycle like reactors which are of commercial interest to suppliers?

There seems to be a calculated move to denigrate critics who really care for long term interests in energy and national security of having defeatist mentality and paranoid about the deal.

They should bear in mind that some critics among former nuclear scientists have spent their professional careers in the nuclear establishment and helped build a strong foundation showing achievements as a consequence of which India has been able to stand up with its head high.

India could not have been discussing this deal without their contribution. They do not have any vested interests nor need for protecting the chair they once occupied. Their only interest is to see that the inherent strength of the country in the nuclear field is suitably harnessed to grow even stronger.

Weakness of Uranium shortage is a known factor and it has been factored into the Indian nuclear programme for more than five decades now. Long term energy independence cannot be driven by externally controlled imports. Thinking ahead and cautioning against hasty actions detrimental to national interests cannot be termed inferiority complex.

A deal, which can truly takes us out of the shell and allow us to interact as a global player on honourable terms, is always welcome. We should not be treated as receivers of technology but we are capable of offering a lot in the nuclear field.

Let us not consider ourselves as weak partners in this game and compromise. We should stand up fight for our rightful place.

Dr A N Prasad is a former director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.


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