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Nuclear deal treats India as 'special and exceptional'
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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August 04, 2007 00:14 IST
The biggest message that the 123 Agreement conveys is that India is special and exceptional, observes K Subrahamanyam, the legendary strategic thinker.

Subrahamanyam told, "India has been considered exceptional in the civilian nuclear energy sector. No other country has a similar agreement with the US. There were two considerations in the nuclear agreement between China and the US. One, China was signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it was a Nuclear Weapons State. When it signed a similar treaty with Japan [Images], it treated it as a NPT signatory country. But in this case, India is treated as a country with advanced nuclear technology and, we are not signatories to the NPT. We are special and exceptional."

Subrahamanyam, a staunch supporter of India's strategic ties with the US, felt India's right to conduct nuclear tests was not curbed under the agreement.

When pointed out that the 123 Agreement does not mention nuclear tests but mentions its consequences, Subrahamanyam points out: "India's advantage is that the circumstances under which it carried out tests will be taken into account. It also says the final decision will be arrived at after consultation. There is also a clause for compensation if the US exercises its right to return."

"While debating India's right to conduct nuclear tests or not, one should answer how exactly would India want the world to take the nuclear tests. Testing will have its consequences," he said.

Subrahamanyam, who was till recently head of the government's task force on Global Strategic Developments, thinks the final text of the 123 Agreement, if implemented in due course, will open a new chapter in India's nuclear energy development.

His son Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar -- currently India's high commissioner to Singapore -- was a member of the team that negotiated the 123 Agreement under the leadership of National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran and current Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.

Subrahamanyam said it is given that the nuclear proliferation regime is not within the power of the US alone to change. So this could be the best deal that could be done with the US. It has never happened before that an entire international nuclear regime was being changed for one country, he said. India has this advantage.

When asked about the grey areas or weaknesses of the 123 Agreement, he said: "There are provisions for amendment as both countries gain trust. It can be improved further. It is also possible that there can be disputes over the interpretations of the provisions of the agreement. The 123 Agreement was drafted by US lawyers. No lawyers from the Indian side were present. It is possible that some difficulty may arise in its interpretation."

Under the agreement it has been decided that to get sensitive nuclear technology, the US would have change its law. Subrahamanyam interprets that it can be done as mutual trust evolves.

"Many people erroneously thought that as soon as India signs the 123 Agreement we will be treated as a Nuclear Weapons State. It is a mistake. It is not in the US' hands alone to do so. We have to do things step by step and get more privileges," he said.

He argued that India has got many more things compared to other countries.

"Australia and China signed a treaty whereby Australia would supply uranium to the latter. Here, Australia will determine the separation of civilian and strategic nuclear plants. But in our case, India has the right to decide about the separation plans," he said.

Once again, he severely criticised the Left parties and Bharatiya Janata Party, who have been opposing nuclear cooperation with the US.

"Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] met (then prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and told him, 'I have completed what you started.' And that is true. The BJP is opposing it because they could not sign the deal and get the credit while the Left parties are opposing the deal because they have to oppose anything that has to do with the US. Even if India gets the net concession of $10 billion, they will oppose it," Subrahamanyam noted.

"Joe Biden (US Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee), while speaking on the India-US nuclear deal, said he did not like this deal and that he would have negotiated this deal differently, but still he supported it because he could not afford to alienate India. This is the way Indian politicians should behave; they should keep the country's interest above party interests," he added.

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