[Marxism] Indo-US Nuclear 'Deal': 123 Agreement: An Analysis
suklasenp at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Aug 27 02:54:45 MDT 2007
IAEA and NSG will be no Cakewalk
T P Sreenivasan | August 24, 2007 | 22:51 IST
http://in.rediff. com/news/ 2007/aug/ 24tps.htm
The timing of the 'do or die' opposition of the Left
to the nuclear deal has remained inexplicable. They
had two long years to give a clear signal to the
government that it was definitely a 'we or they'
situation, but they chose to raise the alarm bells
only when the 123 Agreement was done.
This was possibly because they thought that the US
would never concede the points on testing and
reprocessing. When they found that these hurdles were
crossed and it appeared that the remaining steps like
negotiations with the International Atomic Energy
Agency, IAEA, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, NSG,
were a mere formality, they chose to put their foot
The negotiations on an India-specific safeguards
agreement with the IAEA Governing Board and talks with
members of the NSG to seek an exception for India are
likely to be long and hazardous. The United States has
considerable influence in the IAEA Board and, as the
founder of the NSG it has the necessary clout to
determine the outcome of the informal group. But, over
the years, positions of individual countries have
crystallized in these bodies and they are likely to
give us a hard time despite the US being our 'sherpa'
on the climb.
The commitment to non-proliferation is strong in both
these bodies and it will be difficult for members to
change their mindsets by a mere nod from the United
States. Moreover, the United States stands to gain
from an orchestrated debate in both these bodies, so
that the right stage is set for the hard days ahead of
implementation of the deal.
There is much speculation about the stage of drafting
of the two documents, which should emerge from the
IAEA and the NSG before the US Congress proceeds to
vote on the 123 Agreement. But this should be the
least of the problems. Neither our mission in Vienna,
nor the Department of Atomic Energy would have
remained idle since July 2005.
In fact, they had not remained idle even before: It
was quite normal for them to prepare plans for the
eventuality of an accommodation with the
non-proliferation regime. As for India-specific
safeguards as different from full-scope safeguards,
these already exist for Tarapur, Rajasthan and
Kudankulam. It is simply a matter of concluding such
an agreement in the case of designated civilian
The general contours of such arrangements have already
been discussed between Dr R Chidambaram and Dr Mohamed
ElBaradei on a couple of occasions and the members of
the Board, who are directly interested in the issue
must have given their inputs to the IAEA.
It should also not be difficult for the IAEA Board and
the General Conference to meet at short notice to
approve such agreements at very short notice, if there
is political will. Incidentally, Dr Anil Kakodkar, the
Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, leads our
delegation to the General Conference, while our
ambassador in Vienna is on the Board of Governors.
An important point to note is that the Board has to
recognise that there will be a qualitative difference
in the status of India in the IAEA when the new
arrangements are in place. We are presently in the
company of Pakistan and Israel when it comes to
safeguards issues. The three countries vote against an
Egyptian-sponsored call for all member States to
accept full-scope safeguards even though there is
language in the resolution that this will be in
accordance with their respective international
obligations. The vote is often preceded by long and
hard negotiations with Egypt and its supporters.
Even after the adoption of India-specific safeguards,
India cannot endorse full-scope safeguards, but we
will have to work out a way in which we distance
ourselves from Israel and Pakistan. But the
negotiations in the Board will be coloured by past
acrimony on this issue.
Egypt and other countries, even while accepting the
Indian arrangement, will maintain that India should
eventually accept full-scope safeguards. They will
also want to maintain their reservations on India's
status till we become either a Nuclear Weapon State or
a non-Nuclear Weapon State.
On the Indian side too, a change is imperative. In our
bid to keep our distance from the regulatory role of
the IAEA, we have devised a number of measures for
ourselves. Though we are keen advocates of the
technical cooperation programme, we do not accept
technical assistance from it. (Pakistan and China
accept such assistance.) We do not accept even safety
inspections from the IAEA in our installations.
Our attitude to the department of safeguards of the
IAEA should undergo a change. These changes will be
slow in coming, considering our present regulations
The additional protocol to the safeguards agreement
was devised by the IAEA to strengthen the inspection
regime and most countries have routinely accepted the
model protocol the Board has approved. We had
considered signing an additional protocol to our own
safeguards, but we found that it would be difficult to
frame a protocol for our special circumstances.
By requiring India to sign 'an' additional protocol
rather than 'the' additional protocol, the US
negotiators are supposed to have shown flexibility in
this regard. But it will take some time and effort to
carry the Board with us on a text that recognises the
Another additional complication with the IAEA is that
we do not want the Board to vote upon these documents
before we are sure that the NSG and the US Congress
are ready to follow through.
The NSG will be a particular challenge as negotiating
for an exception for India from its guidelines will be
like negotiating with Winston Churchill for the
liquidation of the British Empire. The NSG was set up
specifically to deny India nuclear fuel and technology
after our explosion of 1974. France, at that time a
non-party to the NPT, had agreed to supply fuel to
India and the formation of the group, originally of
seven countries, including France, ended that deal.
In 1992, the revelations about Iraq's illicit nuclear
weapons programme spurred the NSG to adopt controls on
nuclear-related dual-use goods that could make a
contribution to explosive technology in the hands of
non-Nuclear Weapon States.
Between the original guidelines that required
application of comprehensive IAEA safeguards and
physical protection against unauthorised use of
transferred material and the additional requirements
of a strict regime for use of dual-use technology,
there is a veritable fortress of rules and lists to
In 2004, the members even adopted a 'catch all'
mechanism, which authorises members to block any
export suspected to be destined to a nuclear weapons
programme even if the export material does not appear
on one of the control lists. The fact, of course, is
that determined States and individuals like A Q Khan
have been able to penetrate the fortress without any
let or hindrance.
The regime is voluntary and there is no requirement
for prior clearance of exports with the group, but as
in the instance of Russian supplies to India in 2001,
the other members can exert pressure on individual
countries, which violate the guidelines. Russia was
able to supply in 2006 only with the implicit
understanding of the US.
Members are supposed to report their export denials to
each other so that potential proliferators cannot
approach several suppliers with the same request and
get different responses. They are also expected to
refrain from making exports identical or similar to
those denied by other members. The guidelines do not
remain static, as members tend to add new items to the
prohibited list, especially of dual-use items.
An informal grouping, the Zangger Committee, with a
similar mandate was already in existence ever since
the NPT came into force. The Zangger Committee
characterises itself as a 'faithful interpreter of
Article III paragraph 2 of the NPT.' The Group's
objective was to reach a common understanding on the
definition of 'equipment or material especially
designed or prepared for the processing, use or
production of special fissionable material' and the
conditions and procedures for such exports.
Though The NSG adopted the Zangger Committee's
'Trigger List' and depended on it to resolve some
non-proliferation issues at a time when China had not
yet joined the NSG, the Zangger Committee was not
considered adequate to deal with the challenges of
India and Iraq, first because the Zangger Committee
dealt only with NPT signatories and its decisions were
not legally binding on its members. Their common
mission and their co-location in Vienna have made the
Zangger Committee and the NSG non-proliferation twins
born out of the NPT.
India had kept a distance from the NSG in the past as
we did not want to give any impression that we had
anything to do with the NPT institutions, even though
we were using the NSG guidelines to regulate our own
export of nuclear technology and materials. When the
NSG began an outreach programme with non-NSG members
in 2001, we participated in it once, but when we found
that it was not aimed at accommodating our needs, we
declined further contacts in Vienna.
We knew that we did not miss much as Israel and
Pakistan, which went to such meetings, came back
disappointed that the NSG had no intention to relax
its guidelines. Under pressure from NSG members, who
were otherwise friendly, we suggested that we would
not be averse to talks in New Delhi.
Accordingly, a team of ambassadors from Vienna and
some officials from NSG capitals came to New Delhi for
an interaction. It was evident from these meetings
that, unless there was a change in the US position,
such meetings would be futile.
The NSG members at that time were aware of an Indian
proposal to open up additional nuclear establishments
for IAEA inspection in return for relaxation of the
NSG guidelines, but the members, like the Americans,
were not enthusiastic.
The atmosphere in the NSG improved after the India-US
Joint Statement of 2005, though an American proposal
to put the nuclear deal on the agenda of the NSG
Plenary Meeting in May 2006 was not accepted as the
deal had not become operational. On the Russian supply
of fuel to India in 2006, the US State Department
stated: 'Deals to supply that fuel should move forward
on the basis of a joint initiative, on the basis of
steps that India will take, but it has not yet taken.'
Japan and Australia were particularly firm on
examining matters only after the India-US deal became
operational. In the NSG, the general trend was for
countries, which have nuclear power plants and other
equipment to sell to be more positive than those,
which had no business to transact under any new
A fundamental premise of the NSG is that any country
that receives supplies should accept full-scope
safeguards. China initially joined the Zangger
Committee and not the NSG because China was at that
time in the process of supplying a reactor to
Pakistan. Since the NPT does not require full scope
safeguards as a condition of supply, China's
membership of the Zangger Committee did not prevent
them from supplying the reactor to Pakistan.
By joining the NSG at that time, China would have
forsaken its right to supply nuclear equipment to
Pakistan. A US representative to the NSG revealed this
when China applied for NSG membership subsequently.
Since India will not accept full-scope safeguards
under the deal, the NSG will need to make a change in
its fundamental position. The India-specific
safeguards, which the IAEA approves, will be subjected
to an analysis to see whether it will have sufficient
safeguards against diversion of nuclear material or
dual use equipment.
For this reason, Russia is supposed to have advised
India to circulate its draft of the safeguards to the
members of the NSG in advance.
The strategy of the United States in the context of
the NSG will be to ask the NSG members to take note of
the steps that India has taken as a 'contributing
partner' in the non-proliferation regime. It will also
ask NSG members to transfer the trigger list items and
related technologies only to the safeguarded civil
nuclear facilities in India as long as India continues
to meet the other requirements of the NSG. The
relaxation will be sought on the ground that India has
accepted IAEA safeguards in perpetuity for its
civilian nuclear facilities, it has a moratorium on
testing in place, it will sign an Additional Protocol
with the IAEA, it has stringent export controls and it
will adhere strictly to the NSG guidelines on exports.
Here, interested governments will argue that India had
no intention to be a contributing partner in the
non-proliferation regime as the Indian position is
that the nuclear deal is merely an energy agreement.
Another requirement of the NSG is that adequate
verification measures should be in place to ensure
that the supplies of the participating states are not
diverted to weapons purposes. The bilateral agreement
between India and the US envisages IAEA inspections of
civilian establishments in India and a certain amount
of trust is an element in the agreement. A
multilateral group like the NSG might want other
verification measures, which may prove anathema to
China's position will be the most crucial in the
entire NSG exercise. At the first NSG meeting after
the India-US Joint Statement, China had pressed the US
for a similar deal for Pakistan. China has been lying
low, but it has not made secret of its opposition to
the deal. But China tends to be eminently reasonable
in the international arena and, therefore, may point
out that the exception should be criteria based rather
than country based. If other countries adopt similar
measures as India has done, they should be treated in
a similar manner.
Though the US position is that no other exception will
be made, it may close its eyes to the advantage it may
give to Pakistan and China to enhance their nuclear
cooperation. The Chinese position may enjoy some
support among the other NSG members. China will also
look for some gains for itself in the light of the
impression that the 123 Agreement with China is not as
favourable to China as in the Indian case.
Although nuclear tests are not mentioned in the 123
Agreement, it is premised on an Indian moratorium on
testing, which finds mention in the India-US Joint
Statement of 2005. The debate in Parliament and
elsewhere about the need for India to protect its
sovereign right to test may well have created
suspicion in the minds of the NSG members and they may
well make a reference in the revised guidelines to the
termination of the arrangements in the event of a
nuclear test by India.
The US will naturally welcome such a provision, which,
according to it, is already included in the 123
The extent of challenges within the NSG will depend on
the degree of firmness with which the United States
will defend the agreement and ensure that it is not
changed to India's disadvantage. But at the same time,
the US will not favour a situation, which will
dismantle the NSG and leave it to the member States to
deal with India and others in accordance with their
Although an exception for India will end the rationale
for the existence of the group, the US will favour
continuation of the Group and will do everything
possible to maintain the integrity of the NSG.
The US has promised all help to persuade their friends
and allies to accommodate India, but India will have
to work bilaterally with each of the 45 members, as
implementation of the guidelines is an individual
rather than a collective responsibility. The success
we have accomplished in befriending Brazil and South
Africa should help us in the NSG. In the past, they
have been rather adamant about full-scope safeguards.
The ultimate compromise that the NSG should make is to
accept India as a member of the group. It will be
logical as no other country has better credentials
than India in terms of the objective of the NSG to
prevent exports that will lead to proliferation. Even
in the aftermath of our nuclear tests, authorities on
export controls had certified that India had an
impeccable record in export control.
If the criteria for membership of the NSG alone were
to be considered, without considering our NPT status,
there was no reason to exclude India from the NSG.
Since India will soon have the capacity to export not
only components, but also reactors, the NSG should
welcome India to its fold. It may be seen today as a
revolutionary move like admitting Russia into NATO,
but today's miracles may be tomorrow's reality.
T P Sreenivasan, a former member of the Indian Foreign
Service, was India's ambassador to the United Nations,
Vienna, and governor for India, International Atomic
Energy Agency, Vienna.
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