(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: The Hindu – Challenges Ahead For India’s Nuclear Diplomacy

The Hindu

Challenges Ahead For India’s Nuclear Diplomacy

Q. Discuss India’s Nuclear Policy & Its Challenges.

Answer: After the diplomatic successes of 2008, when
the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) exempted India from the cartel’s ban on atomic
sales to countries that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or
placed all their nuclear facilities under international safeguards, 2011 has not
been a very good year at all. Negotiations with the Japanese on a nuclear

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agreement have run aground, India’s liability law is being unfairly attacked by
its potential partners and, of course, the 46-nation NSG adopted new guidelines
for the export of sensitive nuclear technology this June — Including enrichment
and reprocessing (ENR) equipment and technology — that made the sale of these
items conditional on the recipient state fulfilling a number of “objective” and
“subjective” conditions. The first of these conditions, namely NPT membership
and full-scope safeguards, were specifically designed to dilute the 2008 waiver India received
and were not needed to ban ENR sales to any of the other three countries outside
the NPT (Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) since the NSG’s original guidelines —
with their catch-all NPT conditionality for the export of any kind of nuclear
equipment — continue to apply to them.

Though Washington denies targeting New Delhi and says it has
been working to restrict the sale of ENR equipment and technology for many years
now, the new guidelines’ redundant reference to the NPT was introduced in order
to fulfil an assurance that Condoleezza Rice, who was U.S. Secretary of State at
the time, gave Capitol Hill in 2008. Some Congressmen feared other nuclear
suppliers would steal a march on the United States by offering India
technologies the U.S. wouldn’t. To allay their concerns, the U.S. administration
said it would ensure an NSG-level ban on sensitive nuclear technology exports to
India. A draft was circulated in
November that year and finally approved in June 2011.

The fact that India failed to prevent the adoption of the new
guidelines despite knowing they were in the pipeline for more than two years
suggests a certain complacency on the Manmohan Singh government’s part.We
knowfromWikiLeaks cables that the issuewas dutifully raised by Indian diplomats
in many of their meetings with U.S. officials. But never was the proposed ENR
ban projected by the government as an attempt by Washington to unilaterally
rewrite the terms of the nuclear bargain it had struck with India.

When The Hindu broke the story about the G-8 deciding to
implement such a ban in 2009 pending its adoption by the full NSG, senior Indian
ministers took the view that this did not matter. It was only when the Nuclear
Suppliers Group finally adopted the new guidelines this June that South Block
decided to put on its punching gloves.

The fact is that the NSG’s 2008 decision to lift its embargo
on India was not some kind of unilateral concession. It was part of a complex
bargain involving reciprocal commitments by both sides. If the supplier nations
agreed to drop their insistence on the NPT and full-scope safeguards and open
the door to full civil nuclear cooperation with India, India committed itself to
fulfilling several onerous steps, including the difficult and costly separation
of its civilian and military nuclear programmes, the placing of its civilian
facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, the
signing of an Additional Protocol, as well as extending
support to a number of nonproliferation and disarmament-related initiatives at
the global level. At a fundamental level, the logic of this bargain hinged on
two components. First, the NSG was making a judgment about India’s status as a
responsible country with advanced nuclear capabilities. Second, the NSG and
India were acting on the basis of reciprocity. Though Indian officials made
their anger known almost immediately in off the record briefings, External
Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna finally provided the government’s formal response
to the new NSG guidelines in a suo moto statement to Parliament in August.
Noting the concerns that had been raised by MPs, he made the following
“clarifications”:

(1) The basis of India’s international civil nuclear
cooperation remains the special exemption from the NSG guidelines given on
September 6, 2008 “which contain reciprocal commitments and actions by both
sides.”

(2) That exemption accorded “a special status to India” and
“was granted knowing full well that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Pursuant to the “clean” exemption, “NSG members had
agreed to transfer all technologies which are consistent with their national
law” including technologies connected with the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Minister then noted the statements made by the U.S.,
France and Russia following the NSG’s June 2011 meeting in which each country
tried to assure India that the new guidelines would not “detract” from or
“affect” the original waiver granted in September 2008. Stating that not every
NSG member has the ability to transfer ENR items to other countries, Mr. Krishna
added: “We expect that those that do and have committed to do so in bilateral
agreements with  India, will live up to their legal commitments.” He also
held out a carrot — the huge expansion planned for India’s civil nuclear
industry — and repeated once again in that context that “we
expect that our international partners will fully honour their commitments in
this regard.” While the three big nuclear suppliers have all said the new
guidelines do not “detract” from the grand bargain of 2008, South Block should
not set much store by these assurances. The fact is that there has been a
setback and a diplomatic effort is needed to recover lost ground and ensure that
India is excluded from the purview of the new ENR restrictions imposed by the
NSG. The one supplier that has been the most forthcoming so far is France.
Indian officials will have taken heart from French Foreign Minister Alain
Juppe’s public articulation in an interview
in Delhi last month that France did not consider itself bound by the new
guidelines when it came to nuclear commerce with India. The Minister confirmed
that notwithstanding the NSG rules, Paris remained free to sell ENR items and
technology in a manner consistent with its national law and its bilateral
agreement. French diplomatic sources also told this writer that the French
delegation at the NSG meeting in June had entered a verbal reservation to the
new ENR guidelines questioning their applicability to India. The French
intervention was not challenged and was duly recorded in the minutes, the
sources said. Of course, the challenge for India will be to hold the French to
their word, as and when the requirement for cooperation in the ENR field is
required. Though India has its own capabilities in these fields, there is no
reasonwhy it should not seek access to the best international components and
equipment for the new reprocessing plant it has committed to build. With both
France and Russia, India must make it clear that the multibillion dollar
contracts which are on the anvil for
the purchase of new reactors will also depend on Paris and Moscow’s willingness
to follow through on their promises and commitments on full civil nuclear
cooperation. The U.S. has not so far committed itself to sell ENR equipment to
India. New Delhi can live with that. But not with American efforts to block
others from cooperating with it.


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