By S. M. Hali

On June 13, 2012, at the 3rd Indo-US Strategic Dialogue chaired by Indian External Minister S M Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held in Washington, a number of agreements were finalized. Prominent among them is the full implementation of the historic Civil Nuclear Initiative and the conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) committing both sides to negotiate an Early Works Agreement for the preliminary licensing and site development work associated with construction of the new Westinghouse reactors in Gujarat state, and the ongoing progress between General Electric-Hitachi and NPCIL on their MoU. The occasion also marked India’s expression of appreciation for the strong support extended by the United States for India's full membership in the four multilateral export control regimes—Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group.  On its part, the United States welcomed the steps taken by India in pursuing outreach with each of the regimes. A clear case of you scratch my back, I scratch yours!

Unfortunately, the development highlights the discriminatory policies of US to provide nuclear technology to India without it’s signing of the NPT. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament in general and complete disarmament.  NPT was the brainchild of the US. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China, which are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. 

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Unfortunately, by pressing home the US-India nuclear deal sans the prerequisite of India acceding to sign the NPT, displays the US abandonment of its own defined

standards and changing rules as it deems fit. Such a development smacks of double standards. Russia and France wanted nuclear commerce with  India  long  ago  but  were  unable  to  do  it  on their own but have now managed to follow suit in signing nuclear trade agreement with India. The US-India nuclear deal also depicts how the US was able to arm twist countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and IAEA to achieve its commercial ends. The US-India nuclear deal has weakened the NPT regime and the objective of non-proliferation has definitely taken a major blow. Ironically, India is not blameless in the realm of nuclear proliferation. The US State Department had slapped sanctions on YSR Prasad and Surendra Choudhary—both former and successive chiefs of the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India—for collaborating in providing assistance to Iran in pursuit of her efforts at enrichment of Uranium to weapon grade levels. According to US sources, Washington had informed Delhi as early as 2003 regarding suspicions of nuclear proliferation activities of ‘rogue Indian scientists’. Despite hectic Indian efforts to shake off the charges, the US authorities persistently maintained that the two Indian scientists had helped Iran in the pursuit of its nuclear ambitions; asserting that the sanctions were based on “credible information”. In 2009, the disappearance of an Indian nuclear scientist had sent alarm bells ringing in the nuclear watchdog agencies the world over. Lokanathan Mahalingam, who worked in the Simulator Training Division of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station, went missing on the morning of June 8. Four days later, his dead body was recovered, apparently he had fallen victim to his handlers’ greed in providing the nuclear secrets from Kaiga Nuclear Facility in the Karwar District. The facility has three units and uses pressurized heavy water reactor to generate 220 MW of power and forms an important link in the chain of plutonium producing cycle feeding the Indian nuclear weapons program. In addition the scientist had the experience of working at the Kalpakkam Nuclear Plant, making the scandal even more macabre.

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Despite these hair-raising incidents, if the US is hell bent upon dealing with India, then there is something amiss. The availability of uranium will result into diverting of Indian indigenous sources for building up of nuclear weapons through production of additional plutonium in its un-safeguarded nuclear plants. According to the deal, India agreed to open up 14 civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection, but would continue to shield eight military reactors from outside scrutiny. It may be remembered that just prior to signing the deal, both India and the US started proliferating the media with fictitious reports of a sharp rise in the number of nuclear warheads held by Pakistan and suggestions that Pakistan had overtaken India in its capacity of nuclear weapons in its arsenal. It is common knowledge that the number of warheads do not matter in nuclear weapons’ technology. It is the sophistication of the weapons, the delivery mechanism and ability to strike back in the event of a first strike that are relevant. Still the propaganda continued, to build a case for India.

On the other hand Pakistan’s authentic nuclear safety records suggest that a nuclear deal with Pakistan for promoting civil nuclear technology is essential to tide over its energy related problems. Yet not only the US is denying Pakistan a similar deal, but is pressurizing China to address ‘concerns’ about Chinese plans to add two reactors (Chashma 3 and 4) to the nuclear power plants supplied by it to Pakistan. Under the NSG guidelines, which China pledged to adhere to when it joined the group in 2004, it had agreed not to export nuclear reactors. However, China had signed contracts to set up two power reactors at Pakistan’s Chashma site, prior to its becoming a signatory to the NSG. Thus what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and sooner or later Pakistan’s requirements for a civilian nuclear energy deal will also have to be met, with or without signing the NPT.