Carving mountains out of Uranium: Essentials of the Nuclear Deal

It seems a sudden flood of Indo-US political bonhomie has enveloped all forms of print and electronic media, and one can always encounter a bunch of enthusiastic minds piecing their thoughts together with some words continuously reverberating in ears, ‘Indo-US Nuclear Deal’.

Interestingly, the concept is familiarly unfamiliar to most of those enthusiastic minds and why not? This agreement is somewhat like comprehending a mini constitution with plethora of clauses, paragraphs and infinite ambiguity. However, the recent political hype compels us to revisit the deal and un-puzzle it, after all citizens are ought to be accustomed to their constitution.

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Pushpaaa ye deal kya hai re?

After sanctioning the deal, India agreed to allow IAEA to access and inspect its civilian nuclear program. Moreover, it continued its moratorium on nuclear weapon testing. Ex Prime Minister Manmohan Singh however reiterated that this would not stop them from developing nuclear weapons.

Further, the deal allows US companies to build nuclear reactors in India. US in return would be obliged to sell dual use nuclear technology and raw materials for creating nuclear bombs and receive imported fuel for its reactors but USA is no ‘samajsevak’, mind you! Through this it wants to keep a check on emerging China at one side, terrorist friendly Pakistan on the other.

 

SRK’s power of a common man, really?

Well the sole purpose of the deal is to develop nuclear weapons and consolidate India’s defence power and brings us directly in line with few nuclear powers of the world in order to achieve a say on the international platform. As per some details, nuclear reactors would be used to generate electricity and provide a fillip to the slowly developing nation and respite to common man. However, if the govt. is planning to do so then importing extravagantly expensive technologies from US seems to be a pretty bad idea!

 

History and mystery- *no yawn*

The initial framework for Indo-US civil nuclear deal was first launched on July 18, 2005 as form of a joint statement by the then US president George W.  Bush and Dr.Manmohan Singh in which India agreed to place its entire civil nuclear facilities under the safeguard of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange of whole hearted nuclear cooperation from USA.

The journey of the above statement towards its destination i.e. finalizing as an agreement was a treacherous roller coaster ride as it involved overcoming heaped obstacle bundled into several amendments and approvals.

The foundation of this deal was hailed by many as a major breakthrough in Indian defence sector, the roots of which can be traced in the history of the contemporary world. In 1968, a historically significant treaty called Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty or NPT was signed by five nuclear states, USA, USSR, UK, China and France.

 

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According to its provisions, the country which acquired nuclear explosives prior to 1 Jan, 1967 are the only ones entitled to its possession. Moreover, these countries cannot transfer nuclear weapons, devices and explosives to other states. Being extremely discriminating in its character, India refused to sign it followed by refusals from Pakistan and Israel. Now a nuclear deal meant access to humungous weapons without submitting to the discriminatory NPT which is quite a big deal!

The nuclear cooperation with India falls under section 123 agreement of US Atomic Energy Act which had to be amended to put in effect the joint statement of 2005. To operationalise this agreement, USA passed Hyde Act in 2006 which modified agreement 123 to facilitate matters. According to this agreement, the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation required separate approvals by US congress and Indian cabinet.

This amendment presented invitation to a sea of structured opposition from the communist allies of UPA, NPT activists and some member states of NSG who claimed that it is surrender to the NPT in disguise.

Hopping on the next step, the IAEA board of governors approved the safeguard agreement on august 1, 2008 which formed ground for the next significant approval by the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG).

In a sigh of relief, on 6th September 2008, the NSG nodded for the waiver in a meeting in Vienna however the consensus could be achieved only after hiccups from few member states.  This moment of joy received enthusiastic praises from around the globe.

The day finally arrived on October  1, 2008 the US congress voted to approve the Indo-US nuclear deal and it was finally transformed into a law on October 10 the same year only after fixing the loopholes suggested by the then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherji.

 

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Some good Indian unglis!

Although the law was passed, a controversial interference by the Indian Govt. hampered the movement of some serious business! In 2010, both the houses of the parliament passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act which pronounces that in case of a nuclear accident, the US investor company would be liable to refund the loss entirely. This importance becomes apparent when incidents like Fukushima nuclear tragedy happen. Poor they! Bore the loss.

 

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Hindustani Jai- Vilayti Veeru

This provision inevitably raised eyebrows in US administration and stalled the deal. Until recently when beyond the hugs and teas, Mr. Obama and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to a “breakthrough understanding” to clear the logjam by shifting liability to Indian Govt. and companies. In cases of an accident, 50% of liability would be borne by the government, rest by insurance companies ranging to rs. 15000

Moving at a snail’s pace, the Indo-US deal is finally gaining momentum. The whole fate however, rests on the nuclear companies on US who may or may not invest in India. In that case it becomes imperative on India’s part to reciprocate, the details of which are too ambiguous to discuss. Let’s continue doing what we always do….let’s WAIT!

Written By- Zainab Rashid

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