'N-security talks won't stop India from being a winner'


Senior Member
Oct 5, 2009
'N-security talks won't stop India from being a winner'

Even as leaders of 47 countries are attending the nuclear security summit here, and deliberating on ways to prevent nuclear stockpiles from landing in the hands of terrorists, experts and observers are of the unanimous view that India continues to remain a clear winner in terms of the civil nuclear cooperation agreements it has inked with the US, France, Canada and Russia.

The experts feel that India without compromising on its decision not to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the CTBT, pursues its non-proliferation goals in the way it sees fit and also simultaneously ensure access to global nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities.

According to a report in the Asia Times online, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has shown "superb salesmanship" in ensuring that the US goes ahead with its nuclear reprocessing agreement with India.

The deal, formalised and signed in March this year, allows India to acquire spent nuclear fuel from the US, and as a result, places India in an elite group along with Japan and several European nations. "At a time when overall relations have been under something of a cloud, the reprocessing agreement, and its timely completion, suggests that a bipartisan commitment at the highest levels of the US government on the single most consequential issue area in bilateral relations for New Delhi - high-technology trade - remains intact," the web site quotes Sourabh Gupta, a senior research associate at Samuels International Associates in Washington, as saying.

The web site says that unlike the new START treaty between Russia and the US, and the recent release of the NPR, the US-India deal has not captured everyone's attention as the curtain rises on the summit, but according to Gupta: "From the day this agreement passed muster at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in September 2008 - despite their non-constructive role in the NSG at the time, Beijing has known that the US-India pact was a done deal.''

Gupta also says that a similar set of civilian nuclear arrangements with Pakistan is not going to happen.

"I wouldn't be happy if I were [President Jintao], but China is also to blame for not blocking the original Nuclear Security Group waiver for India which was approved by consensus," the web site quotes Miles Pomper, a senior research associate at the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, as saying.

"India walks away the clear winner here. The Obama-Singh meeting further reinforces the perception that the US wants to highlight its strong relationship with India no matter how strong this relationship might be at present, especially in India''s eyes,"the Asia Times says.

"It is not the reprocessing capability right now that is the danger. India had sufficient capability to reprocess material in its existing unsafeguarded reactor facilities to build upon its stockpile. It is what the agreement says about the willingness of the US to stand up to India, particularly when it comes the possibility of an Indian nuclear test such as one that clearly shows ability to develop a two-stage thermonuclear weapon. That is what I would worry about if I were China," Pomper says.

Pomper says the deal gives India better terms of reprocessing rights from the US than both Japan, which is a non-nuclear state, and Euratom, which is a mix of European nuclear and non-nuclear states.

"This seems to open the door to further Indian nuclear tests. Also missing is a provision that it could be suspended in the case of a safeguards violation by Euratom and that was missing from this [agreement]," he claims.

"For India, this is too good to be true, but US negotiators seem to have a congenital predisposition to giving away the store when they negotiate with India," said Pomper.

India is not changing any of its previously held positions with respect to nuclear issues as a result of signing this agreement. It will not be signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty anytime soon, for example. The same is true for the NPT.

Gupta, however, emphasizes that the assurances that India has given here are contained "mainly within the understandings that were reached during negotiation of the umbrella 123 Agreement, though he admits that some of its clauses are ambiguous.

"According to the final agreement, the reprocessing of spent fuel is meant to be done at two dedicated stand-alone facilities, with India allowed to make additions and modifications without going back to the US for additional negotiations," the web site quotes Rajeswari Rajagopalan, a senior fellow in security studies at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

"In fact, India could take up the lead in setting up an international reprocessing center in India for the whole region. Such a facility could possibly aid Iran in getting reprocessed spent nuclear fuel for its civilian energy programs," she adds.

"France and Russia have been more enthusiastic about working with India in its civilian nuclear energy sector. In fact, the India-Russian agreement signed during Prime Minister Putin's visit envisages building up 16 nuclear reactors in three different locations, of which six are to be finished by 2017," said Rajagopalan.

"If the US does not get its act together, Russia and France will clearly have a head start. It is quite certain that commerce and big business are issues that the US will understand and accordingly tailor its policies," she adds.


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