Nuked policy

Indian experts wary of new Indo-US nuclear partnership

By Ritu Gupta
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

the us has achieved the difficult feat of influencing India's nuclear policy. On July 18, 2005, during the four-day visit of prime minister Manmohan Singh to the country, India committed to undertake tangible steps to alter its nuclear policy in return for intangible promises of us president George W Bush. Bush and Singh agreed on the Next Steps In Strategic Partnership, which includes the possibility of the us cooperating with India in the field of civilian nuclear energy. While a casual observer might view the partnership as an end of usa's three decades of nuclear apartheid against India, many experts see it as a threat to India's national security.

"In return for Bush's promise to 'try' to work with the Congress to relax us laws and guidelines against India and to consult friends and allies to soften the impact of technology-control regimes, India has undone all that it stood for," rues noted security affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney. Nowhere does the joint statement issued by Singh and Bush explicitly say that the us would include India in the nuclear club, identified by the multilateral Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, 1978 . The club currently comprises the us, Russia , the uk, France and China. Also, the apparent perks won't come without obligations. India will have to identify and separate civilian and military nuclear facilities and programmes in a phased manner and filie a declaration regarding its civilian nuclear facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea), the un's nuclear regulatory body. It will also have to open its fast breeder reactors to iaea inspection (see box: Tricky obligations).

"It is totally against national interests," says A N Prasad, former director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (barc). "Because of this, India's fast breeder programme could be undermined and the cost of its nuclear weapons programme could dramatically escalate." P R Chari of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank, says barc reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium also facilitate a large amount of civilian research and activity. Firewalling military and civilian nuclear activities would deny scientists from university departments access to these research facilities.

Moreover, because India's military nuclear programme is just a minute fraction of its overall nuclear programme, setting apart nuclear facilities for only military purposes would be impractical and cost-prohibitive, experts assert. Thus, there is a danger the country will have to cap its nuclear weapons programme. Experts also decry the fact that India's unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, declared after the 1998 Pokhran tests, has become an international obligation now.

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