Difficult Choices-September 2006
India has to tread very carefully on the nuclear agreement with the US
By Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in Parliament on August 17, was a much-awaited event as he was expected to clarify a range of issues pertaining to the Indo-US July 18 Agreement. Despite mixed reactions from the main opposition party, the Bhartiya Janata Party, the Left parties that support the government, and the scientific community, the most important thing that Singh said was, ‘before placing any of our nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, we will ensure (that) all restrictions on India have been lifted. This would include suitable amendments to the US legislation to allow for such cooperation, the passing of the bilateral agreement with India and the adoption of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines.’

No one asked the Prime Minister whether this meant that India would be treated at par with members of the NSG and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and whether India would have access to high and dual-use technologies. Or that this would be restricted to imported fuel, materials and reactors alone. There is also the question mark over the imported spent fuel; whether it would be taken back or could be reprocessed by India? This is not all. How sure is the Prime Minister that successive Indian governments will not succumb to the US’ pressure and compromise on indigenous nuclear R&D including the breeder programme to accomplish the three-stage nuclear cycle to utilise thorium reserves? That there would be no capping or slowing of India’s strategic programmes? That India’s foreign policy would be determined solely by India’s national interests?
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