Wednesday, May 28, 2008

‘Parity’, did you say?

Arun Shourie, Thursday, August 24, 2006

While India fantasises about “parity”, the US aims to acquire, in the form of an “ally”, an instrument that will do its bidding because it is dependent on the US, says Arun Shourie in the final part of his series on the nuclear deal

In the wake of the 18 July joint statement, five impressions were sought to be insinuated into the public mind. First and foremost, there will be parity: the benefits that would accrue to us, the responsibilities that we would undertake would be comparable to the benefits and responsibilities that accrue to the US. The joint statement recorded that the Prime Minister undertook that “India would reciprocally agree that it would be ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices, acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the US.” On 29 July, 2005, the Prime Minister told Parliament, “We shall undertake the same responsibilities and obligations as...the US.” “India will never accept discrimination.”

Second, we were told that the reference in the statement to India being, like the US, “a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology,” was an implicit recognition of India as a Nuclear Weapons State. The “backgrounder” about the July 18 statement that the PMO circulated on July 29, 2005, stated five times that India would be securing the same rights as Nuclear Weapons States, and that it would be undertaking only responsibilities to which other Nuclear Weapons States were subject. Our purpose in the negotiations, our principal negotiator said, is to be treated at par with Nuclear Weapons States.

Third, India would be negotiating a special safeguards arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. This would be “India specific” — the impression sought to be created was that this would be akin to the agreements the IAEA has with Nuclear Weapons States; that, if it was modeled on some standard protocol applicable to non-Nuclear Weapons States, it would be that minus some features and rigours.

Fourth, India alone would decide what sort of protocol to negotiate with the IAEA.

Finally, the fullest precautions had been taken to keep confidential the secrets vital to our weapons programme — about the materials, processes, facilities, future plans, the R&D work we are doing or will be doing in regard to this programme.

Even as we were being fed these doses, senior officials of the US Administration were stating clearly what objective the US is pursuing through the agreement, and the sort of status India would have vis a vis the IAEA safeguards. In her Opening Remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on April 5, 2006, Condoleezza Rice stated categorically, “India is not and is not going to become a member of the NPT as a nuclear weapons state. We are simply seeking to address an untenable situation. India has never been party to the NPT...but this agreement does bring India into the nonproliferation framework and thus strengthen the regime.”

She was just as explicit in her speech at the inaugural meeting of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin on July 10, 2006: “Let me be clear: We do not support India joining the NPT as a nuclear weapons state. Rather, the goal of our initiative is to include India, for the first time ever, in the global non-proliferation regime. By requiring India to place two-thirds of the existing and planned nuclear reactors under the watchful eye of IAEA, the initiative would be a net gain for the cause of non-proliferation...”

And the non-proliferation which the Congressmen she was addressing had in mind, which she was talking about is not of India surreptitiously passing on some nuclear secrets to other states, etc. She was clearly talking about the proliferation of nuclear weapons that comes about as India builds such weapons.


Two texts and some facts provide good benchmarks for assessing impressions insinuated into the public discourse by briefings.

The IAEA protocol that’s applicable to a Nuclear Weapons State is modeled after IAEA’s Information Circular 153 (INFCIRC/153). The one that is applicable to the rest is known as Information Circular 540.

While we are being fed soporifics about the protocol with IAEA being “India specific”, the Senate Bill prescribes, in Section 113(1), that the Additional Protocol we’d have to sign with IAEA would be based on the Model Additional Protocol “as set forth in IAEA Information Circular (INFCIRC) 540.”

And that Circular states just as clearly, “Such protocols shall contain all of the measures in this Model Protocol.” Given this binding declaration, either we would sign the standard, model protocol plus additional provisions, or sign more or less the standard protocol and have it labeled, “India specific”!

But to revert to the obligations of Nuclear Weapons and Non-NuclearWeapons States. The contrast between the two Model Protocols is a textbook illustration of Gandhiji’s saying, “Law is the convenience of the powerful.” At first, the NPT did not require the five Nuclear Weapons States to subject themselves to the safeguards of IAEA. When objections were raised, the Nuclear Weapons States agreed to conclude “Voluntary Offer Agreements”. Under these, Nuclear Weapons States submit lists of “eligible facilities”. The IAEA selects a small sample of them that it will inspect. The US, for instance, in 1993, placed materials that are, in its view, in “excess of defense needs” under IAEA safeguards. Information Circular 540 itself states in the foreword, “The Board of Governors has also requested the Director General to negotiate additional protocols or other legally binding agreements with Nuclear Weapons States incorporating those measures provided for in the Model Protocol that each Nuclear-Weapons State has identified as capable of contributing to the non-proliferation and efficiency aims of the Protocol, when implemented in regard to that State, and as consistent with that State’s obligations under Article I of the NPT.” That is, the choice of which measures to include is left to the judgment of the Nuclear Weapons States.

The entire tenor of INFCIRC/153 is solicitous. Clause 8, dealing with “Provision of information to the Agency,” states, “The Agency shall require only the minimum amount of information and data consistent with carrying out its responsibilities under the Agreement. Information pertaining to facilities shall be the minimum necessary for safeguarding nuclear material subject to safeguards under the Agreement. In examining design information, the Agency shall, at the request of the State, be prepared to examine on premises of the State design information which the State regards as being of particular sensitivity. Such information would not have to be physically transmitted to the Agency provided that it remained available for ready further examination by the Agency on the premises of the State.”

Similarly, Clause 9 binds the Agency to secure the consent of the State for the inspectors designated to inspect facilities: “The visits and activities of Agency inspectors shall be so arranged as to reduce to a minimum the inconvenience and disturbance to the State and to the peaceful nuclear activities inspected as well as to ensure protection of industrial secrets or other confidential information coming to the inspectors’ knowledge.”

A single example will show up the contrast. Regarding mining and processing activities, Clause 33 provides, “The Agreement should provide that safeguards shall not apply thereunder to material in mining or ore processing activities.” Contrast this with what Section 4(o)(2)(B) of the House Bill requires the US President to ascertain from India, and report to the US Congress:

“(i) an estimate for the previous year of the amount of uranium mined in India; (ii) the amount of such uranium that has likely been used or allocated for the production of nuclear explosive devices; (iii) the rate of production of: (I) fissile material for nuclear explosive devices; and (II) nuclear explosive devices; and (iv) an analysis as to whether imported uranium has affected such rate of production of nuclear explosive devices.”

But “parity” it is!

And those are just the formal provisions of the Model Protocol applicable to Nuclear Weapons States. In practice, things are even more in their favour - they are, after all, the kartas of the IAEA.

Nuclear Weapons States accept only voluntary, revocable inspections — they can withdraw any civilian nuclear installation under safeguards at any time. Also there are no firewalls separating their civilian and military facilities: materials from the former make their way into the latter. Further, the number of facilities they have agreed to place under inspections is minimal. The total number of nuclear power reactors in P-5 is 217. Of these 217, just 11 are open to inspections. Of the US’ 104 nuclear power reactors , only five are under IAEA safeguards.

In contrast to this figure — one-twentieth of facilities being volunteered for safeguards — our Government has agreed to put two-thirds of our reactors under safeguards. That’s just the beginning as of now. The Bush Administration has been quoted as saying, all new reactors we construct will be under safeguards, ninety per cent of India’s reactors will come to be under IAEA safeguards in the future.

Moreover, the inspections under INFCIRC/540 are of an entirely different order than the ones carried out in the case of Nuclear Weapons States. In their case, the inspections are perfunctory. In countries covered by INFCIRC/540 they are thorough, comprehensive and intrusive. Article II of the model Additional Protocol specifies that the IAEA shall collect data through inspections as intrusive and as comprehensive as it deems fit on every aspect of a country’s nuclear programme. These inspections include: regular, short notice inspections and inspector access to all aspects of the nuclear cycles of the country — including R&D about future projects as well as all sites connected with the manufacturing, import and exports of materials; information about and providing access to all buildings on a nuclear site; wide area environmental sampling in and beyond declared locations as and when IAEA deems these necessary; the location, operational status and the estimated annual production capacity of uranium mines...(and) concentration plants for uranium and thorium... The country must also provide plans “for the succeeding 10-year period relevant to the development of the nuclear fuel cycle (including planned nuclear fuel cycle related R&D activities)...”

In perpetuity

But there is more. It is not just that the US Bills specify the type of protocol India shall sign with the IAEA, they impose another condition. Section 4(b)(2,3) of the House Bill specifies, that the agreement between India and the US will become effective only upon the US President filing a determination with the US Congress that, inter alia, “(2) India and the IAEA have concluded an agreement requiring the application of IAEA safeguards in perpetuity in accordance with IAEA standards, principles, and practices (including IAEA Board of Governors Document GOV/1621 (1973)) to India’s civil nuclear facilities, materials, and programmes¿ including materials used in or produced through the use of India’s civil nuclear facilities. (3) India and the IAEA are making substantial progress toward concluding an Additional Protocol consistent with IAEA principles, practices, and policies that would apply to India’s civil nuclear program.”

Section 4(c)(2)(B) is equally explicit and specific in requiring “the application of safeguards in accordance with IAEA practices.” The Senate Bill adds to “principles, pra- ctices, and policies,” “standards.”

Further, the definitions that have been incorporated in the Bills — of “nuclear material”, “explosive device”, and “military facility” - ensure that the inspections shall be complete, comprehensive, intrusive, and wide-ranging. Notice in the foregoing Section, the words “in perpetuity”. In the testimony referred to earlier, Condoleezza Rice stated categorically, “We have been very clear with the Indians that the permanence of the safeguards is permanence of the safeguards, without condition. In fact, we reserve the right, should India test, as it has agreed not to do, or should India in any way violate the IAEA safeguard agreement to which it would be adhering, that the deal from our point of view would at that point be off.”

Not just IAEA inspections

How thorough and intrusive these inspections will be becomes evident by a mere glance at the seven heads on which Section 4(o)(2)(B) of the House requires the US President to report to Congress in regard to the sites that are placed under IAEA safeguards. But the next part deals with sites that are kept out of the IAEA’s purview, namely our military facilities. Section 4(o)(2)(C) that the report of the President “shall also include (in a classified form if necessary) a description of whether US civil nuclear assistance to India is directly, or in any other way, assisting India’s nuclear weapons program, including the use of any US equipment, technology, or nuclear material by India in an unsafeguarded nuclear facility or nuclear-weapons related complex; (ii) the replication and subsequent use of any US technology in an unsafeguarded nuclear facility or unsafeguarded nuclear weapons-related complex, or for any activity related to the research, development, testing, or manufacture of nuclear explosive devices; and (iii) the provision of nuclear fuel in such a manner as to facilitate the increased production of highly-enriched uranium or plutonium in unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.”

Apart from the implications that such monitoring shall have for our security, reflect: by what means will the US President collect information about each of these features of the military facilities which we have not opened to IAEA inspections? Moles? Spies? Open inspections independent of those by IAEA?

Nor is that the end. Section 4(o)(4) requires that, in addition, the US President must report annually on new nuclear reactors or facilities India has constructed - whether civilian or military - and how it has disposed of the spent fuel from its civilian nuclear program.

Section 108(a) of the Senate Bill provides also that “The President shall keep the appropriate Congressional Committees fully and currently informed of the facts and implications of any significant nuclear activities of India, including (1) any material non-compliance on the part of the Government of India with...” — agreements with the US, the IAEA Protocol, as well as the Additional Protocol...

And if India is found wanting on any of these grounds by any of the inspections, Section 102(6) of the Senate Bill and Section 4(d)3 of the House Bill call for exemplary punishment: the discontinuation of exports to India by the US and “by any other party” or “source”.

Pursuing a clear objective

Other aspects in the US Bills have caused grave apprehension: the assessment that India has, and the expectation that it shall continue to have, a foreign policy “congruent to” that of the US. The fact that, while in the July 18 statement President Bush categorically pledged that “he will work to achieve full civil nuclear cooperation with India...”; and, again, that US will work with other NSG countries “to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India,” both the House and Senate Bills forbid US from sharing with or selling to India any information, or constituent of technologies relating to enrichment of uranium, the reprocessing of spent fuel, or the production of heavy water. The Senate Bill goes farther. Section 103(7) of this Bill declares US policy to be, “Given the special sensitivity of equipment and technologies related to the enrichment of uranium, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, and the production of heavy water, to work with members of the NSG, individually and collectively, to further restrict the transfers of such equipment and technologies, including to India.”

Features such as these have occasioned grave apprehensions, which have been compounded by the evasive statements that our Government has kept making on each of these matters, and by the plants it has managed to place in the media. Therefore, it is entirely in the fitness of things that the Prime Minister has now gone beyond the generality, “Nothing will be done that violates the July 18 statement,” and stated clearly what the country’s stand is on every specific issue.

We must always remember that, while we fantasise about “parity”, the US - and, from its point of view, quite naturally - aims to acquire, in the form of an “ally”, an instrument. An instrument that will do its bidding because it is dependent on the US. Seeking “energy security” by making ourselves dependent on imported reactors and imported uranium is to only further that design.

But energy is just a minor instrument. The much more consequential instrument is to have India become dependent for its security - vis a vis China, for instance - on the US nuclear umbrella. An India with a deterrent of its own thwarts this aim. Hence, the US has been pursuing a clear, fourfold strategy:

As India has not signed the NPT, make it accept the provisions of the NPT: and we have the testimony of one of the principal architects of this nuclear deal that, through it, the US has got India to accept conditions that go beyond the NPT.

Get India to submit itself to IAEA inspections as a Non-Nuclear Weapons State.

Get India to adhere to the CTBT even though the it hasn’t been signed, and without an exit clause.

Get India to halt, roll-back and then eliminate all fissile production.

Once India is ensnared into these four pits, faced with an overbearing China, it will have no alternative but to seek shelter under the American nuclear umbrella. Every Section of the Bills explicitly aims to realise this goal - of an India drained of its strategic nuclear programme, and thus a dependent India. Step by step, our Government was getting drawn into furthering the US design. Public pressure has at last led the Prime Minister to draw the line.

That he has done so, and in unambiguous language and in terms of specifics, is great credit to him.

But that things went so far holds two warnings. First, till the final dot is placed on the deal, all of us, in particular our scientists, must watch every step - else the paralysing concessions will creep back in. One Bill has already passed the House. The other is to be voted upon by the Senate within a month. Once the agreed version becomes law, the US President will be bound by it. And this President has been drained of much of even limited the influence that an American President might normally have to alter the provisions in our favour.

Second, an agreement with some other country, however friendly it may be at the moment, is not the way either to self-sufficiency in energy or to self-reliance in security. For these we must develop our own sources—hydroelectric power, power from inexhaustible non-conventional sources. We must redouble mining our own deposits of uranium. We must, as the President has reminded us in his Independence Day Address, accelerate work on thorium-based reactors.

And we must never enter into an agreement that closes our options.


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