The Nuclear cake, with Kerry on top?

John Kerry’s visit to India was important in many ways. What was also on his agenda was the operationalising the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement. When Kerry announced his approval of the idea behind sabka saath, sabka vikaas, it was rightly understood the civilian nuclear programme would be an important part of discussions in New Delhi. Before his visit, policymakers were looking for ways to indicate India’s commitment to the programme, and more importantly, to opening the doors for foreign players.

Recently, the Indian government’s decision to ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol was highlighted widely. While it is, undoubtedly, a step which shows that India’s civilian nuclear programme is on the government’s agenda, it is unclear why it is being touted as a landmark event. This decision is, at best, one which shows that India is willing to stand by existing promises, as opposed to progress in this regard. Indeed, if India were to not ratify the Protocol, it would not make any sense at all, since the protocol was introduced especially for India after series of negotiations and merely relate to IAEA inspections of civilian reactors, leaving military ones untouched.

The decision to ratify the Additional Protocol itself has been widely appreciated, nevertheless, and it is likely that some stakeholders will now push for removal or a substantial amendment of the nuclear liability laws (even referred to as the “nuclear fog”) as part of continuing legislative ‘reform’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to discuss these matters extensively during his interaction with head of states from Japan, Australia, China and the USA over the next two months, and many are arguing the only way to truly move forward with foreign participation in India’s civilian programme is by addressing existing concerns relating to the liability law.

Previously, I have argued that some of the enthusiasm calling for major changes to the liability law is misplaced, especially considering how some commentators suggest that the current government’s majority in the house can be used to expedite the process. As concerns keep emerging about the manner in which the government may circumvent or dilute the liability law substantially, policymakers must ensure that while India must stand by promises which have been made before the international community and its people, the momentum is not exploited by some stakeholders to bring in legislative changes which may prove to be detrimental to India’s interests. Leading the charge, undoubtedly, will be the USA. What remains to be seen is whether the government can stand its ground on the issue of supplier liability (perhaps not acceptable in its current form).

4 Responses to The Nuclear cake, with Kerry on top?

  1. nehath August 6, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    There are certain awaited candles on India nuclear cake to lit from couple of years like Indo-US nuclear deal. Now days, desiring for a membership in Nuclear Suppliers Group made India to sign IAEA Additional Protocol. The new government visited almost every possible country which can give support to India at NSG platform. But certain things are in quite sharp contrast. Its India Nuclear Liability Law which been made to safeguard state and citizen from any nuclear accident. We are changing it now because foreign investors are not comfortable with it. This is Indian national law but we are in mood to alter it for foreigners, quite astonishing. The IAEA Additional Protocol is been signed for civilian nuclear facilities what about defence nuclear credentials. In this context, it is all nothing just US discriminatory approach towards India.

  2. Gravity August 6, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    Why the hell our government is not paying any heed towards the plea of its people who are not at all in support of nuclear program whether it is for civilian or military purposes.Predominantly, it labels itself for the civilian nuclear energy usage but in reality is different as its nukes are rising high and high. Secondly nuclear civil liability law have been the major issue and would remain there. T India initially should consult the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear liability law as a means to ensure the objective.

  3. Andy Sandy August 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Neither does the deal constrain how India uses the weapons-useable materials produced so far. A major source of such weapons-useable material is the plutonium in the spent fuel of the unsafeguarded Indian power reactors. Over the years, some 9,000 kilograms of reactor-grade plutonium may have been produced in these reactors. The deal will create the potential for the rapid buildup of a much larger Indian nuclear arsenal. It will bail out a failing Indian nuclear energy program that has had little regard either for the economics or the environmental and health consequences of its activities. It is also likely to offer little real benefit to India’s poor. It is not often that so much harm may be done to so many by so few.

  4. Hassan Ehtisham August 6, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Weakening export controls for India under the obligation of Indo US nuclear deal, will automatically weaken them for Iran and even terrorist groups who might want to buy the means to make mass destruction weapons. Export controls today depend on groups of supplier countries that have agreed among themselves not to export dangerous technologies. The principle is mutual restraint. If, however, the United States drops export controls to help its friend India, Russia will drop controls to help its friend Iran, and China will drop controls to help its friend Pakistan. That is the way international controls work. India, like Iran, has decided to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful nuclear cooperation. From this standpoint, the two countries are indistinguishable. It will be impossible to convince Russia to refrain from supplying Iran, or China from supplying Pakistan, with the same technologies that the United States wants to sell India. U.S. legitimization of India’s nuclear weapon program will also make it harder to convince Russia and China to brand Iran as an outlaw in the U.N. Security Council.

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