New Delhi, Feb. 7: The Vajpayee-led NDA government had at no time offered to accept curtailing India’s strategic nuclear programme in return for nuclear cooperation from the US, former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra said today. Nor had the NDA agreed to put India’s fast breeder reactor programme under international inspection.
“We would not have agreed to any restriction on building additional facilities dedicated to the strategic nuclear programme. If the US had responded to the offer, this would have been made clear in the subsequent negotiations,” he said.
Mishra’s comments come at a time when the Manmohan Singh government is under criticism from nuclear scientists for giving away too much for nuclear cooperation with the US.
Singh signed a deal with President George W. Bush under which the US agreed to cooperate with India in civilian nuclear facilities. In return, India is to separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities.
The civilian facilities ' not only reactors but also research institutions ' are to be subject to intrusive inspections the government will agree to with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Mishra said the NDA had not accepted restrictions on facilities dedicated to the nation’s strategic nuclear programme and if anyone suggested anything to the contrary, it would be “a lie”.
The scientists are pointing at attempts to put the indigenous fast breeder reactor (FBR) programme under international inspection. The chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, has gone public with his criticism of the deal.
The real issue seems to be the FBR. Fast “breeder” reactors, as the name suggests, produce more fissile material than they consume and are a source of material for nuclear bombs as well as fuel for generating electricity. India is one of only six countries developing this technology.
The Indian FBR uses waste fuel from existing indigenous reactors to produce high-grade plutonium for a new generation of electricity generating nuclear plants. It is being developed without external help and scientists are reluctant to expose this nascent technology to international glare. This is precisely what would happen if it is put under international inspections or safeguards.
Mishra said the NDA did not have this possibility on the table for talks with the US. “The offer which we made was restricted to a couple of existing nuclear power reactors and to all such built by us on our own or with international cooperation. It did not include the reactors already under construction and certainly did not (include) the fast breeder reactors.”
The US, however, did not accept the NDA governme- nt’s offer.
“The only formal agreement signed by the NDA government in the nuclear field with the US was the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP). It does not in any manner affect the programme of a credible minimum nuclear deterrent as envisaged in India’s nuclear doctrine,” Mishra said.
The suggestion was that the present nuclear deal being negotiated with the US does precisely that. The Manmohan Singh government jumped from the NSSP to the July 18 joint statement on nuclear cooperation.
There are many, including the nuclear scientists, who believe that the question to ask is: Does the US want to help India meet energy needs or does it want to cap India’s strategic nuclear capability'