| Burns addresses a news conference in New Delhi. (AP)
New Delhi, Dec. 8: The US has yielded precious little in the reconciled bill on peaceful nuclear cooperation with India. Its language has changed but its intent remains the same — to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons from South Asia and “encourage” India to not increase production of nuclear material for weapons.
The cooperation will end if India conducts another nuclear test.
The bill is clear that India will neither get full nuclear cooperation from the US nor will it get a lifetime supply of nuclear fuel for its civilian facilities in return for putting them under international inspection (safeguards) in perpetuity.
There will be stringent end-use monitoring of technology transferred to India with no access for Indian firms to enrichment and fuel-reprocessing technologies. Besides accepting inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), India will also have to accept another set of US safeguards, which will kick in if America feels that the former are ineffective.
There will be stringent annual certification of India’s good behaviour, including keeping Congress “currently informed” that India is “fully and actively” participating in US and international efforts to “to dissuade, isolate and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran”.
That full nuclear cooperation will not be available to India is evident in almost every part of the proposed bill. The US will not supply enrichment and fuel-reprocessing technologies to India and has been enjoined to work with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to restrict their transfer to India.
India cannot stockpile nuclear fuel for the life cycle of its safeguarded plants. The US Congress wants that the fuel for safeguarded Indian facilities “should be commensurate with reasonable reactor operating requirement”.
The US Congress Conference Committee members argue that stockpiling of fuel might “enable India to break its commitments or end its moratorium on nuclear testing and maintain its civilian energy production despite unilateral or international sanctions”. They want to reserve the capacity to punish India should it do so.
They have also clarified the real meaning of Manmohan Singh’s assurance to Parliament on March 6 this year that if a disruption in fuel supplies occurs, the US along with Russia, France and the UK would help restore fuel supplies.
The US, they say, will be concerned with disruptions only due to “market failures”. The Indian concern about violation of fuel supply contract by others (such as by the US in the case of Tarapur) has been turned on its head.
End-use verification has a new name in the reconciled bill — Nuclear Export Accountability Programme. But its objectives remain the same — identifying the authorised recipients of the nuclear technology, ensuring its use for peaceful, safeguarded activities and preventing its transfer without prior US consent.
The double layer of safeguards — the first layer of IAEA then of the US safeguards — still remains in the reconciled bill. The new bill refers to them as arrangements consistent with requirements of Section 123 a.1 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The relevant section talks of “safeguards as set forth in the agreement of cooperation” — they will be agreed in advance and will apply in perpetuity.
The reporting requirements relate to all nuclear activities of India, including the building of new nuclear facilities in the country after the enactment of the bill.
A new reporting requirement is of an annual estimate of electricity produced by India’s military reactors — ostensibly to estimate how much plutonium they produce for weapons, as this can be varied by changing the efficiency of the reactors.
The forced cooperation with Indian nuclear scientists has been retained. Its name has been changed from “Scientific Cooperative Threat Reduction Programme” to “Scientific Cooperative Nuclear Non-proliferation Programme”.
It directs the US secretary of energy to get into such cooperation with India even though India’s department of atomic energy or the defence establishment has never sought any interaction of its nuclear R&D scientists with their US counterparts.