13 September 2008

India reacts to Bush kick

So the Ministry of External Affairs has girded its loins and joined the fight (initiated by me in The Hindu yesterday), directly contesting President Bush's September 10 assertion that the fuel supply assurances contained in the 123 agreement are not legally binding:

Response by Official Spokesperson to news report regarding
the Civil Nuclear Initiative


The Government of India does not comment on domestic political processes in the US or other countries.

In working with the US in civil nuclear cooperation India will be guided by the 123 Agreement alone.

The text of the India-US 123 Agreement has been agreed upon by the Governments of India and the United States. It is a public document. The rights and obligations of both India and the US are clearly spelt out in the terms and provisions of the 123 Agreement. Once this Inter-Governmental Agreement enters into force, the Agreement would become a legal document in accordance with well-recognised principles of international law and the Law of Treaties.

India-US civil nuclear cooperation will be carried out on the basis of the respective rights and obligations of the two sides as contained in the Agreement. By doing so, the Government will ensure that India’s rights are fully protected.

New Delhi
12 September, 2008
This is a good statement as far as the political semiotics of the 123 agreement are concerned. There is a text. Bush says it doesn't apply. India says it does. If the U.S. Congress sits quiet and simply passes the 123 Agreement the way it is, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could still conceivably sign the agreement in Washington during his visit later this month and not worry too much about the political consequences. But if Congress approves the 123 with some kind of rider or parallel legislative move saying the agreement's implementation will be strictly in accordance with the President's letter transmitting the 123 to Capitol Hill, I don't think Dr. Manmohan Singh will even be able to sign the agreement.

Either way, one thing is sure: As long as there is uncertainty about fuel supplies and reprocessing rights, India (or rather the Department of Atomic Energy) will simply not buy an American reactor.


Anonymous said...

And also anybody who sells any nuclear item and wants it back for whatever reason should be ready to return the money spent by India. Any purchase should accompany this legal statement.

Anonymous said...

Here is wild guess/speculation -

If Bush was the one who initiated this separation deal, I bet the US had plans to play this final card with India because the US wanted to kill many birds with one stone. The US establishment knew about
AQ Khan's dealings way back before 2005. I suspect that they are just firing at Pak/Iran and others from India's shoulder apart from simulataneously dealing with whatever internal US politics that exist between the republicans and the democrats vis-vis nuclear energy & weapons. Note under the Clinton admin the US nuclear weapons complex was separated from the civilian science branch of US Department of energy by establishing a separate quasi-autonomous body. Republicans are probably taking a pot-shot at their Democrats colleagues by firing from the shoulders of India through this separation plan. It is also not far from truth that Democrats are also more non-proliferation.

The trumped up lies related to WMD in Iraq, the AQ Khan revelations, Iran controversy and the US-India deal all fits into a multidimensional game plan of the US establishment.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sid,

I think you are overestimating the government. [Which I felt in various other analyses also] According to me the India government's statement nothing but a face saving attempt. US govt repeatedly clarified all these things to US congress. Following are few.

i. The US has given no binding fuel-supply assurance to India.
ii. There is no US consent to India's stockpiling of lifetime fuel reserves for safeguarded power reactors.
iii. Civil nuclear cooperation is explicitly conditioned to India not testing ever again.
iv. The US has retained the right to suspend or terminate supplies at its own discretion.
v. The letter makes clear that the 123 Agreement has granted India no right to take corrective measures in case of any fuel-supply disruption.
vi. The Bush administration's letter states that the 123 Agreement fully conforms to the Hyde Act provisions.
vii. The letter assures Congress that the US government will not assist India in the design, construction or operation of sensitive nuclear technologies, including enrichment and reprocessing.

Are India govt assuming that US govt will override the assurances that they have given to US congress? I would tell that is a crazy assumption! According to me the need of this Indo-Us deal, agreements with NSG, IAEA are not due to the need of Nuclear power [which can contribute around 6-7% of India’s power needs]. It is military and strategically alignments. A sharp shift in Indian foreign relationship; which is attributed to the rise of Indian bourgeoisie is the reason.


Siddharth Varadarajan said...

Ravishankar - You have raised some issues which are 'technical' and some which are 'political'. Let's go step by step.

Of your seven 'technical' points, i, iii, iv, vi and vii are correct.

Points ii and v are notionally correct but we need to remember (1) there is nothing in terms of international rules (i.e. NSG) which stands in the way of India stockpiling as much fuel as it can buy and safely store, and (2) the US repudiation of corrective measures is not so serious since India has written these into the safeguards agreement.

Taken together, i-vii specify the terms on which the US will engage in nuclear commerce with India. And these all are conditioned in one way or another by Hyde.

But these do not apply at the NSG level and, depending on specific supply deals India negotiates with Russia and France, ought not to apply for nuclear commerce with any country other than the U.S.

To get to the NSG waiver, you needed the IAEA safeguards agreement. And to get to the IAEA, you needed the 123. The 123 contains eveything it should from India's point of view. But if the US repudiates it or qualifies it, as they are doing, there is only one answer: India will not buy US nuclear equipment.

I don't think GOI is assuming USG will override its own assurances to Congress. Private US firms may put pressure on the USG to do that but even so, I think buying American will remain risky and I am quite sure the DAE will not easily go down that road.

As for the politics and strategyn behind the nuclear deal, I have analysed this extensively in previous articles, especially the piece 'Imperial overeach and outsourcing of hegemony' and 'Truth about the US-India nuclear deal' in July 2005, and most recently, in 'The US dilemma at the NSG'.

The US is keen to effect a shift in Indian foreign policy and believes the deal will do the trick. But this is a dialectical process and the outcome is not certain. The Indian bourgeoisie, especially in its "rising" phase, is not comprador. It may ally with US capital and other capitals but it has an expansionist and even 'imperialist' outlook of its own. This means the 'strategic partnership' between India and the US, with or without the nuclear deal, will not proceed in a smooth linera fashion.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the reply. That explanation is logical, but I have couple of things.

The point 2&7’s binding with NSG is in stake if the report is correct, which can have other serious implications….
[http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/001200809130322.htm ]

Even though Indian bourgeoisie is multi phased and is displaying tendency for alliance with different countries it will not let down an impeccable opportunity of this type or in other words it was pursuing this opportunity at the risk of losing its face [we can remember the parliament NT movement and all]

Anyway if govt is not buying the reactors until it clears its entire doubts then fine; I have doubts on this, seeing the way GOI acted the issue in the parliament and with its own alliances etc;. [The left was not against the deal completely; that’s why it allowed govt to approach IAEA for discussion [I forgot the date]. Its objections were based on certain questions and concerns, which USG affirmed.]….any way let us wait and see how this will evolve..


Sid said...

@ Ravishanker

Good god, man, don't you read this blog!

You are citing a PTI report of a WaPo story when I reported this last week.

The WaPo is making much of a muchness. See below:


Anonymous said...

Thanks Sid,

I have read those reporst; I did not elaborate it on the previous post; "even though there is no binding in NSG, there is a consensus among the members for not giving the enr capabilities and a possible future amendment on the guidelines;" was in mind.