28 September 2008

Nuclear update: 123 @ House of Representatives

The House of Representatives on Saturday passed HR 7081 -- the ‘United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act’ -- granting legislative approval to the US-India 123 Agreement.

The vote was 298 in favour to 117 against.

Among Republican Congressmen, the split was 178-10.

For Democrats, however, the vote was more even: 120 in favour to 107 against. A total of 17 Congressmen did not vote. Under House rules, a two-thirds majority of those present and voting was required for the Bill to pass, i.e. 278 votes. The final roll call can be found here.

Congressman Howard Berman sponsored the Bill, after he said Condoleezza Rice assured him the U.S. would make the achievement of a decision to prohibit the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to states that are not signatories” to the NPT its highest priority at the November meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Dr. Rice later clarified what she meant:
Asked to comment on Mr. Berman’s use of the word “prohibit” she said, “I think the wording actually is to seek strict limits on,” according to the transcript.

“...at the NSG, the United States has pursued this policy in the past, but we have pursued several other initiatives at the same time.

“And what I said to Chairman Berman, given that the Administration is coming to an end, this is something that we hope is doable. I couldn’t make any promises about delivery, but we would seek to do this,” she clarified.

“You know that the President has spoken about the need to do something about enrichment and reprocessing. And I think a global approach to this issue of the technologies is an appropriate one. But this has been our policy. But I think what Chairman Berman is speaking to is that we had also paired it with several other initiatives, and we’ll seek this one as the highest priority now,” she said.
The Senate is likely to approve an identically worded Bill on Monday, President Bush will then sign it into law, and Dr. Rice is slated to travel to Delhi on October 3 to get the 123 Agreement signed by the Indians.

So what should India do?
1. Simply roll over and sign
2. Sign it with a strong reiteration of its national understanding, repudiating the riders that have been inserted by President Bush and Congress?
3. Tell Condi, thanks but no thanks.

Comments and suggestions welcome....


रामाधार said...

After a lot of cotroversies, this agreement will be finally brought before the Indian government to get signed.The second option(you proposed) will and should be followed but the government should issue a white paper explining for final time its commitment and obligation in detail and in clear terms,before signing the agreement and also publicize the same.So that in future if any confusion arises this document can be refered back to.

san said...

India needs to pass its own counter-response to the Hyde Act, requiring govt to make it a national policy to preserve its right to test nuclear weapons, and that this should supercede any international treaties signed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks but no Thanks!

This will be a great tragedy, we cannot trust any treaty with white guys, ask the Indians(any). In few years we will be in a position like Iran, crying around we have right for whatever, and everybody following US lead will turn against us. And, i do not forsee India producing leaders with balls to defy (even to the level of Ahmedinejad) international hostility, better not get ourselves stuck by sigining any deal(?).

Anonymous said...

Thank Condi and Bush profusely for all their efforts on our behalf.

Advise Condi very sweetly that we need time to study all the implications of this "new" bill and its addl clauses -- whatever happened to the up/down vote on 123 with no changes accepted? -- and build domestic consensus before signing. We will let her know when we are ready to sign.

This 123 should be signed - if at all - by the next GoI, after our Jekyll Act is in place, and at the very least with an arbitration clause similar to the one in the US-Japan 123 added.

Anonymous said...

I am in favour of option (2) sign it with strong repudiation of India's interests involving the following -

decoupling other foreign policy issues with "civilian" nuclear business

without reprocessing/enrichment in a safeguarded facility there is no point in buying just fuel...what are you going to do with waste accumulated ? send it back to supplier country or reprocess it ?

clearcut assurances and clarifications on the fuel supply assurances and continuity. what kinds of disruptions that India will have to face even without nuclear tests ?

clarifying high-end technology denials (including reprocessing/enrichments )in the nuclear sector under the bogey of ambiguous phrases like "limited", "sensitive"

money back guarantees in case of any return of items/fuel conditions in the event of nuclear test or due to other causes.

clearcut multilateral mechanism to address fuel supply cutoffs or agreement breakdowns and not some ad-hocs sanctions on a consumer.

participation and establishment of high-end R&D and education sector of nuclear industry and not just "buying" from US companies.

Anonymous said...

As an aside - with the famed Warren Buffet buying Constellation energy group there is a lot of uncertainity in the US nuclear industry. The WSJ article on this issue can be found here Buffett Could Reshape Nuclear Power Industry
I guess India has a chance to play a role in reviving the American nuclear industry but does US have the financial werewithal ?
Interesting to note is that the French involvement (EDF, Areva) in the US nuclear business is now going to be controlled partly by Buffet.
So I guess US-India deal is spurring a lot of action !

T. Jayaraman said...

Dear Siddharth, It is not a question of what we would like but what is most likely to happen. The first option is what will happen. However the govt. may try to make it look like the second in Parliament or in the media, by issuing some vague remarks that are of no substantive value.


Anonymous said...

The lady fat or otherwise has not yet sung on this issue. Wait till the senate vote and the presidential signing statement and then take a call. Also the Indo-French agreement would give a preview of US power to influence others in NSG.

Anonymous said...

I must say I have been a bit confused as to why the Indian Govt has kept its mouth shut as the US has been changing the deal. I wondered if the Congress was actually dealing with the 123 agreement or something else... but it couldn't be something else!

Perhaps they believed that it would never go through in Obama or McCain land. Or perhaps they don't plan to buy anything except from France or Russia. Or perhaps we are so low on Uranium supplies that we're ready to do anything.

But with ManMohan already celebrating, I think we will roll over and sign. It will be left to the BJP (deja vu) to set things right. In 1995, Rao rolled over when told not to test, in 1998 the BJP did test and that opened all these doors.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Well.. the deal is effectively signed with all these caveats. The signature was delivered with the nincompoopish statement made by our venerable Prime Minister that 'India loves George Bush'.

dhavaladhara said...

The Indo-US agreement is like a double edged sword – use it very cautiously to your advantage –only when you absolutely need it; use it cavalierly and you are chopping yourself up!

This is what the govt. must do –

• Sign the agreement with a national statement conveying our interpretation of the whole agreement package i.e 123 deal, NSG waiver, IAEA agreement.

• Pass a national law stating our sovereign rights. Parliament must pass a law that any nuclear commerce with India must be on the sole basis of – assured fuel supplies for the life time of the reactor; any right to recall exercised by the supplier can be exercised only after paying high penalties that should act as deterrent in exercising that right; rights for reprocessing of fuel should be permanent or if the right is recalled, then supplier has to pay for the return shipment i.e India will not be sitting on the spent fuel sans reprocessing for ages, a la Tarapur.

• Formulate a national policy that Indian dependence on foreign reactors to be strictly followed by taking the accompanying vulnerability into account. It should be our national policy that indigenous civil nuclear R&D be strengthened to reach global levels. Local Offset clauses must be included similar to the defence deals.

By taking these steps, current and future Indian negotiations will be strengthened considerably and the chances for political subversion are minimized. The US plan is to make India dependent on it strategically ( US presidential statement is required annually stating that India is behaving like a good boy!). Indian strategy ought to be -- NOT to be dependent on the US.

Should the US/international suppliers balk at supplying us with these protective steps, we are no worse than we currently are… and we would have only gained in stature by the international spotlight on this whole process. And as the world understands that we are in no tearing hurry to buy the expensive nuclear power at international pressure, and as the world adjusts to the new economically resurgent nuclear India, it will be more amenable to facilitate a more benign nuclear commerce.

Meanwhile India needs to refocus on its idealistic position .... and immediately announce after signing the 123 pact, an international conference of nuclear powers to force these powers to agree on 1. No first use of nuclear weapons 2. No use of nuclear weapons on non-nuclear contries and 3. No active targeting of nuclear weapons. This will effectively shut the mouths of the non-proliferation ayatollahs whose rabid opposition to this entire process is a major surprise… when they themselves have done nothing in all these years to achieve these simple 1,2,3 steps above mentioned…. whereas India has announced these steps unilaterally and in good faith which they have totally ignored.

Sukla Sen said...

From the "Indian" point of view, a point of view which is dying to see India emerge as a legitimate and great "nuclear power" on the world scene, to the utter detriment of prospects for global nuclear disarmament, with the express blessings of the world super-power, because it does not stand any chance otherwise, the sensible option would be to go in for the second, in the immediate term, with no actual orders to follow (on US firms) unless the doubts and uncertainties are cleared. Such clearing of doubts is of course unlikely to happen.

Nidhi said...

Lets see. My guess is they may simply roll over and sign though they should say thanks but no thanks; though option two seems possible, but then its not "legally binding"!

but who cares about legalise when "deep love" is the guiding force

Anonymous said...

simply roll over and sign and express our deep love once again and comeback; the historic waiver will do the rest of magic!!

[sorry; i'm still not ready to accept it is historic. it has to seen in real world context... i'm still not ready to accept it is historic. it has to seen in real world context... ideally we can go for other countries and gain the n-power; but it completely restricted our movement.]


Anonymous said...

I think India should wait to operationalize this deal till US elections are over. If Obama is going to be the president then there is a very good chance that US will ratify CTBT and China will follow suite in 10 minutes. That leaves India which anyway will have to sign the treaty and Pakistan/Isreal follows India in 10 minutes in signing/ratifying!

With this it almost becomes certain that no country can test and the chance of India testing is next to nothing. Lets call the above scnario 1. After CTBT comes into effect the only country which can break that - is US. If that happens (less likely) the international nuclear order disappears and every big country will have 5 small nuclear powers as their neighbours. This is Scenario 2. I think either of these scenarios help India (Other than the fact that - in case five of India's neighbours are nuclear) looking from the perspective of the fuel. In the first scenario there is no question of any country testing and the nuclear order gets frozen in the same order as it exists today. Its as if all of us are running a race and the results are frozen at some point of time after the race starts. This obviously helps the top (ten or so) countries (India included) and the commerce/civil part of the nuclear equation keeps strenghthening.
In Scenario 2, the world (if continues to exist) will soon move towards a nuclear disarmament (The pressure for this will have to come from countries in Europe and India) which in turn strenghthens the commerce/civil part of the nuclear equation.

Sid, please let me know your thoughts on this.

Thank you,

Siddharth Varadarajan said...

@ Jayaraman

The sense I am getting from having interacted with both the bureaucratic and political side is that the PROFESSIONAL advice of the MEA/IFS types is to desist from signing without a strong national statement and then go further and not buy anything from Unkil. But the political side of the PMO, and especially Dr. Singh himself, seem very committed to a course of action closer to 1 or a soft version of 2.

The issue, however, is not just about the terms of commerce with the U.S. If you simply accept the American reinterpretation, there is some sense in which you will weaken your hand vis-a-vis other suppliers.

Siddharth Varadarajan said...

@ Jayaram, dhavaladhara

I think the CTBT scenario is looking a little unlikely right now from where I am sitting (in New York City) even with an Obama victory. I will come back with a fuller analysis of the CTBT issue but in general I endorse dhavaladhara's line on getting more aggressive on the disarmament agenda, both in the First Committee and the Conference on Disarmament. Having fought with the group of 6 over the NSg waiver, for example, there is no reason why we should not push them to support us in implementing the disarmament part of the EAM's September 5 statement....

Siddharth Varadarajan said...

@ anonymous

Thanks for the Buffet links. I think we need to pay more attention to understanding the political economy of the global nuclear energy industry as it evolves in the next decade. Do not be surprised if you see as much "outbound" action from India as "inbound", in terms of reactor sales. Indian vendors like L&T are very keen to get a slice of the global reactor construction boom and there will be strategic tie-ups with Hitachi, perhaps the Canadians... The entry of Buffet suggests there will be some more churning in response to the new opportunities.

But I remain sceptical about the possibility of US reactor sales to India. Assuming the Senate passes the 123 on Wednesday Oct 1 and Bush signs a statement that strips away some of the rubbish that's been tagged on, the GOI might well sign the 123 when Condi is in Delhi Oct 3, with or without the statement I have been advocating. But for US reactors to come, three things have to happen.
1. India has to deliver on its commitment to Washington on accession to the Vienna Convention on supplementary nuclear damages; 2. India and the U.S. have to negotiate the arrangements and procedures on reprocessing; and 3. fuel supply arrangements have to be put in place.

Expect a minimum of three years for these steps to be completed, especially 2.

Even then, chances are US reactors will not be competitive, or will come with so many additional restrictions (compared to Russian and French ones) that DAE will not really want to buy them.

Siddharth Varadarajan said...

@ nidhi, srinivas ramani

I think you are right to caution against underestimating the power of "love".....