17 December 2005

Watch out for the John Bolton clones...

Selig Harrison says Indian negotiators should be wary of the hardline 'nuclear dominance types' in the Bush administration who are out to write into the U.S.-India nuclear agreement of July 18, 2005 conditions which are even more onerous than the Indians agreed to back then.

17 December 2005
The Hindu

Keep fast breeder reactor out of IAEA inspections: U.S. expert

Siddharth Varadarajan

`Only imported fuel and reactors should be placed under in-perpetuity safeguards'
  • Indian negotiators should guard against hardline "American nationalists" who are reluctant to accept India's nuclear status
  • Demand for in-perpetuity safeguards on all civilian facilities is "an affront to Indian sovereignty"
  • Placing imported nuclear fuel or reactors under in-perpetuity safeguards a pragmatic adjustment

NEW DELHI: On the eve of crucial negotiations with the U.S. on the separation of India's civilian and military nuclear facilities, a well-known American analyst has strongly defended the Indian atomic establishment's desire to keep indigenous programmes like the fast breeder reactor (FBR) outside the purview of international safeguards and inspections.

In an interview to The Hindu on Friday, Selig S. Harrison, director of the Washington-based Center for International Policy's Asia programme, said Indian negotiators had to guard against hardline "American nationalists" in the Bush administration who are reluctant to accept India's nuclear status. Among them are Robert Joseph, Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control, whose "abhorrent" testimony at a Senate hearing last month on India accepting `in-perpetuity' safeguards for all its civilian facilities, Mr. Harrison says, "made my hair stand on end".

Mr. Harrison, an India hand of long standing and a keen watcher of Beltway politics, says opposition in the U.S. to the July 18 nuclear agreement comes from two different quarters. "Too much emphasis in India has been given to non-proliferation theologians like Bob Einhorn, George Perkovich and Michael Krepon — who have strong feelings about this agreement and are a problem — but another strong focus of opposition is the `nuclear dominance' types in the administration like Bob Joseph and J.D. Crouch II, the Deputy National Security Adviser."

Describing Mr. Joseph as "a John Bolton in different clothing," Mr. Harrison said that hardliners like him are "stuck on the idea that the U.S. is entitled to exercise a dominant global position through its nuclear dominance... They have zeroed in on `in-perpetuity safeguards' because this is what most clearly defines for them the fact that the U.S. is a nuclear power and India is not".

He added: "If the whole question of safeguards — in the exact way Mr. Joseph expressed it in his testimony to the Senate on November 2 — is in fact this administration's settled policy, then we are in for a very difficult negotiation indeed." The demand for in-perpetuity safeguards on all civilian facilities, including indigenously developed ones such as the FBR, is "an affront to Indian sovereignty," says Mr. Harrison.

Dr. Anil Kakodkar of the Department of Atomic Energy has said the FBR and other civilian R&D projects must not be subjected to safeguards for the present, and Mr. Harrison agrees. "To me, it seems clear that India cannot sacrifice the integrity of that programme... Indeed, India can afford to compromise on many of the modalities of this agreement precisely because if the FBR programme does succeed, which I am sure it will, this will give you a tremendous military potential. This is why they don't like it."

The FBR would produce fissile material but the only U.S. concern ought to be that this material not leave India. "The July 18 agreement will bring India into the non-proliferation regime and strengthen export control so that issue is taken care of," says Mr. Harrison. "The FBR is going to be a big problem for Bob Joseph and his people but I see no scope for compromise on India's part. This has to be off the safeguards list in terms of India's strategic priorities."


As a sweetener, Mr. Harrison suggests India offer two compromises. First, it should place the Canadian-supplied Cirus reactor — which has so far been used for weapons-related activities but is old and on "life support" — in the list of civilian facilities. And it should be willing to accept in-perpetuity safeguards for any imported fuel, equipment or reactor. The latter would be "highly regrettable" and a "sacrifice of principle" but is a price India should consider paying.

"The obvious compromise is that any imported nuclear fuel or reactors could be placed in safeguards in perpetuity as a pragmatic adjustment, necessitated by the importance of getting civilian nuclear cooperation", he says. "And it seems to me there will be enough facilities not under safeguards — if the U.S. is prepared to accept India's civilian list — that the Indian deterrent would be quite secure. There will be plenty of plutonium in the unsafeguarded facilities, and there's the FBR is the long run".

On the sequencing of Indian and U.S. actions, Mr. Harrison says there would also be difficulty. "In the end, I am not sure if State Department types who see a strategic benefit to the U.S. from nuclear cooperation with India will prevail. I don't know if Condoleezza Rice will get into this enough herself, or Mr. Bush, to keep the hardline nationalist types from getting terms written into this deal and then making it seem like these terms are reasonable and that India is not accepting them. So I am not sure how deeply Bush will get into this."

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Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with two points brought out in this article.
You have rightly highlighted the points
about sovereignty of our country and the perpetuity clause in the IAEA

There are at least two more issues involved which need careful and
far-sighted considerations by decision-makers of our country.

The first refers to the pernicious provision of "pursuit" in the IAEA
protocols. This provision finally boils down to the situation whereby through the IAEA inspections, foreign countries can get at Indian suppliers who have designed / manufactured / supplied equipment (not just fuel or nuclear material) to our nuclear power plants which are placed under the inspection regime. The consequences of this are not good and under no circumstances should we proceed with such an agreement. For example, some Indian suppliers to nuclear power plants could be suppliers of (unrelated)defence equipment as well.

Thus PHWRs built by India through its own efforts must also not be placed
under the intrusive foreign inspection regime.

The second relates to the very necessity to import either natural or
enriched uranium. It is better to decommission Tarapur 1 & 2 (on account of their vintage), rather than importing enriched uranium and extending its life. It is understood that their "sister reactor" in the US, of the same vintage and similar design (by the same designer), has been decommissioned.

Incidentally, the stricken reactor Rajasthan 1, (and probably Rajasthan 2
too) should also be decommissioned as using Indian natural uranium in these
reactors is a total waste as long as we cannot extract the wealth that is
available in their spent fuel on account of the foreign intrusive inspection regime together with its pursuit clause.

The (only recently highlighted) need to import natural uranium on the pretext of non-availability in India also seems to be on the wrong track. It is not believable that estimations made by Dr Bhabha and others that we have enough natural uranium in India to sustain about 10000 MWe for 30 years through PHWRs have suddenly turned out to be wrong. If mining of uranium in our country cannot keep pace with the usage requirements, the reasons are not non-availability of ore, but inability to overcome politico-social issues that plague our country at this juncture, on almost all developmental activities. To solve this problem we need political will, not resorting to imports. The implications of importing natural uranium as a shortsighted policy would be far reaching; tomorrow you will not be able / allowed to "mine" thorium on which we have so much hopes for energy security in the future.

Thus, neither do we need US assistance" nor should we agree to place under
inspection, PHWRs designed, engineered and built by us.

There are other longterm (probably scientific-philosophical) reasons too.
These may have to wait as this comment is already too long.

Mayurdas Bholanath

Anonymous said...

If anyone could offer their views on an obvious issue, I would be very grateful.

Why is India not seeking Russian cooperation in the nuclear field, and instead so motivated to receive American cooperation? Given India's close defense ties to Russia, this has been a mystery to me.

Anonymous said...

There are probably others from the blog more knowledgeable than me but my impression is that India's first choice would be the Russians or French but that these two countries are unwilling to buck the Nuclear Suppliers Club (NSC?) rules which say India must not have nuclear weapons as a precondition for supplying nuclear reactors and fuel.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, girish e., for the response. I suppose only the Americans are in a position to change the Nuclear Suppliers Club policy vis-a-vis India.

Anonymous said...

It is not NSC but NSG, i.e. nuclear suppliers group. They operate on consensus so any one country can block the change of rules the united states is talking about. But it looks like US of A will use this threat (i.e. of others blocking the India deal at the NSG) to wring more concessions from India