25 June 2011

NSG ends India's 'clean' waiver

New guidelines bar ‘sensitive' nuclear exports to countries outside the NPT ...

25 June 2011
The Hindu

NSG ends India's 'clean' waiver

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on Friday adopted new guidelines on the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology that will effectively nullify the “clean” waiver India received from the cartel in 2008 as far as the import of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology (ENR) is concerned.

The decision was announced from Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where the 46-nation grouping held its 2011 plenary meeting. The NSG “agreed to strengthen its guidelines on the transfer of sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technologies,” a formal statement blandly noted.

Though the guidelines have not been made public yet, the draft text makes it clear that the group will exclude countries which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and which do not have a full-scope safeguards agreement allowing international inspections of all their nuclear facilities.

Prior to this, the NSG had a catch-all requirement of full-scope safeguards — in paragraph 4 of its guidelines — for the supply of any nuclear equipment or material.

The only additional requirement for ENR exports — as contained in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the guidelines — was that the suppliers were asked to “exercise restraint” and to ensure that any supplied equipment or technology not be used to enrich uranium beyond 20 per cent.

The NSG's September 6, 2008 ‘Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India' waived the full-scope safeguards requirement of paragraph 4 and expressly allowed ENR exports, subject to paragraphs 6 and 7. In adopting its waiver, the NSG said it was acting “based on the commitments and actions” on non-proliferation undertaken by India.

But on Friday, the cartel tore up that bargain, adopting a new paragraph 6 specifying objective and subjective criteria a recipient country must meet before an NSG member can sell ENR to it. The very first of these is NPT membership.

Since all nuclear exports to the only other countries outside the NPT – Israel, Pakistan and North Korea – are already prohibited by paragraph 4, this provision in the guidelines was expressly designed to target India, to which the restrictions of that paragraph no longer apply.

When the U.S. first floated the guidelines in November 2008, Indian officials privately complained that the NPT provision would amount to a “rollback” of both the NSG waiver and the fundamental American commitment to ensure “full civil nuclear cooperation” with India.

Confidential U.S. embassy cables published by The Hindu last week quoted Shivshankar Menon, now National Security Adviser, and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao protesting the draft ENR rules.

Last week, a senior Indian official told journalists that the government “has deep reservations about any move by the NSG that prevents the transfer of these technologies ... that will dilute the ... exemption that was given in 2008.”

Ironically, the U.S. insists that its support for the ban on ENR sales to India “in no way detract(s) from the exception granted to India by NSG members in 2008.” The reality is that an entire category of nuclear items which NSG members were allowed to sell to India as a result of the 2008 exception can no longer be supplied.

“Before voluntarily placing our civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Parliament on August 17, 2006, “we will ensure that all restrictions on India have been lifted.” What he didn't bargain for was that some restrictions, once lifted, might be imposed again.


Maurdas Bholanath said...

In my view, we may first need to ponder 'why is it necessary for India to import ENR technology and equipment from NSG members?'. Even during the acme of the restrictive sanctions regime, India was able to develop, design, build and operate several reprocessing facilities and a modest enrichment plant. According to news reports a new 100 t/yr indigenously built reprocessing plant at Tarapur was opened recently (January 2011). There are plans afoot now for enhancing our U enrichment capacity (see here).

Optimistically, I believe that if we know what specific ENR technology we want to get from NSG, then it is only a matter of our working hard on indigenous development of those particular items (or find acceptable alternative technological solutions to achieve the required end product); we are bound to be successful in that endeavour, as we have been in several other cases in the past!

For obvious reasons, operational information and statistics of our enrichment and reprocessing plants as well as detailed information on the history of the fuel that comes out of the npps for subsequent reprocessing, would remain classified and will not be available in the public domain.

In this situation, even if the imported ENR plants are to be constructed only in the "civil domain", constantly hankering after import of all sorts of high technology items, as policy planners in GOI are doing now, may give the impression that the indigenous plants built so far, are somehow, not successful and are not working properly. Consequently, confidence of Indian citizens in the efficacy of India's deterrence capability (credible or otherwise, and, minimum or otherwise) could be seriously jeopardised. This is bad policy.

India cannot afford -- I do not mean in just a monetary sense, but also in a strategic sense -- to "outsource" development, construction and operations of high technology items, systems and plants. There is no alternative to enlightened leadership and hard work to build-up indigenous capability in all aspects relating to the use of nuclear energy in our country.

Dr Homi Bhabha observed (Ref: "India's Tryst With The Atom", O.P Sabherwal, pp 366):
The relative roles of indigenous science and technology and foreign collaboration can be highlighted though an analogy. Indigenous science and technology plays the part of an engine in an aircraft, while foreign collaboration can play the part of a booster. A booster in the form of a foreign collaboration can give a plane an assisted take-off, but it will be incapable of an independent flight unless it is powered by engines of its own. If Indian industry is to take-off and be capable of independent flight, it must be powered by science and technology based in the country.

Given Dr Bhabha's enormous drive to make India a strong and technologically independent nation, I venture to think that, had jettisonable booster rockets such as those employed now in the Space Shuttle programme been perfected during his time, he might have referred to those booster rockets in his analogy, and would have highlighted the fact that after take-off, we need to jettison the boosters lest they contribute to a drag force, and stay on course through independent indigenous effort. On the contrary, it appears that our technology policy makers want to sit on the launch pad for ever ("lunch" pad? -- joking only :-] ). They do not want to take-off at all.

Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, in the First P. N. Haksar Memorial Lecture, echoes Dr Bhabha's views when he says (Ref: "India's Tryst With The Atom", O.P Sabherwal, pp 365):
There is no doubt, indigenous technology development is the only key for India to attain fast economic strength. The need of the hour is technological excellence and self-reliance. {Emphasis, mine.}

primeargument said...

It seems from your article that this is a case where our diplomacy has failed miserably and our Prime Minister stands discredited in front of the people. So can the nation now go back on the voluntary action of placing civilian nuclear facilities under safeguards?

My understanding is that reprocessing was the most important issue of debate between the US and India in Nuclear Agreement. Why did we get into an agreement without first getting clear commitments on re-processing. What will we do with all the nuclear waste from imported reactors? Will we be able to reprocess the imported waste using our own technology? Post Fukushima I am not too exited about the Civilian Nuclear Agreement anyways. I say scrap it if it limits our options and spend that money in clean fuel research. Nuclear energy is far from clean.

Anonymous said...

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked his government's survival during the last year of UPA I for Indo-US nuke deal. He not only won the day in parliament [now it appears many of our esteemed MPs were bribed to vote] but also registered an emphatic victory in the general elections that followed. His vision for alternative source for energy [read power] was understandable, for the fast developing economy needed more power per hour.

US which equally needed the deal went on to put couple of more conditions and when India raised eyebrows,it was given oral promise from its new found natural ally. As long as things fits into America's scheme of things its oral promise holds more power than the written covenant of the NSG.

But aren't we pushing ourselves in situations where we would be at risk of being manipulated or cajoled to do things for the friendship. Our leadership's lack of vision is obvious from the fact that a retired politician from one of the states was embedded as India's External Affairs Minister as the loyal nominee of a certain powerful family. But what was their interest in having a loyal 'foreign minister'? Nobody knows.

India's clout is growing rapidly at the global stage at a time when the international diplomacy is much more than just 'handshakes'.

We need leaders with vision who can lead our country at the global stage and negotiate deals which secure India's energy, geo-security interests.


Anonymous said...

Just get the fuel , sign nothing more. Dont NEED ENR technology and equipment from NSG members , just the fuel. All current and future MILITARY reactors stay out of any inspections. India need them current nuke weapons and future ones to stay up to date, nothing must undermine that process.

Shivanand Kanavi said...

I think some people in India are taking a maximalist and formalist position on ENR. After all do you think Russia and China who are part of NSG etc etc get ENR from any body?

Does not India already have ENR?

Has it not got: 1) the right to export and import reactors and other materials, 2) reprocess imported fuel under safeguards and 3) keep any facility it chooses away from safe guards?, which were the objectives of the whole campaign .....

If you have leverage with suppliers to get ENR along with reactors then do it, why go to the town about it and provoke every anti-proliferation lobbyist.

The real issues are China misusing grand father clause and India quickly setting up a safeguarded reprocessing plant to reprocess the stock pile of Tarapur spent fuel and enforcing the supply of ENR from whoever promised they would in return for buying their reactors.
Of course their technology may prove to be far more expensive than the Indian one developed 50 years ago at BARC by Sethna & Co!!

RB said...

No updates on this highly relevant blog since last year. Please keep updating us on the latest current affairs & happenings that have a direct or indirect consequence on india's growth trajectory