The nu­clear sig­nal from Modi

SP's MAI - - NUCLEAR PROGRAMME - [ By Ran­jeet Ku­mar ]

Af­ter stoutly op­pos­ing the nu­clear deal with US six years ago, the BJP-led NDA Govern­ment at the cen­tre has made first foray in nu­clear diplo­macy by rat­i­fy­ing the In­dia spe­cific safe­guard agree­ment called the additional pro­to­col of the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA), sig­nal­ing to the nu­clear world that In­dia is not only will­ing to take for­ward the nu­clear agenda pur­sued by the pre­vi­ous UPA Govern­ment but is ready to reaf­firm its com­mit­ment to them. The de­ci­sion silently con­veyed to the IAEA in the third week of June 2014 has been made within the first month of the Naren­dra Modi Govern­ment, who in­ter­est­ingly is sched­uled to make his first in­ter­na­tional jour­ney to Brazil in mid-July and later to Ja­pan in late Au­gust and to White House in late Septem­ber where the nu­clear agenda will be one of the hot menu on the ta­ble.

In­dia’s full in­te­gra­tion with the in­ter­na­tional nu­clear com­mu­nity has been a sub­ject of de­bate for long, be­cause of non-ad­her­ence with the non-pro­lif­er­a­tion regimes. How­ever, the lat­est move by the new Modi Govern­ment in In­dia would sim­ply be not enough to open a huge door for In­dian nu­clear es­tab­lish­ment to en­gage with the nu­clear pow­ers of the world. The nu­clear pow­ers, ea­ger to in­vest in In­dia’s mega nu­clear power projects worth hun­dred of bil­lions of dol­lars in com­ing decades, would like more clar­ity on In­dia’s nu­clear li­a­bil­ity law and to dis­pel their con­cerns they would ex­pect In­dia to also rat­ify the Con­ven­tion of Sup­ple­men­tary Com­pen­sa­tion for nu­clear dam­age of the IAEA, which In­dia has al­ready signed in Oc­to­ber 2010. Though In­dia had signed a civil nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with the US in 2008, which en­abled In­dia to en­ter into nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with many other coun­tries pos­sess­ing nu­clear tech­nol­ogy and re­sources, In­dia still could not en­ter the hal­lowed nu­clear clubs of the world like the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group (NSG), the Aus­tralia Group, Wasse­nar ar­range­ment, etc. How­ever the green sig­nal given by the one month old In­dian Govern­ment to rat­ify the Additional Pro­to­col of the In­dia Spe­cific Safe­guards agree­ment with the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency has the po­ten­tials of fa­cil­i­tat­ing In­dian en­try into the var­i­ous nu­clear clubs. How­ever, in the back­ground of In­dia’s am­bi­tions to gen­er­ate 60,000 MW nu­clear power by 2030 and the com­mit­ment ex­pressed by the Modi Govern­ment in Par­lia­ment to pur­sue the same, this would not be enough. To en­able the nu­clear power com­pa­nies of the world to set up nu­clear power plants in In­dia, Modi Govern­ment will have to clar­ify its stand on the con­tro­ver­sial nu­clear li­a­bil­ity law. How­ever, the move to rat­ify the additional pro­to­col has been de­scribed as a step in right di­rec­tion, which the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must take note of.

The ex-spe­cial en­voy of the Prime Min­is­ter for Dis­ar­ma­ment and Non-pro­lif­er­a­tion Rakesh Sood has, while wel­com­ing the move, said that more ini­tia­tives need to be taken, par­tic­u­larly if progress on nu­clear is­sue is to be reg­is­tered dur­ing the Modi’s Septem­ber visit to Wash­ing­ton. How­ever, this move could not have come at a more op­por­tune time as an en­ergy starved In­dia is look­ing for ex­po­nen- tial rise in en­ergy pro­duc­tion to cope with the huge en­ergy de­mands in fu­ture re­quired for an emerg­ing econ­omy. This de­ci­sion will not only raise the con­fi­dence of the In­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity on In­dia but will also boost the en­ergy se­cu­rity of the coun­try in the long run.

This pro­posal was un­der con­sid­er­a­tion with the In­dian Govern­ment since last five years, which en­vis­aged the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the additional pro­to­col of the Atomic En­ergy Agency. This move was made at a time when the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Groups had called a very cru­cial meet­ing on June 23. In­dian of­fi­cials ex­pect the NSG mem­bers to take note of the In­dian de­ci­sion to rat­ify the additional pro­to­col of the IAEA. This de­ci­sion should re­move all doubts among the nu­clear pow­ers who op­pose any co­op­er­a­tion with In­dia in nu­clear en­ergy. The ad­her­ence to additional pro­to­col will re­quire In­dia to sub­mit the nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties to the IAEA for nu­clear in­spec­tion. How­ever, there will be no obli­ga­tion on In­dia to open its non-safe­guarded nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties for in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tion, which are meant for mil­i­tary pur­poses. In­dian of­fi­cials con­tend that the additional pro­to­col will not have any bear­ing on In­dia’s nu­clear weapon pro­gramme and at the same time al­low more trans­parency in In­dia’s other nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties which use im­ported nu­clear fu­els and equip­ments. Though the IAEA has model doc­u­ment for such pur­poses and many non-nu­clear weapon state had to ad­here to this, In­dia has skill­fully ne­go­ti­ated the additional pro­to­col which will not be as in­tru­sive as the IAEA ar­range­ment with other coun­tries. How­ever, the additional pro­to­col will fa­cil­i­tate the eas­ier and reg­u­lar en­try and exit of the IAEA staff and ex­perts to in­spect whether the im­ported nu­clear ma­te­rial is be­ing used for au­tho­rised pur­poses. In­dia had al­ready signed a safe­guard agree­ment with the IAEA, which cov­ers over 20 nu­clear es­tab­lish­ments for open ended in­spec­tion by the Agency ex­perts. Since US and Ja­panese sup­port to In­dia’s nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram is con­sid­ered most crit­i­cal, Modi needs to con­vince them as he en­gages with the In­dia friendly Abe and a skep­ti­cal Obama in the com­ing days. Since Ja­pan has been ask­ing In­dia to ad­here to the NPT and the US has ex­pressed ap­pre­hen­sions on In­dian nu­clear li­a­bil­ity law, the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the additional pro­to­col of the IAEA will in­still con­fi­dence on them as far as In­dian nu­clear civil nu­clear en­ergy pro­gramme is con­cerned.

Since In­dia has a very am­bi­tious nu­clear en­ergy pro­gramme in view of its fast ris­ing en­ergy need, the govern­ment has taken a very prag­matic step to re­move some of the mis­con­cep­tions among the nu­clear pow­ers re­gard­ing In­dia’s nu­clear am­bi­tions and nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram. This should en­cour­age the de­vel­oped nu­clear pow­ers to work closely with In­dia in meet­ing its en­ergy de­mands, for which In­dia needs to re­move all am­bi­gu­i­ties. Since In­dia has also signed the Con­ven­tion of Sup­ple­men­tary com­pen­sa­tion on nu­clear dam­age and has not yet rat­i­fied, the nu­clear gi­ants would now ex­pect In­dia to come clean on this is­sue also. Only this would re­pose the con­fi­dence of the nu­clear com­pa­nies like West­ing­house, Areva and Hi­tachi on In­dia to take risks for in­vest­ing in pro­posed nu­clear power plants in In­dia.

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