Previously secret U.S.
produce several embarrassing
revelations on nuclear deal
Rediff India Abroad
September 3, 2008
Dr. Brahma Chellaney, a professor
of strategic studies at the
Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, is the author, among
others, of Nuclear Proliferation: The US-India Conflict.
The Bush administration, through a gag order on its written responses to Congressional questions, had sought to keep the Indian public in the dark on the larger implications of the nuclear deal, lest the accord run into rougher weather. But now its 26 pages of written answers have been publicly released by a senior United States Congressman.
The administration's January 2008 letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee – made public by Representative Howard L Berman on Tuesday [September 2, 2008] - brings out the following:
The US has
given no binding fuel-supply assurance to India.
The prime minister told the Lok Sabha on August 13, 2007 that 'detailed fuel
supply assurances' by the US for 'the uninterrupted operation of our nuclear
reactors' are 'reflected in full' in the 123 Agreement. But the Bush
administration has denied this. Its letter to the House Committee states that
the US will render help
only in situations where 'disruptions in supply to India... result through no
fault of its own,' such as a trade war or market disruptions. 'The fuel supply
assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of
a nuclear explosive test or a violation of nonproliferation commitments,' the
letter said. The letter also reveals that the US has given no legally binding
fuel-supply assurance of any kind.
consent to India's stockpiling of lifetime fuel reserves for safeguarded power
reactors. The prime
minister had told the Lok Sabha on
August 13, 2007 that, 'This
Agreement envisages, in consonance with the Separation Plan, US support for an
Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against
any disruption of supply for the lifetime of India's reactors.' But the Bush
administration's letter to the House Committee makes clear that India will not
be allowed to build such stocks as to undercut
leverage to re-impose sanctions.
US civil nuclear
cooperation is explicitly conditioned to India not testing ever again.
The prime minister told the Lok Sabha as recently as July 22, 2008 that, 'I
confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further
nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are
committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing.'
Last year, he had told Parliament
that, 'There is nothing in the Agreement that would tie the hands of a future
Government or legally constrain its options to protect India's security and
defence needs.' The Bush administration, however, has told the House Committee
that India has been left in no doubt that all cooperation will cease immediately
if New Delhi conducted a test.
retained the right to suspend or terminate supplies at its own discretion.
The Bush administration letter plainly contradicts the prime minister's
assertion in Parliament on August 13, 2007 that, 'An elaborate multi-layered
consultation process has been included with regard to any future events that may
be cited as a reason by either Party to seek cessation of cooperation or
termination of the (123) Agreement.' The letter states that the
right to suspend all supplies forthwith is unfettered.
letter makes clear that the 123 Agreement has granted
India no right to take corrective
measures in case of any fuel-supply disruption.
obligations are legally irrevocable. It further indicates there is no link
between perpetual safeguards and perpetual fuel supply. Contrast this with
what the prime minister claimed in Parliament on August 13, 2007:
'India's right to take "corrective measures" will be maintained even after the
termination of the Agreement.' Or the prime minister's repeated assurances to
Parliament since March 2006 that
acceptance of perpetual international inspections will be tied to perpetual fuel
Bush administration's letter states that the 123 Agreement fully conforms to the
Hyde Act provisions.
In a press release recently, the Prime Minister's Office made the following
claim on July 2, 2008: 'he 123 Agreement clearly overrides the Hyde Act and this
position would be clear to anyone who goes through the provisions.'
letter assures Congress that the 'US
government will not assist India in the design, construction or operation of
sensitive nuclear technologies.'
That rules out not only the transfer of civil reprocessing and enrichment
equipment or technologies to India even under safeguards, but also casts a
shadow over the US
granting India operational consent to reprocess spent fuel with indigenous
technology. Under the 123 Agreement, India has agreed to forego reprocessing
until it has, in the indeterminate future, won a separate, congressionally
issue, the 123 Agreement had held out hope for India in the future by stating in
its Article 5(2) that, 'Sensitive nuclear technology, heavy water production
technology, sensitive nuclear facilities, heavy water production facilities and
major critical components of such facilities may be transferred under this
Agreement pursuant to an amendment to this Agreement.' But the Bush
administration's letter to Congress states that the US government had no plan to
seek to amend the deal to allow any sensitive transfers.
Contrast this with what the prime minister said in Parliament on August 17, 2006 - that India wanted the 'removal of restrictions on all aspects of cooperation and technology transfers pertaining to civil nuclear energy, ranging from nuclear fuel, nuclear reactors, to reprocessing spent fuel.' Lest there be any ambiguity regarding this benchmark, he added: 'We will not agree to any dilution that would prevent us from securing the benefits of full civil nuclear cooperation as amplified above.' Earlier, on August 3, 2005, he told the Lok Sabha that he had received 'an explicit commitment from the United States that India should get the same benefits of civilian cooperation as (an) advanced country like the United States enjoys.'