Nuclear folly

The first indication of a decision to sign the IAEA Additional Protocol (AP) came yesterday when someone in the know contacted me. I professed disbelief. I was wrong because in the afternoon today news agencies carried the story of GOI agreeing to the AP that will extend and permit more intensive and intrusive international inspection of the Indian nuclear facilities and installations brought into the IAEA safeguards net as condition for the US agreeing to the deal for civilian nuclear cooperation.

Where was the need for such haste when a geostrategic vision hasn’t been spelled out by PM Narendra Modi nor grand strategy in any way intimated to the govt, leave alone the people, to realize it? In all matters nuclear the rule of thumb is to make haste very, very slowly.

Apparently, GOI felt things required speeding up because it wants India formally to acquire membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and to begin exporting technology and applications relating to the INDU/CANDU natural uranium-fueled pressurised heavy water reactor stream in which India has, perhaps, the most experience and is the most advanced. Exports of INDU reactors is something this writer has been advocating for the last decade and more, and is a great development EXCEPT for the fact that it is as part of the exchange for NSG member status.

It is not clear why India hadn’t exported the INDU reactor and technology for the past 20-odd years which, besides earning DAE oodles of foreign exchange as amortization of the investment in the nuclear energy programme, would have compelled the NSG to take notice and offer India membership in it lest Indian exports remain outside the safeguards system, creating an entire tier of countries outside IAEA inspection and control. That is powerful leverage that India could have used to get what it wanted on its terms and WITHOUT having to acquiesce in the nuclear deal that the Congress Party-Manmohan Singh govt recklessly did in 2008 without paying the slightest heed to the long term national interest.

The BJP govt has now compounded that folly because, assuming it is convinced that NSG membership is an imperative, it could have used it as a negotiating card to ensure the US did not pressure GOI on sidelining the the Liability Act passed by Parliament as a means of generating export orders for the US Westinghouse light water reactors, which India needs like a hole in the head.

Was the decision taken at this time by the PM as Minister for Atomic Energy because he wanted to improve the Obama Administration’s as curtain raiser for his upcoming visit to Washington, to improve the Obama dministrations’s perceptions of him personally, and to make his first official visit to the US a success? All concerned people would have wished Modi to have consulted with those outside govt circles who have worked on the subject and know something about nuclear negotiation, and could have given him the contra viewpoint to ponder.

This is an especially troubling development and so early in the term of Prime Minister Modi!! Hope he is not embarked on a foreign policy of surprises that will serve the country ill.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian ecobomic situation, nonproliferation, nuclear industry, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, nuclear power, society, South Asia, Technology transfer, United States. Bookmark the permalink.

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