India Intelligence Report

   Panel Warns of Non-Approval of Nuke Deal

  • Council on Foreign Relations recommends Congress approves Nuke deal

  • Says that delays in approval will affect bilateral relations

  • Wants Congress to accept reality that India will not cap its nuclear program

The influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recommended that the US Congress approve the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal’s basic framework without delay so that the nascent bilateral relationship is not compromised even if final approval is delayed. The CFR discounted critical non-proliferation needs repeatedly cited by critics of the deal saying “Patience and a few simple fixes will address major proliferation concerns while ultimately strengthening the strategic partnership.”

The thrust of CFR is to suggest the Congress focus on preventing Indian nuclear testing and fundamental changes in Indian nuclear strategy, rather than on blocking growth in the number of Indian nuclear weapons. However, this is not completely against Indian position that it will agree to nuclear testing ban nor will it compromise on its multi-facet defense doctrine.

The CFR wants the Congress to “issue a set of bottom-line requirements” for approval and insist on “India’s inspection agreement with the IAEA” and “new (Nuclear Suppliers Group) rules that will allow nuclear commerce with India” and hold final approval till those two events are completed. While India is already working with the IAEA for inspection agreement, the NSG is waiting for a nod from the US Congress to agree to the deal. Even there, some hardliners are blocking the deal from going forward.

It urges the Congress and the Bush administration to focus on five principles as the basic framework for solidifying the deal.

  • First, it asks the Congress to ensure that, if India breaks its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, nuclear cooperation will cease.

  • Second, it recommends that the Congress reinforce India’s commitments to strengthening export controls by asking the administration for monetary and legal requirements to assist India. It further recommends that the funding should be for American experts to work cooperatively with Indian authorities and not comprise the deal with India.

  • Third, it asks for US legislation to steer India in the “right direction” while not mandating the future shape of the Indian nuclear complex.

  • Fourthly, it wants future cooperation be free from “formal annual review (that could) undermine the confidence-building purpose of the US-India deal. Instead, in exchange for giving up its annual right of review, the Congress should provide less-intrusive incentives for India to label future reactors as civilian and place them under inspection.”

  • Fifthly, it asks that the Congress accept the reality that India will not “unilaterally cap its nuclear arsenal.”

The Bush administration wants the Congress to amendment the 1954 Atomic Energy Act to give India specific waivers that will allow civilian nuclear cooperation to proceed. While the administration wants congressional approval by the end of July, before the month long August recess, congressional sources say it is unlikely. The likely time frame for Senate and House consensus will probably be the end of the year.

The Congress, with 435 representatives, version of the nuclear bill has 37 co-sponsors. The Senate, with 100 members, version has 10 co-sponsors. Because of the number of items for discussion in the agenda, the chairmen of the Senate and House international relations committees will only give it priority if it can get a significant number of co-sponsors. The US India Political Action Committee (SPINACH) says that Congressman Henry Hyde, Republican chairman of the House International Relations Committee has privately told them that he plans to introduce the legislation on June 21.

India has agreed to open 14 of its 22 nuclear reactors for international inspection if it is allowed to buy nuclear technology and fuel from the Nuclear Suppliers' Club, which regulates global trade in nuclear technology and equipment.