India Intelligence Report

   Indo-US Nuke Talks End Positively



  • India, US end nuclear discussion positively

  • Difference on nuclear testing exist

  • IAEA Chief El Baradei has strongly recommended that US Congress and other nations support the deal

India and the US ended discussions positively on the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement (which forms the backbone of the Indo-US nuclear deal) as technical experts prepared the broad outline of the pact that will be signed after US Congress approval. Officials weeded out differences over the interpretation of the agreement and said the two sides made “good progress” to generate a final draft is expected within the next couple of months. While the details of the dialogue was not divulged, the agreement will cover supply of fuel, storage of spent fuel, nature of safeguards and terms on which the pact can be terminated.

However, experts say that there are several loose ends that still need to be resolved. One of them is the question India conducting nuclear tests in future. The US wants strong language to cap nuclear testing by India and want to be able to terminate the deal if that condition is violated. However, India maintains that it will adhere to the policy of unilateral moratorium on further tests but does not want to enter into any legal commitment. Both nations agreed on conditions curbing export of proliferation technology to other countries.

From India’s point of view, the guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel from the U.S., immune to foreign policy directions and convergence is the most crucial issue. Experts in India are worried that the US may hold India hostage to the treaty and force it to follow its foreign policy dictates that may not suit Indian interests.

Officials insist that “The talks ended on a positive and constructive note” and that both sides were “satisfied with the talks” and that the two sides will hold another round of meetings later.

Two experts who are Fellows at Council of Foreign Relations said that Indian commitment to maintaining the moratorium on nuclear testing and its strict adherence to export controls of sensitive nuclear technology are crucial for obtaining Congressional approval. They advocated that the US Congress should ensure conditions that to cease cooperation with New Delhi if India breaks its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. The theory is that prevention of further Indian nuclear testing and fundamental changes in Indian nuclear strategy is more important than blocking growth of its nuclear weapons. "If India resorts to more testing, it would encourage China, for example, to cooperate more closely with Pakistan, and Russia to expand its aid to Iran's nuclear program." They did not say how the US Congress should handle ongoing proliferation of Chinese missile and nuclear technology to Pakistan and that country’s nuclear proliferation agenda. Most Indian experts resent such contradictory policy and opinion makers in the US and vex at constantly being asked to prove its non-proliferation credentials despite being praised for its stellar record while shrugging off proliferation from China and Pakistan. While the tone of Indo-US relations has changed from being “preachy” to “partnership” focused, there are a lot of gaps in making fundamental leaps in trust from both sides.

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohammed El Baradei said that the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement is a creative break with the past and, if handled properly, will be a step forward for both India and the international community. He added that the deal will allow India access to sensitive technology while bringing its nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards.

El Baradei wrote in the Washington Post that access to nuclear technology will enable India to rid poverty for more than 500 million people and will also include it in global efforts to combat nuclear terrorism and “rid our world of nuclear weapons.” He called for “Strong support of India and the U.S. - as well as all other nuclear weapons states” which he said was essential “to make this treaty a reality.” He declared that India has agreed to follow the guidelines and regulations that control access to nuclear material and technology as specified by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). He also highlighted that India has also agreed to bring its civilian nuclear facilities under international safeguards.

He also decried assertions by Nuclear Ayatollahs in the US that says that the treaty will “legitimize” India’s nuclear weapons program and that it will water down the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said that the concept of “legitimate'” or “illegitimate” nuclear weapons states is a myth concocted and maintained by some countries that want to perpetuate the division of the world into haves and have-nots of nuclear weapons.