Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bush signs nuclear energy deal with India

In a landmark deal that broke many facets of the international nuclear embargo on NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) non-signatory nations, the US has finally signed a nuclear deal with India. This has been among the most heated and debated agreements in recent times. Part of a mission to make US-India ties closer, and to relax some of the restrictions on India in the nuclear area, the deal took a lot of diplomatic effort to get through, and the final legal step of the deal was signed in by President Bush. This last step was not necessary for India to go ahead with nuclear deals with other nations, but in light of the recent efforts by the US administration to push the deal, the Indian side decided to wait for the US Congress approval.

US President George W Bush has signed into law a nuclear deal with India, which ends a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with Delhi. The landmark agreement was approved by the US Congress nearly a week ago. The deal will give India access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian, but not military, nuclear facilities.
India says the accord is vital to meet its rising energy needs. Critics say it creates a dangerous precedent. They say it effectively allows India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must. The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

The Indian side faced tremendous challenges in getting this deal through. The process was started by a discussion with the BJP ruled Indian Government and the Bush Administration, and was then negotiated by the Congress Government with the US Administration a couple of years back. The Indian Government was a minority Government, and dependent on the Communist Parties and many other parties. The Communist Parties, although against the nuclear policies of the Indian Government, have always despised a closer relationship with the United States and refused to flatly support such a policy, warning of a end to the Government (and since the Government was in a minority, an end seemed quite natural if their support ended).
For a long time, it seemed that the Government had given up, after all the nuclear deal was not a vote-winner, the deal also seemed to be against the interests of the Muslim minority vote that the Congress wants, and so on. And then, after many months, Dr. Manmohan Singh finally decided that enough is enough; he literally forced the Government to agree to his stand that they back the deal; to the extent that manipulations were allowed in order to make sure that the Government retained a majority in Parliament.
Getting the deal through the Nuclear Suppliers Group was another difficult task. There were many nations wedded to the cause of denial of technology to anybody who had not signed upto the NPT, and it required intensive effort by the US to get the group to agree. China in the end tried to prod other nations, but the US pressure (and a small amount of Indian pressure) was enough to get the member to eventually agree, even though it was totally under pressure.
The United States also had to face opposition internally, both within the Administration, and outside in the strategic community; people were reluctant to approve any exemptions to the NPT; thought was that this gave India the right to use its uranium resources to push its military weapons program; also that this gave the wrong signal to others such as Iran and Pakistan.
Overall, this deal will provide a vast impetus to the nuclear energy commercial business; with India planning a large number of reactors to meet a portion of its energy needs, a number of companies worldwide will benefit.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:12 AM