By Ali Raza
It was July 18, 2005, when Prime Minister of India Mr. Manmohan Singh and President of United States George W. Bush gave joint statement manifesting their intentions of cooperation on civil nuclear energy. Prime Minister of India had also expressed its commitment that civilian and military nuclear facilities of India would be separated, but in a phased manner. The said commitment of the Indian Prime Minister had connoted that India would only have two categories of facilities i.e. civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards and military facilities outside the safeguard.
The Guidelines of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) imply that nuclear material and technology will only be transferred to that non-nuclear weapon state, which would be having comprehensive safeguard agreements. Since India was (and is still) not a party to Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and it is also not acknowledged as nuclear weapon state for the purposes of NPT, therefore, India is not under any obligation to adhere to a comprehensive safeguard agreement with IAEA over all of its nuclear material and facilities. To enable India to receive nuclear supply under the Guidelines, it was imperative for India to obtain an exception. It was in this context that India announced to separate its civilian facilities from that of military facilities in a phased manner and to declare its civilian nuclear facilities to IAEA.
Upon declaration of India to separate its civil nuclear facilities from that of military facilities, NSG granted, in September 2008, clean waiver to India while referring to the commitments of India regarding separation of civil nuclear facilities and filing of declaration regarding civil nuclear facilities with IAEA. Although the separation plan intended to separate Indian Nuclear program in two categories, i.e. civil and military, but this plan actually produced three categories, i.e., “civilian safeguarded”, “civilian unsafeguarded”, and “military”. This complexity has arisen from the unique character of agreement of Indian safeguards with IAEA.
The incompleteness of the separation of India’s civilian and military programs has also been highlighted in report published by Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs of Harvard Kennedy School authored by Kalman A. Robertson and John Carlson titled as “The Three Overlapping Streams of India’s Nuclear Programs”. Various possibilities of the use of safeguarded plutonium to produce significant quantities of unsafeguarded plutonium have been highlighted in the said report. For example, the report says that it may be possible for India to remove weapons-grade plutonium from safeguards and use it in nuclear weapons, provided that it places an equivalent amount of reactor-grade plutonium.
Report further narrates that in the safeguards agreement, India undertakes not to use items subject to the agreement, including any facility under temporary safeguards while safeguarded material is present, to further any military purpose (Article 1). However, due to the absence of any verification, the international community has no assurance that India is not building nuclear weapons with plutonium that has been exempted from safeguards in the manner described above. The provision for temporary safeguards over otherwise unsafeguarded facilities is most likely to become problematic, if India uses it in combination with provisions that allow safeguarded material to be used alongside unsafeguarded material (e.g., articles 25 and 96 of India’s safeguards agreement). Article 25 allows nuclear material (including spent fuel containing weapons-grade plutonium) that “has been produced in or by the use of safeguarded nuclear material” to be removed (exempted) from safeguards under particular conditions. Specifically, article 25 exempts a proportion of the plutonium produced in a reactor provided that less than 30% of the fissionable material in each loading is safeguarded material.
In the said report, while quoting the aforesaid and other instances, it has also been observed that Pakistan’s reservations to the effect that India could use its unsafeguarded Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors to produce more nuclear weapons in future is well-founded, and India should take such steps that could ensure international community that the elements of civil nuclear build up of India are not contributing fissile material to India’s growing nuclear arsenal.
From the flagrant violation of commitment of India regarding separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities and the facts as enumerated above, it can be safely deduced that the significant expansion of India’s nuclear program point to just one conclusion, i.e. India is misusing the exception / waiver granted to it by the NSG in 2008. The international community must take into consideration the above mentioned facts, and they should immediately withdraw waiver granted to it in the year 2008 rather than considering the possibilities of entry of India into NSG.
*Ali Raza is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad. He holds masters degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies (S&NS) from National Defense University, Islamabad. His area of research includes Strategic Stability, Arms control and disarmament and Non-Proliferation. His opinion articles appear in national and international newspapers, blogs and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]