July 18, 2015, marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the joint statement by then Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and American President George W. Bush for civil nuclear cooperation. It was on the bedrock of this joint statement that finally the landmark United States – India Civil Nuclear Agreement came into being when US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed the “Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of India and the Government of United States of America Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” on October 10, 2008.
Notwithstanding the several other crucial provisions of the statement, the major provision was that India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and to place all its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In reciprocity, America committed full civil nuclear cooperation with India. As a result, India obtained a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group to import nuclear material for peaceful purposes without being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Underlying the above commitments, however, were certain indispensable and highly complex stages including the amendment of it’s Atomic Energy Act of 1954 by the US, a civil-military nuclear separation plan in India, an India-IAEA safeguard agreement and the grant of an exception to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). On August 18, 2008 the IAEA Board of Governors approved, and on February 2, 2009, India signed an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. After India brought this agreement into force, inspections began in a phased manner on the 35 civilian nuclear installations India had identified in its Separation Plan. On August 1, 2008, the IAEA approved the safeguards agreement with India, after which the United States approached the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant a waiver to India to commence civilian nuclear trade.
It’s been ten years now since the signing of the historic India- U.S. civil nuclear deal and the landmark event has apparently faded away from the consciousness of the masses. Considering the storm and thunder that attended the signing of the historic agreement on July 18, 2005 it appears that, the agreement has receded to a great extent today from the consciousness of the masses both in India and the United States. As we attain the tenth year of the joint statement, here arises a need to look back into the fruits that have been achieved.
India’s gains from the agreement
The deal for sure has provided India with the veritable keys of the kingdom. With the culmination of the deal, India became the only known country with nuclear weapons which is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world. The availability of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is expected to meet the energy requirements of an ever rising India.
In the aftermath of the 1974 Pokharan Tests, the world as a whole came up to conspire against India. The fact that a postcolonial nation defied the existing nuclear norms set by the big powers of the time to come up with a nuclear test without being a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty made the world take the matter seriously. As a response to the successful test, the world community came with the idea of the Nuclear Suppliers Group which aimed at reducing nuclear proliferation by checking the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials. Since India is a non signatory of the NPT, it was mostly left outside the international nuclear order especially post P1974. In 1998 when India conducted a series of such tests again, it was subjected to several international sanctions. The sanctions prevented India from obtaining commercial nuclear fuel, components and services from the international market. Despite severe sanctions from the international community, India continued its peaceful nuclear energy programme with its indigenous technology and resources. But with the ever multiplying population and the increasing rate of industrialization, India was compelled to look out for alternative sources of energy and it requires no mention that there could have been no better alternative than nuclear power.
Despite being self-sufficient in thorium, possessing about 32 percent of the world’s known and economically viable thorium reserves, India possess merely 1 percent of the global uranium reserves, which cannot make any significant change. Thus, import of nuclear fuel was an indispensable prerequisite for India’s energy requirements. In such circumstances, there can be absolutely no denying of the fact that, the waiver from the NSG and the American commitment to supply nuclear reactors and fuel came up as a boon for India.
Opening the door to the world
Although India has not been able to derive much out of the deal given the controversial clauses concerning suppliers’ liabilities and several other factors, the historic Indo-US deal has opened doors for India’s nuclear cooperation with other countries. The waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group came in as a boon for India. Following the Nuclear Suppliers Group permitting nuclear exports to India, France was the first country to sign a civilian nuclear agreement with India on September 30, 2008. During the December 2010 visit of the French President Nicholas Sarkozy to India, framework agreements were signed for setting up two third-generation EPR reactors of 1650 MW each at Jaitapur, Maharashtra by the French company Areva.
India has subsequently signed crucial civil nuclear agreements with Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Canada and Argentina. It requires special mention that, Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of Uranium and the entire world looks at establishing a nuclear cooperation with Kazakhastan.
India signed a civil nuclear cooperation deal with South Korea on July 25, 2011, allowing a framework for Korean companies to participate in atomic power plant projects in the country. South Korea thus, became the ninth country to sign a nuclear agreement with India after it got the waiver from the NSG.
In 2014, India signed a civil nuclear agreement with Australia in New Delhi, during Australian Prime Minister Tony Abott’s visit to India. The agreement allows the export of uranium to India.
The Deal and the Asian arena
The historic agreement – although it seems very win-win from the perspective of New Delhi and Washington, has to a great extent complicated the Asian or more particularly South Asian theatre. India’s increasing nuclear cooperation with United States and other nuclear rich countries coupled with its rising economic and political influence in South Asia, has forever kept Pakistan in apprehension.
With the Indo-US nuclear deal coming into force, the neighbor has even more reasons to be apprehensive. On the face of rapid industrial development Pakistan just like India, or for that matter any other county is expected to face a resource crunch sooner or later in case it stays dependent solely on conventional fossil fuels. Thus, nuclear energy is the need of the hour and Islamabad is duly aware of this reality. Pakistan has been helplessly trying to ink similar agreements with the United States on lines of the Indo-US deal. In a US-Pakistan strategic dialogue in 2010, Pakistan pressed for a civil nuclear cooperation pact similar to that with India but in vain.
In a similar attempt, Pakistan approached Japan during president, Asif Ali Zardari’s visit there to ink a civil nuclear agreement. Pakistan’s failure to convince the U.S. and the world community in large to accord it a similar status as that of India has been pushing it more and more towards China. The People’s Republic of China has been a strong vocal and avid supporter of Pakistan’s nuclear power generation programme since a long time. The history of Sino-Pak cooperation dates back to the 1970s when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as prime minister, first visited China.
There can be no denying of the fact that, with the NSG waiver and the withdrawal of various other sanctions by the international community, India can find an alternative for its depleting fossil fuel stock. India’s huge work force and economic capabilities when coupled with easy access of energy is sure to create wonders. The tale of India’s rise is of course not taken up in Beijing with much rejoice given the fact that such an Indian adventure in a way challenges China’s aspirations of becoming a dominant force in the region. To curtail India’s role and dominance in South Asia and to prevent New Delhi from becoming a stronger voice at the SAARC, China plans its Pakistan card and moves closer to Islamabad thus completing the circle from both sides.
The smaller nations in the region have so far neither shown their apprehensions openly nor have they indulged in bandwagoning with stronger powers. However, it seems that they too are paranoiac of India’s growing economic potentials. They fear that the increasing economic potentials of India on account of accessibility to nuclear energy will multiply India’s influence in the region. They fear losing domestic markets to leviathan Indian industries and thus indulge in friendly trade relations with India while maintaining negative lists of items of trade. The smaller nations need to calculate their moves for optimization of their national interests by maintaining the already existing friendly ties with India while at the same time taking appropriate steps to maintain their individual sovereignty.
Although there has been no considerable transfer of tangible benefits between India and United States in almost a decade after the signing of the agreement, the agreement in itself has been sufficient to put many forces into action. On one hand, following the United States, other nations have taken India in good faith in terms of handling nuclear resources and have come forward to sign civil nuclear pacts. On the other hand the environment in South Asia has remained tensed on account of India’s rising cooperation with the world.
*Uddipta Ranjan Boruah, Student of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi