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Doesn’t pay to be ‘Sam-struck’!
Most Indians had hailed the nuclear deal with US as one of India’s greatest achievements. Instead, it is increasingly looking like one of its costliest mistakes

The US-India civilian nuclear deal which is more popularly known as the 123 Agreement has been the most deceiving deal India has ever signed in recent history. Admittedly, we say this with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, but then, this realisation is not yet visible in the government. The inconclusiveness and shifting priority of the deal has only strengthened the fast emerging sentiment that US is not genuinely interested in India’s needs and prosperity; it just values rational and logical interference on matters that would restrain India’s global diplomatic leadership – and India’s energy security is unquestionably one of them.

Not that we’re quite in awe of nuclear energy (read B&E’s cover issue dated June 23, 2011), but the 123 agreement at least was supposed to give us flexibility to use the nuclear route when in need. After considerable negotiations, India finally signed the 123 US-India nuclear deal in October 2008 (United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act), which promised India access to stocks of enriched uranium and foreign investments in the country as well. The government went overboard and India bought 40 foreign nuclear reactors, which were estimated to have production capacities of 40,000 MW of electricity by 2050 – and in return, India was to be treated as a ‘nuclear weapons state.’

But then, there has always been more to this deal than meets the eye. Recently, during the debate on the Civilian Nuclear Liability Act, the Parliament found out that many technologies (including the reactors) provided by foreign firms were faulty and outdated. In simple words, in the veil of a nuclear deal, what foreign (read: Western) companies did was that they sold outdated and obsolete nuclear technologies to nuclear-hungry India. This deal also pushed back our plans of thorium-based reactors, which could have solved the energy problems to a large extent. Given the fact that we have a large indigenous supply of thorium and raw thorium is available in plenty on Kerala’s shores, the cost of running & operating a thorium based reactor would have been significantly reduced.
The 123 deal allows US the expansive power to withdraw ‘reprocessing’ rights from India. Along with destroying our thorium based nuclear ambitions, this deal also killed the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline ($7.5 billion & 2,700 kilometer pipeline) that was aimed at sharing Iran’s abundant natural gas reserves with India and Pakistan. On the contrary, it promoted another pipeline for India – the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Indian pipeline (TAPI). This pipeline, unlike the IPI, is controlled by US oil companies and passes through US-controlled Afghan territory. Thus, this allows US to keep an eye on the energy transfer and to further moderate deals and India’s energy usage to their benefit! The IPI pipeline deal, which had fantastic diplomatic and economic benefits, started way back in 1994; but then, in the enthusiasm of signing the 123 deal, India was made to back out from the same in 2009. In the same light, to be doubly sure, US further blackmailed Pakistan and asked the nation to halt the pipeline work (at a time when India was reconsidering the IPI deal & had called for a meeting with Iran’s and Pakistan’s respective heads in May 2010) in exchange for aid and donations in January 2010. US also helped Pakistan in the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant, which will allow Pakistan to transfer electricity from Tajikistan. In summary the deal has been a shrewd double-edged sword, which on one hand, inserted a pause on India’s nuclear ambitions and on the other, stole the chance for diplomatic ties between India, Pakistan & Iran and energy sufficiency. The deal was basically done to curb Iran’s IPI plans, which is evident from how US pressurized Singh’s government as the IPI deal was getting nearer.

Policy and national strategy analyst, Brahma Chellaney, wrote recently about the deal, “In sum, India has a deal under which it got no legally binding fuel-supply guarantee to avert a Tarapur-style fuel cut-off; no irrevocable reprocessing consent; and no right to withdraw from its obligations under any circumstance, although the US has reserved the right for itself to suspend or terminate the arrangements if it holds India not to be in compliance with the stipulated terms. Moreover, the continuation of the deal will hinge on India not conducting a nuclear test ever again. These are the four “no”s embedded in the deal. In fact, this is the first case in world history where one nuclear-weapons state has used a civilian cooperation deal to impose a weapons-related prohibition on another nuclear-weapons state, which has only a rudimentary nuclear military capability.” We couldn’t agree with him less.

By:- Sray Agarwal

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