According to our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, nuclear power is the only feasible option to serve the ever-increasing demand for power and electricity in India. Let us keep aside the issue of thermal and hydel power. Let us first have a look at nuclear energy production in India. Does India produce nuclear power at all? The answer is ‘yes’. But the main question is, how?
Indian nuclear power generation depends on three main phases. First, power is generated from natural uranium using pressurized heavy water reactors and then by recycling the used fuel, plutonium is produced. Second, plutonium, along with uranium oxide is to be used as the fuel and covered by thorium in fast breeder reactors. In this process uranium 233 is to be produced from thorium in the second stage. Third, power is to be generated using this uranium 233 in thorium fast reactors.
The problem in India is the scarcity of uranium, and whatever is available, mostly consists of uranium 238, which is useless in case of nuclear power generation. But thorium is abundant in this country. So, India has clearly two options to generate nuclear power, either the much costlier option of importing uranium 233, or using thorium for the preparation of the fuel. Indian scientists had rightly chosen the second option.
However, the problem with thorium is that the fission of the nucleus is not possible. So thorium can never be directly used as a fuel, but in the second phase described above, we have seen that in India, thorium can be used to produce uranium 233 which is then used to generate power in the third phase. Thus the process of nuclear power generation in India is the ideal manifestation of self-dependence.
The vigorous Left opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal stems from the fact that the deal is going to undermine this self-dependence.
THE BONDAGE OF US LAW
Though it has been termed the Indo-US nuclear deal, the deal has been put forward by the USA and India has to agree to it.
Why is it so? This is because this deal is mainly dependent on two laws and both the laws are American law, passed by the US Senate. One is the HYDE ACT, and the other is the 123rd clause of the US Atomic Energy Act.
The nuclear co-operation treaty between US and India is being termed the "123 deal". The US Atomic Energy Act was approved by the US congress in 1954, and the US has to abide by the 123rd clause of that law whenever it makes any deal on nuclear energy. The same is being done in the Indian case which is why the deal has been dubbed the 123 deal. But the Hyde Act has also emerged as relevant because India is not a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty and India is not a ‘nuclear weapon’ state according to the US definition. This is why George Bush and his officials need to impose special rules and regulatory mechanisms on India and this is where the Hyde Act comes in. The US claims that because India is not a NPT signatory and is not a recognized nuclear weapon state, for facilitating a civil nuclear deal with India, the US had to relax the123rd clause through the promulgation of the Hyde Act. This is a dangerous lie. In reality, the Hyde Act imposes a lot of conditions over and above the 123rd clause in case of the deal with India. This deal was basically solely dependent on the approval of Hyde Act in the US Congress. The US government cannot take a single step that violates this law. Moreover it is clearly written in the 2(1) clause of the deal that both the country will obey their national laws, which, in case of US is the Hyde Act. So, evidently, there is no need to mention the Hyde act separately in the agreement even though the Hyde Act is the main driving force behind the deal.
HYDE ACT: ESSENTIALLY EXTRA CONDITIONS
This Act contains conditions which are detrimental to India’s interests.
a) The US will not transfer technology according to India's needs.
b) The US will not give any guarantee of uninterrupted supply of fuel, the total atomic fuel circle will not be available and there will be restrictions in dual use technology.
c) The US can cancel this deal any time it wants.
d) If the US cancels this deal, it will take back all the remaining material and fuel.
e) The US will ensure that if it decides to stop supply of atomic fuel to India then no other country will supply it. In the Hyde Act, it is stated that India has to participate in the PSI or the Missile Technology Control Regime. This means that Indian foreign and defense policy will be partially controlled by US. This can be confirmed by Mr. Bush's reaction after the Act was passed when he declared this will further strengthen the ‘strategic relationship’ with India. Note that the concern is neither commercial nor scientific, but "strategic relationship". This basically translates into military and political relationship.
So, what are the main objectionable issues on which the Left is so vehemently opposing the deal? In precise points:
1) The US wants to extend its hegemony around the world. It is threatening and invading various countries on the pretext of safeguarding democracy. And India has to support these attacks and invasions.
2) India cannot carry out nuclear tests (clause 103B, 104D).
3) India has to be a party to the NIT (clause 104 and 109)
4) India has to support the US on the question of Iran.
5) Six months after the deal becomes operational, the US President will report to the Congress whether India is being obedient.
Is this not violation of our country's sovereignty? Who will decide India’s foreign policy - India itself or the US? Don't we know that foreign policy influences domestic policy?
ROLE OF NSG
The "123 deal" deal is very directly related to India’s economic development and potential for environment friendly power generation. There are a few doubts regarding some clauses in this deal. These doubts stem from the clause that India cannot use its nuclear power in defense activities. If it does so, the US will retract this deal. The introduction to the deal clearly states: "it must be remembered that both the countries have the responsibility to resist weapons of mass destruction". The implication of withdrawing from the deal is that the US will not supply uranium for the nuclear plants in India. And not only will the US block supply, it will also request the conglomeration of 45 countries (Nuclear Suppliers Group) to stop supply of uranium to India. The truth is, many of these 45 countries operate on US directives, and the group works only on the basis of "consensus".
What is this NSG? It was primarily created to stop Indian nuclear research in 1975 after India's nuclear test in 1974. At the start, the numbers of countries were 8, now it is 45. The US controls the NSG and though Russia, China etc are fellow members, decisions are taken only on the basis of consensus.
India will be placed under watch to scrutinize if it is developing nuclear weapons and the International atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be the watchdog. This consists of 144 countries. India will be subject to IAEA inspections.
All OF IT IS JUST THREATS
The CPI(M) clearly believes that no country should be having nuclear weapons. Every country having nuclear weapons should destroy those. The CPI(M) wants total destruction of nuclear weapons. But the countries having nuclear weapons have a peculiar demand. They do not want to destroy their own weapons. These will remain intact. But they do not want any other country to develop capability in nuclear weapons. This is the sole demand of those countries which are ‘nuclear weapons states’ right now, like the US, the UK, France and Russia. The fashionable name of this unjustified demand is NPT. Right now the US has more than 10000 nuclear weapons, and they will keep it. The reason is clear. These are tools for the US to get its way around through black mail to achieve its own ends. Till now, India has not signed the NPT for the right reasons, but the "123 deal" will bind India to this treaty.
So how many constraints and barriers will India be subject to because of this deal? First, the US state or the Congress; second, the NSG and third, the IAEA. All of these have a common agenda – the destruction of India’s independent nuclear research capacity. This is the sole agenda of all the stringent conditions being imposed on India through the deal. But the peculiar situation is that those in favor of this deal are not ready to concede that these are conditions. If the US says that to keep the deal operational India has to support US military policy, is it not a condition? There are many such examples that can be given. Even after all this, it is still being argued that there is no alternative to this deal if India wants to keep its nuclear programme alive. What is the real situation?
INDIAN NUCLEAR RESEARCH
Those who are in favor of this deal are presenting the arguments in such a manner as to present the deal as the only lifeline for Indian nuclear research. They are actually denying and insulting the huge progress that has been made in Indian nuclear research.
The truth of the matter is, that the Indian nuclear research programme is one of the most advanced research programmes in the world. The institutions carrying out such research are the best examples of our country’s sovereignty. The nuclear programme in India started with two reactors in Tarapur with technical assistance from the US and Canada and then another two in Rawatbhatta. Later both countries withdrew their support. Since then, Indian scientists have worked independently for the last 30 years. They have built 17 reactors based on indigenous technology and material. They are producing electricity under the constraint of scarce fuel resources and they are going to add new dimensions to the use of thorium.
THE RESTRICTION IS STILL ON
For the last thirty years, barriers have been created for India’s nuclear research programme at the behest of the US. India signed a nuclear co-operation deal with the US in 1963. Fuel supplies were facilitated. In1968, India refused to sign the discriminatory agreement on non-proliferation. In1974, India carried out its independent nuclear test. Since then, the US started imposing restrictions. Not only did they stop the supply of fuel and technology, they also forced every other country not to supply nuclear fuel to India. They imposed technology barriers. Now, the question is, due to this deal, are we going to see any relaxation of the restrictions and barriers? The answer is NO.
First, India will not get ‘full nuclear co-operation’, it will be partial, and the rest will still be subject to restrictions.
Second, India will not have any right to undertake nuclear enrichment programmes. The deal states the US will try to change the law regarding this. But it is just a mere promise of a "try", no guarantee that it will. India has to sign a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and that too will create specific hindrance towards enrichment. The US has also created similar barriers for Iran’s enrichment programme.
Third, India will not be allowed to buy the technology for heavy water reactors which is necessary for nuclear power generation. Though India has its own heavy water technology, it cannot use imported fuel for this.
Fourth, there is strict restriction on import of dual use resources. Dual use resources are those resources which can be used in defense activities too, and the list of these things never ends. In 1992, NSG banned the supply of dual use material to Iraq. The logic was to prevent the making of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq, and that list included iron pipes, and even medicines. In the case of India, every material that helps in nuclear research development will surely be on this list.
Fifth, India is well ahead of others in the research of fast breeder reactors. India uses fast breeder reactor to create fuel from thorium. But according to this deal, the resources for the fast breeder reactor will be on the dual use resources list and thus will be banned. This is pretty dangerous because of the fact that Indian nuclear research is heavily based on thorium and thorium is pretty abundant in India. If this deal materializes, then India will have to be perpetually dependent on the imported technology and fuel. India’s indigenous technology and research sovereignty for electricity generation will be gone.
Sixth, India will not get the full right to recycle the fuel. Indian scientists have already raised this issue and the Left has also raised this issue in parliament in 2006. After that it has been decided (probably based on advice from the US) that India will build a special facility where the imported fuel will be recycled, not in any other place. But the rules and regulations of this recycling will be decided later in another deal. So we still do not know what all the conditions will be regarding recycling. Moreover, dual use material will be banned in this as well.
Seventh, India currently has 22 nuclear projects. To build the basis of this deal, India has already marked 14 of these 22 projects for IAEA safeguards forever. And this safeguard essentially means restriction, not security. But is nuclear fuel supply assured after these restrictions? Again the answer is no. It is clear in the text of this deal that the US can stop the supply of nuclear fuel anytime it chooses.
THE US IS GOING TO GAIN A LOT
While this deal is going to ruin India's independent foreign policy and nuclear research, the US is going to gain a lot both economically and politically from this deal. The French and American nuclear reactor companies have started preliminary discussion with NPCI, soon after the deal was initiated. The president of the US-India Business Council Ron Somers has been ultra active on this issue. According to him, this deal will create at least 27000 ‘high quality’ jobs in the next decade. The last two decades have been a period of decline for the US nuclear power industry. This deal is going to be a lifeline for them. Two huge corporate houses, which make nuclear reactors, General Electric and Westing House, are visiting India very frequently. The Russian company Rostom and the French company Areva are also not far behind. Indian industrialists are also willing to build a partnership with these foreign companies, and for this reason, a demand has been raised to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1962.
Data for Original Bengali Article: Sukanta Dasgupta
Translation: Anirban Ghatak, Editing: Chirashree Das Gupta