Friday, July 11, 2008

My Views on the IAEA Agreement

The IAEA safeguards agreement draft was made public on 10 July, 2008. The agreement is divided into 11 sections. There is a preamble, which notes that the Safeguards Agreement is an “essential basis” for India to gain “uninterrupted” access to the international nuclear fuel market, including uninterrupted access, and support its effort to develop a strategic fuel reserve to guard against any disruption of supply. Following are some of the highlights of the agreement:

1. Assurance of uninterrupted nuclear fuel supply to India by the members of NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) on a commercial basis.
2. India will have the freedom to separate “civilian” and “dual use” facilities.
3. The facilities designated as “civilian” will only be safeguarded once India determines that “all conditions conducive to the accomplishment of the objective of this Agreement are in place.”
4. The agreement supports for Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India’s reactors.
5. Agreement allows India to take “corrective measures” in case of disruption of nuclear fuel supplies.
6. Indian nuclear weapons program will stay out of purview of the IAEA safeguards.
7. The agreement says safeguards would be implemented in a manner so as not to obstruct Indian efforts to use technology, equipment and nuclear material acquired or developed by India independent of the agreement “for its own purposes.”
8. Promise of 'full' nuclear cooperation, including access to advanced plutonium reprocessing, uranium enrichment, and heavy water production technology.

· The agreement though an almost exact replica of the standard IAEA safeguards agreement has given a lot of latitude to India. The most important fact is that India will be free to decide what is civilian and what is military and even the civil reactors go under safeguards once India feels it is ready.
· It is interesting to note that the provision for “corrective actions” by India in case of discontinuation of fuel in the event of a test by India appears only in the preamble. Combined with provision allowing India to create a “strategic reserve” of fuel, the provision for corrective measures ameliorates the 1960s Tarapur like threats by the NSG.
· The controversy over the non clarification of “corrective measures” is only to provide for options in the event of circumstances and events not foreseeable at the time of drafting the agreement.
· India has not given a list of facilities that will go under safeguard though it is known that in their agreement with USA, the government has declared 14 out of the 22 reactors as civilian facilities.

Overall the agreement seems to be beneficial and most of the fears of the domestic entities irrelevant. India is already running low on Uranium supplies and the effort to move away from oil for energy security would need a stable supply line of nuclear fuel. As the cryogenic engine comes of age, India moves into the IRBM and ICBM zone. The need for thermonuclear devices as plausible deterrent is only obvious. Militarily too, the deal will only benefit as India gets access to sensitive technology.


Upinder said...

then sir what is Parkash Karat crying about..?? why do they say tht some clauses of the agreement are anti-India...which are they?? do we have an assurance of nuclear fuel supply in perpetuity..???Is Mr Manmohan right in jeopardizing his govt for the sake of this deal..???

Ashish Pillai said...

Difficult questions to answer....

In all the press conferences by the left (at least in most I have seen), the main objection they have voiced was more about the attempt by the government to strengthen strategic ties with USA.

The left is of the view that the 123 agreement cannot be studied in isolation from the overall strategic (mainly military) relationship developing between India and USA.

They are opposed to this relationship as it is perceived of as a clear deviation from the historic Indian stance of holding the USA at an arms length and a dependence on Russia (then USSR).

Moreover it is feared that as the standing between India and USA is very large, India may eventually tsrat getting arm twisted in matters of common interest, even our foreign policy. A good example would be recent US attempts at exhorting India to take an anti Iran stance.

As for is the PM right in jeopardizing his government for the deal...... I think it is a a game of bluff with high stakes. They have their calculations, so does Sp, BSP, BJP and the Left. However what interests me is that at the end of the day, the energy future of millions depends upon horse trading!! Anyhow the government has almost completed its term, even if it were to fall today, it is not that big a loss for them. I would love to see Karat and Advani "likeminded" even if one issue!! That is why the poor gentlemean from the left has to cosy upto Mayawati. That is the begining of a totally new story... more on that later.

Upinder said...

thanks for that sir...i hope that someday we'll cease to be at the mercy of these politicians to improve our country.....

Rizwan said...

thanks sir for making it clear.. i was not getting it as i read the agreement on THE HINDU. I don't know why the left created problem-may be the left block made for these things.i didn't understand why BJP is opposing this infact as far as i remember it was they who actually started this.. And now making it a MUSLIM issue. As i think it is not the access to US only but we will get the access to othe 45 nations.. whic is good for us