Wednesday, June 28, 2006


New Delhi, June 27: The Hyde-Lantos Bill to “exempt from certain requirements of the (US) Atomic Energy Act of 1954 a proposed nuclear agreement for cooperation with India” has laid out very stringent and intrusive norms of good behaviour that cover India’s relations with Iran, its cooperation with the US in foreign policy and its willingness to place its nuclear programme under the supervision of not just the IAEA but also the US administration.

A copy of the “United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006” introduced in the House of Representatives is available with this newspaper and makes it clear that it is the “sense of (the US) Congress” that the administration could enter into an agreement with a non-NPT member country (like India) provided that it has “a functioning and uninterrupted democratic system of government, has a foreign policy congruent to that of the US, and is working with the US in key foreign policy initiatives related to non-proliferation.”

It further goes on to state that “such cooperation will induce the country to give greater political and material support to the achievement of US global and regional non-proliferation objectives, especially with respect to dissuading, isolating and, if necessary, sanctioning and containing states that sponsor terrorism and terrorist groups; that are seeking to acquire a nuclear weapons capability or other weapons of mass destruction capability and the means to deliver such weapons.”

In case the point has been missed, the Bill goes on under a section “statements of policy” to identify at least one of the countries it has in mind as Iran. This section, using the same language as above, makes it mandatory for the US to “secure India’s full and active participation in US efforts to dissuade, isolate and if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability (including the capability to enrich or process nuclear materials), and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction.”

Reports in a section of the press that India was free to accept or reject these provisions were dismissed by strategic experts, who pointed out that the Bill as a whole made it apparent that these areas were crucial to approval by the US Congress, and if passed would bind India to US foreign policy objectives.

The Bill also made it clear that the US should ensure India’s full participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative and also “seek to halt the increase of nuclear weapon arsenals in South Asia, and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination.”

The Bill gives powers to the US President to “exempt a proposed agreement for nuclear cooperation with India from the requirement of Section 123 a(2) but lists out several stipulations on which alone such a presidential ‘determination’ can be made. Under these India will have to provide the US and the IAEA with a credible separation plan;

* File a declaration regarding its civil facilities with the IAEA;
* Conclude an agreement requiring the application of IAEA safeguards in perpetuity;
* Make substantial progress with the IAEA towards concluding an additional protocol consistent with IAEA principles, practices and policies;
* Work actively with the US for the early conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty;
* Work with and support US and international efforts to prevent the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology;
* Take the necessary steps to secure nuclear materials and technology; and
* The Nuclear Suppliers Group should decide by consensus to permit supply to India of nuclear items covered by the guidelines of the NSG. It is clear from this that the US Congress can pass the legislation only if the IAEA conditions have been met and the NSG has agreed to open nuclear supplies to India.

And as if this was not enough, the Bill makes it clear that the President has to submit a report detailing the basis for determination that will have to include a summary of the separation plan along with an analysis of the credibility of such a plan; a summary of the safeguards agreement reached between India and the IAEA; a summary of the progress made towards the implementation of the additional protocol; a description of the steps being taken by India to work with the US towards the conclusions of the treaty banning production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; a description of the steps being taken by India to prevent the spread of nuclear related technology and details of all the other items listed above.

As the experts said, it is clear that India will now be on the “US hook” and will be under the close scrutiny of the US Congress. The Bill makes it clear that nuclear transfers to India will be terminated if it “makes any materially significant transfer of nuclear or nuclear-related material, equipment or technology that does not conform to NSG guidelines, or ballistic missiles or missile related equipment or technology that does not conform to MTCR guidelines.”

It gives the right to the President, however, to take a final decision about the nuclear transfers under certain guidelines. The Bill is categorical that if the nuclear transfers to India are restricted, then the President should ensure that participating governments in the NSG or any other source also does not supply India with nuclear equipment and technology.

So the Manmohan Singh government’s claim that if the uranium supply for the nuclear reactors, for instance, is restricted it would be free to approach other NSG countries does not really stand under the provisions of the Hyde-Lantos Bill. The Bill makes it imperative for the US President to keep the Committee on International Relations and the Committee on Foreign Relations in both Houses of Congress regularly briefed on various aspects of the nuclear deal through substantive reports.

These will include, apart from other many details, an estimate of the amount of uranium mined in India the year before, the amount of the uranium that has been used or allocation for the production of nuclear explosive devices, the rate of production of fissile material and nuclear explosive devices and an analysis as to whether the imported uranium has affected such rate of production of nuclear explosive devices.

The monitoring by the IAEA under the additional protocol will be intrusive, but so will be the supervision by the US administration that will have to meet the tall and very intrusive conditions imposed by the US Congress under this specific piece of legislation.

(Perhaps beggars are not choosers!)


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