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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Better Nuclear Deal Then Expected?

India got it's way on all issues, it seems, at least based on first report.

Not just on the three outstanding issues in 1-2-3 US-India nuclear deal, but on all minor issues, India got it's way, at least with the Bush's executive branch. Now the US Congress has to vote on it. That may be a tough sell with the democratic Congress in charge, and with the US senate foreign affairs chairman, Joe Biden, running for president.

In any case, as the deal stands right now, Indian Express reports our negotiators got what we were asking for:

  • We can reprocess up to 20% purity of spend nuclear fuel, apparently to be used in fast breeder reactors (nuclear weapons need close to 95% or more purity);
  • If and when we do test, instead of immediately taking all the material back, there will be consultative mechanism to understand why India performed the test and, I'd presume, if the reasons are not satisfactory to US, then US will be allowed to take back nuclear material that it supplied;
  • And best of all, US will, explicitly, not curtail our strategic nuclear program as some language in Hyde Act tried to imply.
Beyound that, we also got agreement on lesser, but none-the-less significant, issues:
  • IAEA inspections will be based on separate India-specific negotiations. Recent legislation passed in US Congress tried to muddle the inspection issue;
  • India will get paid if US takes back the material, after the consultative process, if we conduct a nuclear test. So in theory we can acquire the material elsewhere. Sure there will be disruptions, but when national security is at stake (apparent reason for nuclear test), a bit of disruption, especially if its paid for, is worth it.
After reading the fine print, the deal opponents may have consternation on other issues that were agreed upon. But based on first reports, the deal is surely a good one for us.

Now we'll see what hurdles US Congress will impose on this deal. I don't see too many issues with this deal on India's side. If this deal, as agreed, does come to fruition, it's a foreign policy triumph for Manmohan and M. K. Narayanan and his team.


barbadkatte said...

On the face of it, it seems good. But here is what worries me. No one has been shown the actual agreement. All we hear is that people have been told the gist. Is there something to hide ?

Chandra said...

I am not sure there is much to hide. I think the actual document has been kept a secret to keep the Americans happy until they had their debriefing and deal making. On our side, Manmohan himself debriefed BJP, and that almost never happened in another instance, with MK Narayanan providing update to Brajesh Mishra. And then the document itself has to be tabled in Parliament during debate.

I think Manmohan and his team would be spinning the deal if there was something of substance to hide.