September 3, 2008 8:12:10 pm
In curiously-timed disclosures, the US has made it clear that its assurances of nuclear fuel supplies to India are not meant to ‘insulate’ it against the consequences of a nuclear test.
A day ahead of the meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) in Vienna where the fate of the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal is expected to be decided, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman has released State Department’s answers to 45 questions on the deal which indicate clearly differing perceptions on key issues between New Delhi and Washington.
The questions were submitted to the State Department by Berman’s predecessor Tom Lantos way back in October, 2007 and answers were sent on January 16, 2008. For nine months, these documents were kept under wraps and have been made public just before the Vienna meeting.
The answers were considered ‘so sensitive, particularly because the debate over the agreement in India could have toppled the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the State Department requested they remain secret even though they were not classified,’ according to Washington Post which quoted a spokesman for Berman as saying he had made the answers public because the US Congress must have ‘relevant information’.
Berman recently wrote a letter to the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in which he threatened that the deal will be blocked in the US Congress if the Bush administration does not incorporate additional conditionalities in any NSG waiver to India.
In its responses, the State Department has said that as outlined in the 123 Agreement, should India detonate a nuclear explosive device, the US has the right to cease all nuclear cooperation with it immediately, including the supply of fuel.
It also stipulates that US can request India to return items transferred from it including fresh fuel. In addition, the US has the right to terminate the agreement on one year’s written notice.
The State Department letter says the US assurances are intended to guard against disruptions of fuel supply to India that might occur through no fault of its own. It cited instances like a trade war resulting in the cut off supply, market disruptions or the failure of a company to fulfill a fuel supply contract.
In such circumstances, the US would be prepared to encourage transfers of nuclear fuel to India by other NSG members.
“The fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of non-proliferation commitments,” the State Department said.
The State Department also took the line that ceasing nuclear cooperation with India would be a ‘serious step’.
“The US would not take such a serious step without careful consideration of the circumstances necessitating such actions and the effects and impacts it would entail,” it said.
Such circumstances would include detonation of a nuclear weapon, violation of the 123 Agreement or termination, abrogation or violation of the IAEA safeguards.
The State Department contended that although the Hyde Act allows for transfers of sensitive nuclear technology under certain circumstances, it was not the intention of the Administration to do this ‘outside’ the deal.
It insisted that there was no plan or intention to negotiate an amendment to the proposed agreement to transfer to India sensitive nuclear facilities or critical components of such facilities.
The Department was asked whether US would limit any transfer of dual use technology to India’s enrichment and reprocessing facilities to those that were participants in a bilateral or multinational programme to develop proliferation-resistant fuel cycle technologies.
In its response, the Administration said it was not its intention to assist India in the design, construction or operation of sensitive nuclear technologies through the transfer of dual-use items ‘whether under the agreement or outside the agreement.’
If India were to develop such facilities, potential dual-use transfers could be considered only under the exceptions granted in the Hyde Act, it said.
It said the US has not discussed in detail with India what form ‘appropriate verification measures’ might take if the IAEA decides that it was no longer possible for it to apply safeguards under the Indo-US agreement.
US ‘disclosures’: Left, BJP slam UPA Govt on nuke deal
Reacting sharply to disclosures that the United States would stop fuel supplies to India if New Delhi carries out a nuclear test, the BJP alleged the UPA government stood ‘completely exposed’ on Indo-US atomic deal.
BJP vice-president Yashwant Sinha said that the note from the Bush administration to the Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee was not an ordinary communication. “It is a very, very important communication which sets out the policy of the administration, the government in the US,” he said.
“The most important thing is that the communication is nine months old. Government of India must have been aware of it,” he said.
Sinha said the government had claimed that India will retain the right to test. “We were assured of constant fuel supply. We will be benefited by sensitive nuclear technology.”
The BJP leader claimed that as per the communication, the moment India tests nuclear device, all co-operation and all supplies to India will be stopped.
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “the shocking revelation made by Washington Post vindicates BJP’s stand that the 123 Agreement would compulsorily prohibit any future tests by India, a fact which has been vehemently opposed by the Prime Minister, both inside and outside Parliament.”
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pulled a bluff on the nation and even deceived Parliament. The very fact that the contents of the letter were not revealed for nine months with a ploy that the PM gets over the crisis of nuclear deal in India is nothing but a blatant betrayal,” he charged.
N-deal: UPA Govt thoroughly exposed, says Left
The CPM said its stand on the nuclear deal stood vindicated with the ‘disclosures’ by the US on the issue and asked the UPA government to suspend all further moves to operationalise the ‘anti-national’ agreement.
“The government should suspend all further moves to operationalise the anti-national nuclear deal,” the CPM Politburo said in a statement.
Noting that the US has given ‘no binding fuel supply assurance’ to the country, the party said the Manmohan Singh government was ‘thoroughly exposed’ before the country for ‘compromising’ India’s vital security interests.
“The Left parties had warned the UPA government about the provisions in the notes submitted to the UPA-Left Coordination Committee, which have now been vindicated by this disclosure. Each of the commitments made by the Prime Minister in Parliament have been violated,” the statement said.
The CPM said proceeding with the nuclear deal will ‘mortgage’ India’s sovereignty and make the country’s civilian nuclear programme ‘vulnerable to US blackmail for the next 40 years.’
The CPM said the 26-page correspondence between US State Department and members of the American Congress has revealed that the US has given no binding fuel supply assurance to the country.
The party also noted that there is no US consent to India’s stockpiling of lifetime fuel reserves for safeguard power reactors.
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