September 4, 2008
The Washington Post

In India, Outcry Over U.S. Letter

Critics say it shows Prime Minister lied About nuclear deal

by Rama Lakshmi

A day after a secret letter from the U.S. State Department to Congress about the controversial nuclear energy deal with India was made public, Indian opposition figures cried foul, accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of willfully misleading the nation about restrictive aspects of the deal.

The letter contradicts a commitment that Singh made to Parliament in August 2007, the critics said. He had told legislators that "the agreement does not in any way affect India's right to undertake future nuclear tests, if it is necessary."

Officials in Singh's government "have indulged in a farce which is unparalleled in our diplomatic and parliamentary history," the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said in a statement. "It is now crystal clear that India will lose the right to nuclear tests forever as a result of this agreement."

In a nearly year-long campaign that threatened the stability of Singh's government, the opposition argued that national sovereignty and security were at stake. If the agreement was adopted, they said, India would be unable to conduct nuclear tests because they would trigger suspension of supplies of crucial nuclear fuel and technology.

The State Department letter said that the deal's assurances to supply India with nuclear fuel are not meant "to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test." It went on to make clear that a cutoff would be immediate.

India's nuclear tests and its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty have led countries to restrict sales of nuclear technology and materials to it. The deal with the United States would clear the way for civilian nuclear cooperation, easing an electric power shortage. India would formally pledge certain safeguards but continue to remain outside the treaty. . . .


Mohsin Ali, "The Nuclear Nightmare," The Wisdom Fund, February 24, 2004

[The letter makes clear that the 123 Agreement has granted India no right to take corrective measures in case of any fuel-supply disruption. Rather, India's obligations are legally irrevocable. It further indicates there is no link between perpetual safeguards and perpetual fuel supply. Contrast this with what the prime minister claimed in Parliament on August 13, 2007: 'India's right to take "corrective measures" will be maintained even after the termination of the Agreement.' Or the prime minister's repeated assurances to Parliament since March 2006 that India's acceptance of perpetual international inspections will be tied to perpetual fuel supply. . . .

The letter assures Congress that the 'US government will not assist India in the design, construction or operation of sensitive nuclear technologies.' That rules out not only the transfer of civil reprocessing and enrichment equipment or technologies to India even under safeguards, but also casts a shadow over the US granting India operational consent to reprocess spent fuel with indigenous technology. Under the 123 Agreement, India has agreed to forego reprocessing until it has, in the indeterminate future, won a separate, congressionally vetted agreement.--Brahma Chellaney, "Embarrassing revelations on the nuclear deal,", September 3, 2008]

[The United States will not sell sensitive nuclear technologies to India and would immediately terminate nuclear trade if New Delhi conducted a nuclear test, the Bush administration told Congress in correspondence that has remained secret for nine months.Glenn Kessler, "In Secret Letter, Tough U.S. Line on India Nuclear Deal," Washington Post, September 3, 2008]

[The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) did not endorse the original plan last month, forcing the US to come back with a revised proposal. . . .

Critics of the deal say it creates a dangerous precedent - effectively allowing India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must.--"US-India nuclear accord approved," BBC News, September 6, 2008]

[A 45-nation group that governs trade in nuclear equipment and materials privately agreed last weekend that none of its members plans to sell sensitive technologies to India, according to sources familiar with the discussion. The agreement undercuts one of the Indian government's key rationales for seeking a civilian nuclear deal with the United States -- that it would open the door for "full civil nuclear cooperation" with the rest of the world.--Glenn Kessler, "World Nuclear Trade Group Agrees to Restrict Sales to India," Washington Post, September 12, 2008]

[Back in 2005 Secretary of State Condi Rice had whizzed down to New Delhi to prevent India's finalizing technical and commercial contracts for a $4.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India natural-gas pipeline that is to provide Iranian natural gas mostly to India.

In return for India canceling the "peace pipeline," Condi held out the possibility that we would (a) lift sanctions imposed by Congress on India (as a result of the nuclear weapons tests India conducted in 1998), (b) allow India to be supplied with NPT-proscribed nuclear materials and equipment - to be subjected to special IAEA Safeguards - we had previously blocked , and (c) get the Nuclear Suppliers Group to completely disregard guidelines on restrictions to be applied to NSG exports to India.--Gordon Prather, "What Have We Got to Lose?,", September 20, 2008]

[The message is clear: Washington will be in no mood to antagonize its Pakistani partner and Delhi is expected to keep tensions under check in its relations with Islamabad.--M K Bhadrakumar, "India grapples with the Obama era," Asia Times, February 21, 2009]

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