A Political Nuclear Deal

In the recent past, there has been much ado about the Indo-US nuclear deal, also known as the 123 Agreement. Every day we receive different opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of this deal, that the government is pushing ahead of the polls and the opposition is pushing away to come out ahead in the polls.

All said and done, according to the government projections, if the implementation of the deal is successful, then the nuclear power supplied by the US will be only 5 percent of India’s energy requirement. Is the entire Indo-US nuclear deal anything more than a political drama with a lot of players, each with their own ulterior motive?

The Indian government has multiple reasons to push the deal. There is the internal
motive, which is the UPA wants to show their strength and the political will that they can generate. If the UPA can successfully go through with the deal, they will not only be on a political high ground they may also be able to take the people’s attention away from the rising inflation. Then there is the external motive, the strategic partnership with the USA that comes along with the 123 agreement. The 123 agreement will not only lift the international embargo on the export of civilian nuclear technology and fuel it creates a unique exemption for India within the world nuclear regulatory regime, allowing a self-proclaimed nuclear-weapons state that is a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to purchase nuclear fuel and advanced nuclear technology. This may be a landmark in the nuclear history of the nation, but it all comes at a cost. The visible cost here is that we will have to make our civil reactors regulated by the IAEA, but there is a hidden cost involved as well, the sacrifice of our foreign policy.

It is this sacrifice in the Indian foreign policy that has attracted USA to the deal in the first place. The US needs a strategic partner in the Indian subcontinent with China rising economically and militarily. We can be sure that the USA has none but its own intentions in mind, something which can be gathered very simply by reading the Hyde Act, along with the clause in the 123 agreement that makes the local laws of either country applicable before the 123 agreement. What this means is that the US can invoke a “right to return”, and end the agreement at its senators whims and fancies, while on the other hand India will have to give prior notice and follow a lengthy procedure before they can withdraw from the agreement. Another interesting clause in the American 123 agreement with China is that it makes the Vienna Law of treaties applicable, while the agreement with India has no such provision and since USA is not a signatory of the Vienna Convention none of those laws apply to the agreement. There are also considerable economic interests animating the US push to end the nuclear embargo and related constraints on the transfer of military technology to India. US corporations anticipate the nuclear deal will translate into multibillion-dollar military and nuclear sales to India.

The Indian government hopes to achieve a revised status in the world order after this
historical agreement with the United States. The UPA hopes to win the hearts of the over one billion Indians by winning the Nuclear deal despite opposition from the Left and the Right. The United States hopes to find a political puppet in India to create a presence in the subcontinent in order to compete with China on their soil if the need so arises. The 123 agreement, be it from the American or the Indian perspective, seems to have a lot of give and take, some advantages, some disadvantages, but all of these are only political.

Nuclear fuel was always considered to release a large quantity of power, but in this
specific scenario, the only real power this nuclear deal is releasing is all political.

Kanishk Kakkar


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