Arun Shouries Articles

An empty claim?

October 18, 2008
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Published by Indian Express : Sep 08, 2008 at 2352 hrs IST
Manmohan Singh and his spokespersons have said times without number that the US has assured India of “uninterrupted fuel supplies”. They have pointed to Article 5(6) as proof to say that the 123 Agreement enshrines this commitment. I had pointed out at that very time that the Article is just a face-saving farce. Manmohan Singh had told Parliament that the Americans had assured him that they would ensure “uninterrupted fuel supplies”, and that this would be provided in the 123 Agreement. In the event, the Americans did not budge an inch, they refused to incorporate any assurance to this effect in the 123 Agreement. At the last minute, to pleas that something had to be done to save face of the Manmohan Singh Government, they agreed to cut and paste his statement saying that in the 123 Agreement such an assurance shall be incorporated. But this was the 123 Agreement! What was to be provided in this 123 Agreement was left to some future 123 Agreement!

Yet, the people here were sought to be fooled – we have got the Americans to promise us “uninterrupted fuel supplies”. Indeed, the insinuation went further – it was almost as if fuel supplies could not now be stopped under any circumstances. In answer to question 15 and again in answer to question 18, the US Government states that only if fuel supply is interrupted for no fault of India, shall the US assist in resuming it. Thus, if some US firm fails to live up to its commitment to supply fuel, or if there is some disruption in global markets, the US will chip in. But if, for instance, we test; or we default in the account we keep of uranium we import, mine and use; or if we default on any of the numerous conditions prescribed in the 123 Agreement, the Hyde Act, the agreement with the IAEA, as well as under the guidelines of the NSG, and, as a result, fuel supply is stopped, the US will most emphatically not step in to restore fuel supplies.

Similarly, while we have been fed the fiction that the US has agreed to our building “strategic reserves” of fuel so that our reactors are not subjected to the Tarapur experience, twice in this document — from answers to questions 19 and 20 — we learn that there is no assurance to this effect. That India can secure fuel only, as the Obama amendment in the Hyde Act provides, for “reasonable operational requirements”. Not just that. The replies reveal that what this phrase – “reasonable operational requirements” – implies is not clear at all!

Manmohan Singh has repeatedly asserted that, in the event fuel supplies are interrupted or other difficulties are created, India has the right to take “corrective measures”. What is this magic bullet, we have wanted to know. Of course, there has been no answer. The US Congress asked Bush’s officials the same question. What does the Indian PM mean by “corrective measures”? The suggestion has been that, if things don’t turn out to our satisfaction, we can always withdraw our reactors from safeguards.

The answer to question 25 and again the answer to question 42 show how empty a claim this is. The Indian Government has not described what the expression means, the US Government says: we expect India to live up to the letter as well as the spirit of its commitment that it shall adhere to the safeguards “in perpetuity”. Furthermore, says the US Government, quoting the precise words to which persons like me had drawn attention in Parliament, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has told the US Congress, “We have been very clear with the Indians that the permanence of the safeguards is the permanence of safeguards without condition.”When the text of the 123 Agreement became public, I had drawn attention to the minatory Article 16. This provides that, should India, in the judgment of the US, step outside its commitments, even if the Agreement is terminated, the US shall have the right to get back every bit of nuclear material, every bit of non-nuclear material, every reactor, component, every ounce of fuel it has supplied under the Agreement. This position is reiterated in answers to questions 41 and 42.

Manmohan Singh keeps repeating, and so do the managed parts of the media, that India’s right to test remains unaffected. The US Congress as well as officials of the US Government have made it absolutely clear that the moment India tests, even if it is for peaceful purposes, the 123 Agreement will be terminated, and all nuclear commerce will stop. These consequences shall follow immediately. This position is reiterated in this document not once but four times – in answers to questions 16, 17, 37 and 38.

But it is not only in regard to tests that the government has woven falsehoods. The answers make two further things explicit. First, a test by India is not the only circumstance which triggers these consequences. It is just one of the circumstances that will invite the termination of the Agreement and the stoppage of all nuclear commerce. Other circumstances will be, such as a “material violation of the 123 Agreement, or termination, abrogation, or material violation of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.” Notice the “such as” that I wrote in the preceding sentence: these are not the only circumstances that will trigger the consequences. The answer refers to them with vital prefatory words, “for example”. Second, as the answer to question 38 puts it, that this is the import of Article 14 of the 123 Agreement is clear and well understood by India as much as by the US.

The final blow, the one that comes in response to the last question, number 45, is devastating as it shows how blatantly the Manmohan Singh Government has been lying. It has been maintaining that in the 123 Agreement, if nuclear commerce with India is stopped, the US Government has pledged that it will assist India to get the supplies, etc., from other members of the NSG. This sort of an assertion could be made only on the belief that everyone concerned is an idiot. Yet, not only has it been made, it has been swallowed and spread by sections of the media.

The Hyde Act binds the US Government to ensure the opposite — namely, that, if it terminates the 123 Agreement and stops nuclear commerce with India, it shall ensure that India cannot get the supplies from any other member of the NSG. That position is reiterated, and the pledge that the US Government will indeed ensure this is repeated in answer to question 45. The US Government has drawn attention of the Congress to the guidelines that exist in the NSG, and pledged that they will apply in case the US stops nuclear commerce with India.

Paragraph 16 of the NSG guidelines, the US government says, “provides that suppliers should (1) consult if, inter alia, one or more suppliers believe there has been a violation of a supplier/recipient understanding; (2) avoid acting in a manner that could prejudice measures that may be adopted in response to such a violation; and (3) agree on “an appropriate response and possible action”, which could include the termination of nuclear transfers to that recipient.” If the NSG agrees to the exception for India, the US Government assures, this guideline “would apply in the case of any nuclear transfers by a Nuclear Suppliers Group supplier to India.” And yet the falsehoods continue.

And now comes the NSG waiver. Hailed as a great victory for the country, it seals the three-year-long effort to get India into the two-layered net — a layer to limit the country’s ability to enhance its strategic capabilities; and the second layer that follows from the first: as we will not be able to acquire the sinews ourselves. To secure us against China, we will necessarily have to seek protection under the American umbrella.

Recall that the Hyde Act has several provisions that prescribe what India must do in regard to the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the MTCR, the Proliferation Security Initiative. Manmohan Singh declared in Parliament that these are “extraneous provisions” and that India shall not accept them. Just the other day, Pranab Mukherjee repeated, “We shall not accept any prescriptive conditions.” “The waiver must be unconditional and clean”, the Government has been saying all along.

The waiver, which is being hailed as a great national victory, states that it is being given as India has undertaken “the following commitments and actions.” Among these is the pledge that it shall continue its moratorium on tests. Both as a result of the 123 Agreement with the US, and now by the pledges made to the NSG, the Government has converted what was a voluntary decision into a pledge that is now a binding international commitment.

And make no mistake, it is a commitment for the indefinite future. For, as Japan has stated after the meeting, nuclear commerce with India shall cease the moment it tests. Second, exactly as the Hyde Act requires, India has pledged “its readiness to work with others towards the conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.” Yet, we are fed the lullaby: “The Hyde Act does not apply,”

Third, having entered the cage, we are now subject to scrutiny by NSG members in accordance with, to take just one instance, part 2 of the NSG guidelines. These say, in portions, that each member country shall have to be satisfied that India’s “statements and policies” “are supportive of nuclear non-proliferation” and that our actions are “in compliance with its international obligations in the field of non-proliferation.” The “non-proliferation” that concerns us is not of our giving nuclear technology or materials to others, but of our developing our strategic weapons.

Put this requirement alongside the statement that Pranab Mukherjee made on behalf of the Government to secure the waiver. In that statement the Government pledged that India shall desist from “an arms race including a nuclear arms race,” and that it will join steps being taken towards disarmament and non-proliferation. But all those agreements — the MTCR, the FMCT, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the PSI — agreements and arrangements about which Manmohan Singh had said India has “reservations”, which he said are “extraneous” to the nuclear deal, are one and all regarded by the NSG members as steps that are necessary for non-proliferation. By pledging to abide by guideline 2 of the NSG, and to have our “compliance in this regard to be assessed by each member before and as it trades with us, we pledge ourselves to signing up on each of them. It is not for nothing that, after the meetings, Germany, which had been presiding over the meetings, declared that India shall now have to undertake to work for the “entry into force of the CTBT and a termination of fissile material production for weapons.” Exactly what the Hyde Act prescribes.

Finally, contrary to the falsehood that the Government has been feeding us, that should the US stop nuclear supplies to India, it is bound by the 123 Agreement to help India obtain them from other countries, the waiver has been given on the condition that all members shall ensure the opposite.

Paragraph 3(e) prescribes as follows: Participating Governments will maintain contact and consult through regular channels. For the purpose of considering matters connected with the implementation of all aspects of this Statement taking into account relevant international commitments or bilateral agreements with India. In the event that one or more Participating Governments consider that circumstances have arisen which require consultations, Participating Governments will meet, and then act in accordance with paragraph 16 of the Guidelines.

And that paragraph requires that all members act in such a way that, if one country decides to terminate nuclear supplies to a recipient country, in this case India, that recipient is not be able to obtain the supplies from elsewhere. Exactly what the Hyde Act asked the US Government to ensure, and exactly what the US Government pledged in that letter to the US Congress it would ensure.

And yet, “The Hyde Act does not apply,”; “the US administration letter has no force of law”; “a national victory”. The Government has taken the country into a chakravyuh — the consequences will unfold one by one. As for the media, I can only plead with great sadness in my heart, do not make yourselves an instrument of falsehoods. The consequences far transcend your momentary shows and “stories”.

 

 


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