Monday, November 03, 2008

Indo-US nuclear deal.. - A look back

- Chellamuthu Kuppusamy

That was something unprecedented in the history of Indian democracy. We had never seen such a sensational 'display of money' on the parliamentary floor. Trust me those were some of the tragic cum hilarious scenes we witnessed during the recent 'no confidence motion' and it could match any nail biting one day cricket game. You know what I am coming to. Yes, it is about the widely debated Indo-US 'civil' nuclear deal.

The Unites States Congress which is the House of Representatives (akin to Lok Sabha) and the Senate which is the upper house have given their blessing to this historic deal on September 28th and October 1st respectively. There was a sense of vindication, according to the Indian ambassador to the US Ronen Sen.

What makes this deal so special and time critical? Does India really surrender its national interest and sovereignty with this deal? A little recap from the history would help answer these questions.

The United States has the reputation of being the only nation in the history of mankind to deploy nuclear weapon and massacre more than 200 thousand people in August 1945. That eventually brought the World War II to an end.

Postwar era saw the world dividing into two camps, needless to mention American camp & Soviet camp. Mutual suspicion, secret nuclear programs and arm race was inevitable. Need for checking the proliferation of nuclear arms was felt and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT) was born thanks to the efforts from Ireland and Finland. That was in 1968.

NPT recognized the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China as nuclear weapon states (NWS) while the others were identified as non nuclear weapon states (NNWS). All the nations recognized by the UN signed NPT except India, Pakistan and Israel. For India, NPT did not prevent proliferation but actually classified the counties as ‘nuclear haves’ and ‘nuclear not haves’ as it only prevents ‘not have’ nations developing atomic armory after 1968.

Being a non-signatory of NPT, there was no restriction on India for conducting nuclear test. It perhaps carried out a test in 1974 to be coded as ‘Smiling Buddha’ which provoked serious reactions around the globe. Nuclear fuel supplying countries formed Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that subsequently decided not to assist India in the civil nuclear energy space.

There were 34 long years before this ban could relax. Indo-US deal enables India to access outside civil nuclear technologies and fuel, while still being a non-signatory of NPT. This is the best things that could happen to India.

World’s largest democracy only has to assure that it would not mix its civil and military nuclear establishments, and let IAEA supervise its civilian atomic power station. An estimated 14 out of the existing 22 reactors are to be used for civil and the rest for military purpose.

Following the foot prints of the U.S, France has inked an agreement to sell nuclear technology and reactors to India. What France plans to sell to India is the large 1,600 MW reactor, indeed, the largest of kind in commercial operations in the world, says the Hindu Business Line.

We have an installed capacity of 145,587.97 MW, primarily sourced from coal fired thermal power. France, on the other hand, generates 78.8 % of its electricity from nuclear power. We are at 2.9%. A long way to go indeed! We are far from uninterrupted power supply.

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