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Indo-US Nuclear-Deal

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  • 09 Aug 2021
  • 8 min read

Why in News

Recently, the former foreign secretary of India, Vijay Gokhale in his book claimed that the Left parties in India were influenced by China in their decision to oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal.

  • Although with the Indo-US nuclear agreement, India got a special Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) waiver, the progress of Greenfield projects is slow.

Greenfield Projects:

  • A greenfield project is one which is not constrained by prior work.
  • It is constructed on unused land where there is no need to remodel or demolish an existing structure. Such projects are often covered by engineers.

Nuclear Supplier Group

  • It is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • It was created following the explosion in 1974 of a nuclear device by a non-nuclear-weapon State (India), which demonstrated that nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.
  • The grouping has 48 participating governments and the NSG Guidelines are implemented by each member in accordance with its national laws and practices. The NSG takes decisions by consensus.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • The U.S. long considered India to be the leader of the non-aligned camp (Non- Aligned Movement) and held that it was tilting toward the USSR and, later, toward Russia.
      • India purchased most of its weapons from Russia, and it had a pseudo-socialist economic regime.
    • The U.S. tilted toward Pakistan throughout the Cold War and in the years that followed.
    • However, following the rise of China, the George W.Bush administration (US) decided to lure India into the West’s camp and draw on it to help contain China.
    • The US therefore offered India civil nuclear technology and access to uranium, the fuel it needed for nuclear power reactors.
    • The Indian government agreed to sign a 123 Agreement (or the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement).
    • The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in 2008, that gave a fillip to the ties between the two nations, which since then have been on an upswing.
  • Indo-US nuclear deal:
    • NSG Waiver: A major aspect of the Indo-US nuclear deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) gave a special waiver to India that enabled it to sign cooperation agreements with a dozen countries.
    • Separate Programmes: It enabled India to separate its civilian and military programmes and placed its civilian nuclear facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
    • Transfer of Technology: It refrains India from transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and India should also support international efforts to limit their spread.
  • Benefits of the Deal:
    • Deals with Other Countries:
      • Post waiver, India signed nuclear cooperation agreements for peaceful means with the US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Korea.
      • Following the pacts, there have been specific agreements for import of uranium from France, Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada and Russia.
    • Recognition to India:
      • It gave India the recognition of being a responsible nuclear weapon state with strong non-proliferation credentials.
    • Strengthened Indo-US Relations:
      • It gave a fillip to the ties between the two nations, which since then have been on an upswing.
      • It also gave fillip to military cooperation leading to expanded defence trade; increased energy cooperation, including on renewables technology since 2014.
    • Technological Development:
      • India developed Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which are currently the backbone of the Indian nuclear power generation.
      • PHWR is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using unenriched natural uranium as its fuel. It uses heavy water (Deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and moderator.
    • Increased Uranium Import:
      • The Indo-US nuclear deal enabled India to import Uranium from different countries.
  • Issues:
    • Liability:
      • Westinghouse went into major cost overruns leading to a financial crisis 2008-09.
      • Amidst this, the Westinghouse’s new buyers have already diluted the arrangement in India.
      • They will not construct the nuclear power project in India and will only supply reactors and components because of which it would take nearly another 10 years to construct a reactor in India.
      • Given this, in case of a Fukushima-type nuclear accident in India, the liability that U.S. companies would carry is highly uncertain.
    • India's requirements:
      • India’s own requirements from the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal have changed considerably.
      • Also India has also found much more comfort in its existing agreement with Russia’s Atomstroyexport.
    • Cost:
      • Another issue relates to the cost that India is prepared to pay for nuclear energy through foreign collaborations.
      • Indo-French negotiations for six 1,650 MW European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur are delayed over the differences between the Department of Atomic Energy and French electricity utility EDF which pertains to arriving at the cost per unit.
  • Present Status of Projects:
    • The US has been discussing the sale of nuclear reactors to India since the 2008 pact, two subsequent agreements were signed only in 2016 and 2019.
    • A project proposal to set up six reactors in collaboration with Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) has been announced, but work is yet to begin.
    • Another major project involving the French state-owned operator Areva, which was subsequently taken over by the French electricity utility EDF is also delayed.
      • It has submitted an offer to Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited to supply engineering studies and equipment for the construction of six reactors in Jaitapur, Maharashtra .

Way Forward

  • Despite the historic nuclear deal (2008), civilian nuclear cooperation has not taken off. In international politics, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. In such a scenario India must continue to pursue its foreign policy of strategic hedging.
  • India-US relation remains critical for the shaping of world order in the 21st century. In order to realise the full potential of relations, the two governments must now strive to complete the unfinished agreements and set the course for a Comprehensive Strategic Global Partnership.

Source: IE

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