March 06, 2021
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Indo-US Joint Statement

'Concern, Even Consternation'

The former PM says that while India has made long-term and specific commitments, the US has merely made promises, which it may not be able to see through. The PM says he's got a minsonception.

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'Concern, Even Consternation'

Statement by the former Prime Minister on the Joint Statement signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush

The understanding arrived at between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush regarding nuclear technology as reflected in the Joint India-US Statement of July 18, 2005 has already caused concern, even consternation among nuclear scientists and defence analysts. The Bhartiya Janata Party shares these concerns and fears.

The first and the foremost is India’s offer to identify and separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities and programmes. This offer has long-term national security implications. The military programmes are a small fraction of our nuclear facilities. We believe that separating the civilian from the military would be very difficult, if not impossible. The costs involved will also be prohibitive. It will also deny us any flexibility in determining the size of our nuclear deterrent. Though we believe in minimum credible deterrent, the size of the deterrent must be determined from time to time on the basis of our own threat perception. This is a judgement, which cannot be surrendered to anyone else. By effecting a separation between civilian and military facilities, we have also accepted a crucial provision of a future fissile material cut-off treaty even before such an international treaty has been fully negotiated and put into force by other nuclear weapon states.

The offer to sign and adhere to an Additional Protocol with respect to civilian nuclear facilities is also fraught with dangers. Such an Additional Protocol will, by its very nature, be more intrusive since it will have to allow international inspectors free access to our nuclear facilities anywhere anytime.

Indian nuclear scientists have been allowed all these years to freely carry out research activities without anyone breathing down their necks. Under the new arrangement this will change and put restrictions even on our research programmes. Of special interest to us is the thorium research programme which would give us freedom from nuclear fuel imports and make us self-reliant in nuclear fuel. What happens to that programme? The Government of India owes an explanation on this count.

There are other issues on which the US commitment could have been more forthright like the International Thermo-nuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and the Generation IV International Forum. In fact, it is difficult to resist the feeling that while India has made long-term and specific commitments in the Joint Statement, the US has merely made promises, which it may not be able to see through either the US Congress or its friends in the exclusive nuclear club. The Bush administration may have recognized India "as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology", but it is far from recognizing India as a legitimate and responsible nuclear weapons state.

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