October 27, 2020
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'Right To Conduct Future Nuclear Weapon Tests'

Leading nuclear scientists, all former heads of organisations related to nuclear energy, met Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar on Dec 14 and made specific recommendations in a note on the Indo-US Nuclear deal

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'Right To Conduct Future Nuclear Weapon Tests'
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Henry J. Hyde U.S.-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006.

Last week both Houses of the U.S. Congress finalised the legislation on the Indo-U.S. nuclear co-operation and renamed it as the Hyde Act of 2006. This Act will soon be signed into law by the U.S. President, and all future agreements will have to conform more or less to this law, if they have to be acceptable to the U.S. In view of this, and in the context of our August 2006 meeting with the Prime Minister, we have summarised below our views on the Hyde Act and our recommendations to the Parliamentarians on the action required from them.

1) Full co-operation in civilian nuclear energy has been denied to India:

a) U.S. unwillingness to co-operate in the areas of spent-fuel reprocessing and uranium enrichment related to the full nuclear fuel cycle.

b) Denial of the nuclear fuel supply assurances and alternate supply arrangements mutually agreed upon earlier.

c) Limits co-operation in the GNEP programme. India will not be permitted to join as a technology developer but as a recipient state.

2) India asked to participate in the international effort on nuclear non-proliferation, with a policy congruent to that of United States.

The Hyde Act envisages (Section-109) India to jointly participate with the U.S. in a programme involving the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration to further nuclear non-proliferation goals. This goes much beyond the IAEA norms and has been unilaterally introduced apparently without the knowledge of the Indian government. In addition, the U.S. President is required to annually report to the congress whether India is fully and actively participating in U.S. and international efforts to dissuade, isolate and if necessary sanction and contain Iran for its pursuit of indigenous efforts to develop nuclear capabilities. These stipulations in the Act and others pertaining to the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group etc. are totally outside the scope of the July 18th Agreement and they constitute intrusion into India's independent decision making and policy matters. India's adherence to MTCR is also unnecessarily brought in.

3) Impact on our Strategic Defence Programme

In responding to the concerns earlier expressed by us, the Prime Minister stated in the Rajya Sabha on August 17, 2006 that "we are fully conscious of the changing complexity of the international political system. Nuclear weapons are an integral part of our national security and will remain so, pending the elimination of all nuclear weapons and universal non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament. Our freedom of action with regard to our strategic programmes remains unrestricted. The nuclear agreement will not be allowed to be used as a backdoor method of introducing NPT type restrictions on India." And yet, this Act totally negates the above assurance of the PM.

In view of the uncertain strategic situation around the globe, we are of the view that India must not directly or indirectly concede our right to conduct future nuclear weapon tests, if these are found necessary to strengthen our minimum deterrence. In this regard, the Act makes it explicit that if India conducts such tests, the nuclear cooperation will be terminated and we will be required to return all equipment and materials we might have received under this deal. To avoid any abrupt stoppage of nuclear fuel for reactors which we may import, India and the U.S. had mutually agreed to certain alternative fuel supply options which this Act has totally eliminated out of consideration. Thus, any future nuclear test will automatically result in a heavy economic loss to the country because of the inability to continue the operation of all such imported reactors.

Furthermore, the PM had assured the nation that "India is willing to join any non-discriminatory, multilaterally negotiated and internationally verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), as and when it is concluded in the Conference on Disarmament." But, the Act requires the U.S. to "encourage India to identify and declare a date by which India would be willing to stop production of fissile material for nuclear weapons unilaterally or pursuant to a multilateral moratorium or treaty."

In his Rajya Sabha address, the PM had said, "Our commitment towards non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament remains unwavering, in line with the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan. There is no dilution on this count." Unfortunately, the Act is totally silent on the U.S. working with India to move towards universal nuclear disarmament, but it eloquently covers all aspects of non-proliferation controls of U.S. priority, into which they want to draw India into committing.

In summary, it is obvious that the Hyde Act still retains many of the objectionable clauses in the earlier House and Senate bills on which the Prime Minister had clearly put forth his objections and clarified the Indian position in both Houses of Parliament. Once this Act is signed into law, all further bilateral agreements with the U.S. will be required to be consistent with this law.

As such, the Government of India may convey these views formally to the U.S. Administration and they should be reflected in the 123 Agreement.

Signatories:

Dr. H.N. Sethna, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Dr. M.R. Srinivasan, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Dr. P.K. Iyengar, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Dr. A.N.Prasad, former Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Dr. Y.S.R. Prasad, former Chairman & Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited
Dr. Placid Rodriguez, former Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research


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