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July 19, 2008 / Mridul

How India Can Use The Nuclear Deal To Its Advantage

As the Congress struggles to hold on to power it is surprising to see how little it has done to take the deal to the common people. Even those who support the deal accuse the government of being lethargic in putting the features of the deal in front of the Indian public. A Gallup poll recently found that a big majority of the Indians have no clue what the nuclear deal is about. One has to wonder what’s stopping the government. Could it be the fear of backlash from the public which is seething under the load of record inflation or is there something more to it.

It was only during the recent public rallies that the Congress leaders started associating the deal with the Aam aadmi (common man) emphasizing on the prospects of cheap electricity. But power generation is merely a small flower in the strategic and technological bouquet that the nuclear deal is. No doubt that the US administration has given away ‘too much’ in this deal. But by intelligently formulating the energy and foreign policies India can get even more than what the US is offering.

Capping Nuclear Power Generation

Although nuclear power forms a very small portion of India’s power generation sector still Indian nuclear reactors are in desperate need of nuclear fuel which makes the deal crucial. India is also building four nuclear reactors for which it would require more fuel. Now even after these reactors go online the contribution of nuclear generated power would be very less compared to other sources like coal and gas. Hence India should look to maintain status quo as far as generation of power from nuclear reactors is concerned.

Capping the amount of electricity generated from nuclear reactors would give India an edge since even if the global suppliers stop the fuel supplies the country won’t be crippled by any power woes. India should us the imported nuclear fuel and technology to feed its current nuclear reactors and not become completely dependent on nuclear energy.

Keeping The Test Window Open

If the government caps the construction of new nuclear reactors and thus limits its energy dependence on imported fuel it would always have the option of carrying out nuclear tests. India will use nuclear test only as a deterrence and most probably against China. And China is the answer to the question of why the US is eager to go through this almost ‘one-sided’ deal. Empowering India would not only maintain a crucial balance in the region but would serve America’s national interests as it sees India and itself as natural allies.

Also India would conduct a nuclear test only when China poses a serious threat to the nation’s security or makes any adventurous move in an attempt to gain strategic leverage over the region. In such an event US would most definitely want India to exhibit its military prowess, maybe through a nuclear test. In any case no country (US and EU) would want China to dominate the region which gives an advantage to India.

Deal Would Add To India’s Credibility

Many countries including Pakistan have argued that why India is being exempted from the Nuclear Supplier Groups’ rules and regulations since it hasn’t signed either Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has demanded similar deal from the US. By accepting safeguards agreement and allowing IAEA inspection India would only gain the trust of global leaders and the UN which is very important for India’s dreams of becoming a super power.

Such a step would potentially pave the way for India’s ambitions to get an UN Security Council seat. India won’t be bound by the CTBT and would have the right to conduct nuclear test. Safeguards and inspections would only be a small price that the Indian government would be paying to secure a greater strategic leverage in the region and the world.

By formulating a sound energy policy the Indian government can extract a great amount of leverage from this deal. By moving away from energy dependence to wards indigenous energy sources India can secure a better future for itself as an economy and as a military power. On the face of it the deal might look as a one-sided affair but this first of a kind deal gives an insight into India’s might.



Leave a Comment
  1. Aruna / Aug 6 2008 9:40 pm

    A wonderful analysis really :)..especially the part about capping electricity. I’ve read that a clause in the deal states that any nuclear test conducted by india would result in the US stopping all supplies and terminating the this true??

  2. Mridul Chadha / Aug 6 2008 10:36 pm

    Thanks Aruna.

    I don’t think that the deal blatantly states that the agreement would be terminated in case India tests a nuclear device (but not completely sure, these international agreements are bit tricky). However, in my understanding the members of the supplier group can stop the fuel supplies if they feel that India isn’t keeping its promises; the US can’t do anything in that case. That is the reason the Indian government has added a controversial clause in the agreement regarding the maintenance of a strategic fuel reserve in case the supplies are hit.

    I don’t know if this is official or not but I read somewhere that US would have no problem with a nuclear test if the Indian government conducts the test in ‘justifiable circumstances’, that is, when US also agrees that a nuclear test is essential for India’s security. But even then US cannot stop any other country from terminating fuel supplies.

  3. gearryquasy / May 21 2009 8:02 am

    Super information.. Will definitely come back soon..

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