Russia will continue to supply India with nuclear fuel even if India carries out a nuclear test in future, but does not favour amending the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) to grant India the status of a full-fledged nuclear weapons’ state.
The civil nuclear deal signed in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday is being described as “better than the 123 agreement” that was signed with the United States because it binds Russia to carry on supplying nuclear fuel and technology to India even if the pact is cancelled for any reason.
The Russian agreement also allows India to reprocess and enrich spent nuclear fuel — which is being negotiated with the US under a separate agreement.
But the biggest fish eluded the Prime Minister. Addressing a joint press conference at the Kremlin, President Medvedev, said: “I will be very frank. We are not interested in expanding the nuclear club.”
New Delhi has been canvassing support from the five declared nuclear powers for a proposed amendment to the NPT which would make India a de jure nuclear weapon state rather than merely a de facto one.
The NPT grants nuclear weapon state status to countries that carried out nuclear tests before January 1, 1967. India wants the cut-off date pushed beyond May 18, 1974 — when it carried out its first test.
Significantly, American President Barrack Obama had referred to India as nuclear power at a joint press conference with Singh in Washington on November 24 — the first time any US president has done so.