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ABC of 123

Even if the Indo-US relationship falls apart, then India has ensured it will not be damaged by the fallout. The 123 agreement spells the end of nuclear discrimination.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2007 01:30 IST

Since the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty came into force in 1967 and India’s nuclear tests in 1974, India has been offered a stark choice. It can have a legitimate civilian nuclear power programme, complete with international technology and fuel, or it can have a nuclear weapons arsenal. But it cannot have both. To add insult to injury, the US and other nations applied layers of technology sanctions against India in an attempt to pressure India into surrendering its nuclear arsenal. The Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement is a remarkable attempt by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush to allow India to have a viable civilian nuclear programme and maintain its military arsenal. The published text of the 123 agreement, which spells out the details of bilateral nuclear cooperation, makes it clear the two sides have succeeded.

There is nothing in the text that compromises India’s nuclear arsenal. If anything, the agreement has a clause which explicitly states that bilateral nuclear cooperation must not be allowed to interfere in each other’s military nuclear activities. However, India’s military nuclear accomplishments are an established fact. The real forward movement is the opportunity that now exists for ramping up the production of electricity from nuclear power. India is desperately short of power and energy is rapidly becoming the primary drag on its economic rise in the coming decades.

Almost all the concerns raised about the 123 agreement have been focused on the fine print. They reflect the suspicion that years of US nuclear finger-wagging have engendered in the New Delhi establishment. India’s negotiators have incorporated a remarkable array of guarantees against such concerns. If the US is compelled to break the agreement for whatever reason, including an Indian decision to carry out a nuclear test, it has agreed that other countries can continue to supply atomic fuel and technology to India. If India wishes to reprocess spent fuel at some later point, it has been granted the right. Many of these clauses cover hypothetical scenarios. If Indo-US relations maintain their present trend, they will never be invoked or be superseded by more ambitious proposals. If the relationship falls apart, then India has ensured it will not be damaged by the fallout. The 123 agreement spells the end of nuclear discrimination.