The Indo-US nuclear deal, which was first conceptualised by the signing of framework agreement on July 18, 2005 by India and the United States (US), was considered as most important diplomatic win for India in the light of the fact that India has conducted two nuclear tests but had not signed the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Under this deal, the US agreed to start full civil nuclear cooperation with India while the latter had to separate its civil and military nuclear installations. India is the only country in the world which is not a signatory of NPT and has got this exceptional deal. It signifies the rising importance of India in the current geopolitical scenario.
Obstacles to the Agreement
In order to materialize, the deal had to go through many stages in various agencies including an amendment of the domestic of law of the US, an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, the international nuclear watchdog), waiver from Nuclear Supplier Groups (NSG, a cartel of nuclear materials), apart from facing various protests from different parties like left, BJP etc. in India. Despite successfully going through so many complex stages to get materialized; the deal was stuck for almost seven years on the question of liability in the event of an accident. This ultimate logjam was cleared during the latest visit of US President Obama to India. Now both India and the US have resolved key hurdles pertaining to the liability of suppliers of nuclear reactors in the event of an accident and the tracking of fuel supplied by the US and other countries for its proposed nuclear plants.
The issue of nuclear liability and tracking of nuclear material supplied were the only bone of contention left for the conclusion of agreement. As per the international norms, in case of any accident, the Indian government would have to pay heavy damages because all the nuclear plants in the country are run by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL).
As per a new plan, those companies engaged in building nuclear reactors in India would buy insurance from the state-run reinsurer General Insurance Corporation (GIC). The companies would then recoup the cost by charging more for their services. Alternatively, the NPCIL would take out insurance on behalf of these companies. On the question of tracking of nuclear material, the US has agreed to withdraw from tracking clause.
Nuclear Deals with Other Countries
After all the obstacles to end the nuclear isolation of India were cleared by the IAEA and NSG, France became the first nation to sign a nuclear deal with India. After France, the countries which have agreed to supply the nuclear fuel to India for peaceful uses are Mongolia, Namibia, Argentina, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Korea and Australia. Now with the clearance of deal with the US as well, India now have supplier from every continent of the world.
Benefits of the Deal
- Since the nuclear deal had called for the separation of civilian and military reactors, there is no risk of revelation of military secrets of the country as many analysts particularly from left had feared.
- The most important benefit from the deal would be the answering of energy woes of India. India is the energy starved country and any addition to the countries energy capabilities would be a welcome step.
- As India aspires to increase the share of nuclear energy in total power generation to 9 percent from the current 3 percentapprox in next 25 years, it is highly unlikely for it to achieve this goal with domestic supplies only.
- Apart from energy benefits, deal is also of great geopolitical significance making India the only country in the world to have waiver agreement with NSG and IAEA despite being a non-signatory of NPT.
- The major concern raised by the critics of the deal was the enormous cost to generate power from a nuclear reactor. They believe that increasing share of nuclear energy from current three to six percent would require additional capital of around INR 50,000 crores. This is indeed a huge amount for a developing country like India.
- Another concern is about safety which became evident after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of Japan in March 2011. Fukushima disaster led many countries rethink their nuclear ambitions.
Though both cost and safety are real concern but not strong enough to cut short the nuclear ambitions of India. While cost can be taken care of in the long term, with the resolving of liability agreement, safety is also not given a bypass. Moreover, any concern or threat must not be seen as an obstacle but as an opportunity to care of possible ill-effects and device a foolproof plan of development. Energy is most vital requirement for the growth of India and country should ensure the development of all the possible sources of energy including nuclear energy.