India-US nuclear deal: All you need to know about the landmark agreement

The India-US nuclear deal was initiated in 2005, after nearly 30 years of US-imposed sanctions since India tested its first nuclear weapon (1974).

File image of Manmohan Singh. PTI

File image of Manmohan Singh. PTI

On 18 July, 2005, the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh visited Washington, and in a joint statement with George W Bush, India and the United States agreed to enter into a civil nuclear agreement.

This landmark agreement saw an implicit recognition – for the first time – of India as a nuclear weapons power.

Singh’s visit also coincided with the completion of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnerships (NSSP) which had been announced in January 2004, and which aimed to increase cooperation in civilian nuclear activities, civilian space programmes, high-technology trade, and missile defence.

The core of this agreement, in the area of nuclear energy, was the emphasis on non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Even though India did not officially join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), through this agreement it was afforded the same benefits and advantages as other leading nuclear powers, like the United States.

The then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said, “India committed itself in public, very specifically to a series of actions to which it had not previously committed itself. Actions, which will, in effect, in a de facto sense, have India agreeing to the same measures that most of the NPT states have agreed to.”

While the joint statement and related press releases list a wide range of responsibilities and actions, three essential ones were:

1. India would move to separate civilian and military nuclear facilities. India’s impetus – which was acknowledged by Bush – to continue developing its nuclear facilities has to do with its increased reliance on fossil fuels to meet is energy needs. Thus, safe, civilian nuclear energy would help in the sustainable development of India’s economy.

2. India would place these civilian nuclear facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

3. India would refrain from transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and supporting international efforts to limit their spread.

The US, for its part, would work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India, including granting India a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which would allow members to trade nuclear material with India even though it was not a part of the NPT. As part of the earlier sanctions, India had been isolated from the NSG.

Despite opposition from parties in both the countries, Congressional approval for the US-India Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (123 Agreement) came in October 2008. Before that, on 25, September 2008, Singh visited Washington and addressed Bush on the imminent completion of the deal.

He said, “I am mentioning civil nuclear initiative because for 34 years, India has suffered from a nuclear apartheid. We have not been able to trade in nuclear material, nuclear reactors, nuclear raw materials. And when this restrictive regime ends, I think a great deal of credit will go to president Bush. And for this I am very grateful to you, Mr President.”

In 2009, as Barack Obama entered the White House, concerns were voiced about US involvement with Pakistan and China, and how that would affect US ties with India following the Bush administration. However, during Singh’s visit to Washington in November, 2009, Obama vowed to uphold the historic nuclear agreement.

In a joint statement issued by Singh and Obama, India and US reaffirmed the terms of the nuclear agreement, emphasised their respective moratorium on nuclear testing and the increasing need to work towards global non-proliferation.

They looked forward to the Nuclear Security Summit convened in Washington in April 2010, which saw a more urgent call for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in response to non-state agents acquiring WMD. Singh addressed the summit and outlined India’s unwavering commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament, and the use of nuclear energy for safe and clean energy.

He also announced the establishment of India’s Global Centre for Global Energy Partnership.

In September 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington for the first time after taking office, the nuclear deal was once again discussed. This proves how, through the years, the nuclear deal has been the bedrock of India-US ties. Despite this, however, not much has been accomplished in terms of nuclear energy as part of this deal. Indeed, according to a piece in The Indian Express, India has not bought a single reactor from the US over the decade since the deal was signed.

Instead, achievements of the deal have been measured against different yardsticks — the most important being the burgeoning diplomatic and economic relationship between India and the US — which acquires immense significance when compared to the complete alienation of the two countries following India’s 1974 nuclear test.

Finally, according to The Times of India, during Modi’s June 2016 visit to Washington, he and Obama decided upon the establishment of six nuclear reactors in India built by the American firm Westinghouse. Additionally, Obama expressed support for India’s application to enter the NSG. Thus, even though this will be the first policy decision based upon this longstanding nuclear deal, the favourable light that it shines on India-US ties truly represent the effects of this deal.


Published Date: Jun 13, 2017 09:53 pm | Updated Date: Jun 13, 2017 09:53 pm

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