Should India Go Ahead with Nuclear Tests?

The ongoing delay for the ratification of civilian nuclear co-operation with the US, presents a murky picture of India. The ideological difference between the Left and the UPA government is becoming more and more strained, keeping in view, of their alliance. A year before India and the US reached a bilateral agreement (though efforts had been on for previous two years) on civilian nuclear co-operation, strictly limiting it to civilian, whereas India’s nuclear weapons and defense strategies would not come under this agreement.

But the Hyde Act (Indo-US nuclear co-operation), which is still under controversy does not demarcate the line between “Civilian and Defense” clearly. It requires India to participate in NPT (Non-proliferation Treaty)-apart from allowing IEAE inspections and placing its civilian nuclear projects under UN safeguards (UN dominated by US)- which indirectly restricts India from conducting Nuclear Tests, and if and so India violates this, nuclear co-operation would be terminated.

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Furthermore there are other conditions as well. On the whole, if seen the whole civilian nuclear co-operation itself is a partial offer from the US and the acceptance of US congress, does not altogether seem very warming or friendly, for they have their own concerns and many of them object to this so-called Indo US nuclear co-operation. The 123 agreement which followed the Hyde Act, supposedly addresses India’s concerns and is said to be in favor of India, though not largely.

The 123 agreement recognizes India to reprocess its spent fuels and regarding the nuclear tests and termination, it would not terminate the agreement without mutual talks and taking into account the situation under which nuclear tests are being done. And US would not interfere in India getting nuclear fuel supplies from other countries and also non-interference in India’s strategic programes and interests. How genuine would 123 agreement be, only coming years would tell, if India goes ahead with the agreement.

Nevertheless there are certain aspects of this agreement, which will affect Indian policy decisions, especially on the projects India is already involved in or is planning to involve with other countries. The other aspect which we need to pay attention to is, how would the future government of US react to this treaty, be it Mrs. Hillary Clinton or Mr. Obama and, India is under pressure to conclude this treaty before presidential elections in US, which is evident from yesterday’s news.

We also need to keep in mind the attitude of America, its war with Iraq and sanctions on North Korea and Iran. India’s plan of gas pipeline through Iran which would have been profitable lies suspended, only because of its efforts to maintain friendly relationship with the US. America’s aversion to Iran, despite IAEA’s positive signal, is worth noting. India’s ability to decide either for or against the treaty rests upon Left’s approval and genuine concerns of Indian Scientists.

Some of the scientists are quite alright with 123 agreements, but the government does not want to take the risk of early elections. India could have averted this situation long before. But after the 123 agreement and when some of the scientists have given a go-ahead, India’s response is too slow, that too after having sacrificed and agreed to, many of US’s demands. India could have refused to accept the treaty when the Hyde Act was announced, but not now when so many steps forward have been taken. Its high time for decision.