Reflections on Nuclear deal and Nuclear tests

Finally, we're almost there. With NSG waiver, the main hurdle is done. However like every stage of this deal, there are still some questions about whether the US congress has enough time to pass the deal, but that is certainly not such a worrying point as the NSG waiver was. Here are some highlights and remarks

  • Convincing Austria and others was not a free cake. India had to give an official statement that it would observe the voluntary or self-imposed ban on nuclear tests and sharing sensitive technology.
  • Now that India has NSG waiver, it is free to clinch similar deals with other countries like Russia, France etc. on Civil Nuclear Cooperation.
Now the big question is what if India conducts tests ? Again here are the highlights or main things we have to keep in mind.
  • Buying 'civil nuclear technology' and then finding ourselves in a situation with no nuclear fuel is going to turn out to be too expensive.
  • Article (6) of US constitution seems to imply that the 123 agreement, since passed later would override Hyde Act. But please remember. The US is completely capable of taking a decision to halt civil nuclear cooperation irrespective of what the Hyde Act says.
  • The Nuclear Deal allows India to stockpile nuclear fuel for the life time of a reactor. Typical life time of a reactor is 30 to 50 years. (For example it would be stupid and impractical to think of stockpiling coal for the life time of a thermal power plant, but come on, this is 'nuclear fuel', its possible.)
  • Even after tests there would be some negotiations and the halt of nuclear cooperation would not be automatic, there would be room for negotiations.
Under what circumstances would India want to perform a new nuclear test ? Will the circumstance be enough to justify the violation of our self imposed test-ban? This is actually the most relevant question which for obvious reasons was never discussed openly.
  • Note that India has already performed two nuclear tests, Pokhran I and II, so the fact that we are 'agreeing' to self imposed test ban means that further tests are not crucial to test current nuclear technology.
  • One of the circumstance which would make India hungry for a new test would be to test a drastically new Nuclear technology which some other advanced countries have but India does not have. But you see, for other country to acquire such a technology would require it to first conduct its own tests. That would be easy excuse for India to justify violating its own self-imposed test ban.
  • Another circumstance which would create a situation for further nuclear test would be a cold war type of situation where Indian rivals conduct tests just to 'make a statement'. I think this is not that demanding a situation for India to conduct further tests, but any such situation would be even easier for India to justify test ban violation.
Overall its a win-win situation for India. Indian critics of this deal should not forget that we have the flexibility of stockpiling nuclear fuel before making any 'stupid move' like another test, if they think a nuclear test is so important from India's viewpoint. My personal viewpoint is, economic power of a nation is more important than acquiring a nuclear bomb, especially when we already have some. There is not so much to worry about nuclear tests and let us completely focus on economic development.

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Sep 7, 2008

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