President Bush conveyed his appreciation to the Prime Minister over India's strong commitment to preventing WMD proliferation and stated that as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states. The President told the Prime Minister that he will work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India as it realizes its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security. The President would also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies, and the United States will work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India, including but not limited to expeditious consideration of fuel supplies for safeguarded nuclear reactors at Tarapur. In the meantime, the United States will encourage its partners to also consider this request expeditiously. India has expressed its interest in ITER and a willingness to contribute. The United States will consult with its partners considering India's participation. The United States will consult with the other participants in the Generation IV International Forum with a view toward India's inclusion.
The Prime Minister conveyed that for his part, India would reciprocally agree that it would be ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States. These responsibilities and practices consist of identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities and programs in a phased manner and filing a declaration regarding its civilians facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); taking a decision to place voluntarily its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards; signing and adhering to an Additional Protocol with respect to civilian nuclear facilities; continuing India's unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing; working with the United States for the conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty; refraining from transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and supporting international efforts to limit their spread; and ensuring that the necessary steps have been taken to secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and through harmonization and adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines.
New Delhi is said to be keen to purchase at least six nuclear power reactors but was unable to do so inthe face of sanctions and restrictions imposed by Washington following the 1974 Pokharan nuclear test. These restrictions were also implemented by the Nuclear Suppliers Group which includes Russia.
Several obstacles remain before Indian can dream of purchasing nuclear power plants from the US. Firstly, President Bush will have to convince the Congress that cooperation with India on nuclear power technology is beneficial to the US interests. I am not certain that Congress will be all out in supporting sale of nuclear fuel for the Tarapur facilities (360 MW). IF the US congress agrees to these plans then getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to cooperate with India will be fairly straightforward. France and Russia have been willing to help India with nuclear technology and fuel, but have been held back due to strong US resistance and pressure applied through the NSG.
Placing India's nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards is a welcome step. India's nuclear power program needs a great deal of transparency. I have been threatening to make a long post about India's nuclear power plans, so I will leave that issue for later.
One final thought on this small, but rather important development from India's point of view. US has been opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline for quite some time now. This issue is likely to come up during the so called US-India Energy dialogue, if it did not come up during this visit by Manmohan Singh to Washington. In my opinion, India will be making a strategic mistake if it decides to slow down efforts to build the Iran pipeline due to opposition from the US.
...Now consider the risks in the administration's gamble. Pakistan, India's neighbor and rival, will seek a similar de facto blessing for its nuclear status.
...The administration's efforts to contain the nuclearization of Iran and North Korea may also suffer. Help in building civilian nuclear reactors is a carrot for countries that agree not to build nuclear weapons. If India can build such weapons and then munch the carrot anyway, why should others not aim to do likewise?
...Monday's U.S.-India communique is only a declaration of intent. To clear the way for U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear program, the administration will have to ask Congress for legislation. To salvage something of the nonproliferation regime, the administration will need buy-in from other nuclear powers. In both cases, the administration will need to convince a skeptical audience that the gains from its proposal outweigh the risks.
See also Stephen Cohen's piece India: America's New Ally? for an interesting take on why India-US can not be simplified under the rhetoric of natural allies.
UPDATE (07/25): Ila Patnaik engages in straight talk over the potential of nuclear power in India. In her piece and here again, I am hearing about radioactive gases from burning coal. Does anybody have an idea what might cause radioactive gases to come out of burning coal?