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Modi-Obama-Nuclear Agreement

Dr Roshan writes – As far as the nuclear issues are concerned have the two countries been able to break the nuclear logjam in the civil nuclear arena?

Obama’s India visit is historical in many ways, considering he is the first president, to accept Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to attend the ‘Republic day’ celebrations,hence, a lot is expected from this visit. As far as the nuclear issues are concerned the question is, have the two countries been able to break the nuclear logjam in the civil nuclear arena and how successful this visit is going to be for  other nuclear issues.. The various point which has emerged as mentioned in the joint statement issued by MEA are as follows:-

  1.  Civil nuclear deal was considered as the center piece of this visit as stated by PM Modi and the commercial nuclear cooperation which had got stuck due to India’s Liability law seems to have been cracked. What the Joint statement says is “..They established a Contact Group on advancing the implementation of civil nuclear energy cooperation in order to realize early their shared goal of delivering electricity from U.S.-built nuclear power plants in India. They looked forward to advancing the dialogue to discuss all implementation issues, including but not limited to administrative issues, liability, technical issues, and licensing to facilitate the establishment of nuclear parks, including power plants with Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi technology.” Now here it is believed that the controversial issue of insurance has been solved by creating an insurance pool through joint endeavour from both the government and the multilateral suppliers. Also the all-important US insistence on acquiring tracking rights over nuclear material has been diluted, as President Obama has assured of using his executive powers to temper this.  Thus there seems to be a win-win situation for both, however; the fine prints on various caveats on Liability act, needs to be discussed, as the details  have not been covered in the joint statement and hopefully will emerge later on.
  2.  Secondly as far as India’s entry into Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) and other cartels like the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group are concerned the joint statement states “The President affirmed that India meets MTCR requirements and is ready for membership in the NSG. He supported India’s early application and eventual membership in all four regimes” and India on its part has ensured that India will continue to strengthening global non-proliferation and export control regimes, but the question here is, how it is going to be achieved, the entry in to NSG is possible only when all of its members unanimously accept the  membership candidature of the new country, the Americans have been supporting us in the past  but it is China who had shown reluctance and  some reservations., hence it needs to be seen how it will be achieved .  Does Americans have the required leverage over the Chinese, to coerce them to accept the Indian candidature? The fact is NSG is the main group and if a nation becomes its member then getting membership for other cartels won’t be difficult.
  3. On nuclear terrorism especially on Obama’s pet initiative “Nuclear Security Summit” both countries “welcomed progress toward reducing the risk of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons or related materials, and noted their shared commitment to improving nuclear security nationally and globally. They reviewed their bilateral dialogue on nuclear security and endorsed working through India’s Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership to reinforce safe and secure use of nuclear energy worldwide. They also pledged to strengthen their efforts to forge a partnership to lead global efforts for non-proliferation of WMDs, to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs, and to promote universal, verifiable, and non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament.”

In conclusion it could be stated that Modi government has achieved the unthinkable. The previous government, which was ironically the creator of this, had lost the momentum to break the deal, primarily due to lack of support and imaginative choices, but this government seems to have broken the nuclear logjam.Also the agreements on other areas  are testimony to the fact that both the leaders have a comfort level and mutual understanding, which are required to  take that extra step, which often distinguishes the relationship from being cordial, to great.

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