On March 2, 2006 in New Delhi George Bush and Manmohan Singh signed a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, following an initiation during the July 2005 summit in Washington between the 2 leaders over the Civil Nuclear Cooperation.
Before we understand the deal lets first reason out why such an agreement has to be made.
India ’s fast growing economy has increased the demand for energy all over the country to huge extents. Alarmingly our coal reserves will last only for the next 86 years and the oil reserves will burn itself out in the next 23 years, we do have huge hydroelectric potential in the North and North-Eastern regions from where we can harness around 1,50,000Mw of power but our total installed hydro capacity uses only 26,910 Mw of hydro power which constitutes merely 18 % of the total potential.
Even harnessing the full potential of the hydro power will not be sufficient to satisfy the growing energy needs of our country of 1 billion people. This has made it mandatory for the government to push for alternate source of energy which will suffice the huge energy demands of our country and obviously it has to be the nuclear energy.
India has 8 million tones of morazite deposits along the seacoast out of which half can be mined, to yield 2,25,000 tonnes of thorium metal which will give us our much needed energy and last for more than 5 centuries. At present, we have 14 Civilian Nuclear Rectors which produces merely 4 % or less of the total electricity consumed in India . Thus the Indo- U.S nuclear deal was signed to improve the functioning of the 14 nuclear plants and for importation of new technologies, inputs, fuel and whatever else that will be required to increase the amount of nuclear energy produced in India .
Alright now we know why a nuclear deal between India and U.S is required but why is it called a 123 agreement?
Well the Section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act of 1954, titled "Cooperation with Other Nations", establishes an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the US and any other nation. Such an agreement is called a 123 Agreement. To date, the U.S. has entered into roughly twenty-five 123 Agreements with various countries.
Some of the countries with which the U.S. has or had a 123 Agreement:
Japan (with automatic re-processing rights)
Euratom (with automatic re-processing rights)
China (with re-processing rights, requiring approval per each request)
India (draft completed, requires signatures from U.S. and India - the agreement is witnessing opposition within India from parties of the Left Front)
What’s the disadvantage of 123 agreement?
The agreement makes it explicit that if India conducts nuclear tests, the nuclear cooperation will be terminated and we will be required to return all equipment and materials we might have received under this deal. But there are a few provisions to test nuclear weapons if our neighboring countries test their nuclear arsenal. It is debated by the opposition parties that there is a clause in the 123 agreements which says that the agreement should be consistent to the Hyde act.
What’s a Hyde act and why are the opposition parties apprehensive about it?
The Indo-U.S. nuclear co-operation was renamed as the Hyde Act of 2006 on consensus by both the houses of U.S congress after the legislation for the co operation between the two countries was finalized. This Act will soon be signed into law by the U.S. President, and all future agreements will have to conform more or less to this law.
Why do the opposition parties fear about the law that is not yet signed?
The U.S will obviously not have any intensions of doing any favours or provide service to our country or for a matter of fact to any other country, it will just seek to maintain its position as a global powerhouse. Hence the opposition fears that we might be pushed to a position where we will have a weak arsenal protection since we will not be able to make any nuclear tests for the sake of our civil energy demands or we will encounter a huge economic crisis as the U.S will pull out of its nuclear agreement if we test the nuclear weapons.
Either way we will be pushed to a position of weakness and this is what that makes the opposition apprehensiveThe opposition fears that on pretext of conforming to the energy needs of India , we might lose our sovereignty to conduct nuclear tests.
When our neighboring and developed countries proliferate their nuclear armament, India cannot afford to stand still and watch them grow powerful since at some point of time in the far future we should be able to defend ourselves in case of a nuclear war.
Its a very tough decision to make since it happens to be a catch 22 situation and its upto the ruling party to negotiate further and draft out an agreement that conforms well to our interests.