MIL/ANI, Jul 17, 2007.
Washington, July 17, 2007 (Tuesday) - An expert
attached with a leading American think tank has ruled out the possibility of India and the United States finalizing a significant bilateral nuclear deal, in spite of several rounds of negotiations since its signing on July 18, 2005.Michael Krepon
}President Emeritus of the Washington based Henry L Stimson Center, said in an interview with Asian News International (ANI), that it would be next to impossible for the Bush Administration to agree with the demands being put forward by the Government of India vis-Ã -vis the 123 Agreement
, the bilateral part of the Indo-US nuclear deal, that puts nuclear testing restrictions on New Delhi.
"We (the US) can't do the things that the Government of India wants, and even if we did, all the other people - the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - they're not going to say yes either. And so, you know, I'm not sure," said Krepon.
Krepon's doomsday prediction comes even as senior Indian officials, comprising of National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Chairman of Department of Atomic Energy, Anil Kakodkar are in Washington meeting with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, and U.S. National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, with the objective of resolving the stalemate over the 123-agreement.
Krepon further claimed that the Bush Administration's hands are tied over the issue of giving India blanket permission for nuclear testing and supplying civilian nuclear fuel in perpetuity.
"The Government of India wants a free pass
}. If it decides to resume nuclear testing, it doesn't want to be penalized. And the legislation passed by the Congress penalizes India (should it decide to nuclear test), and the NSG would also penalize India if they resumed testing. So, that's a bone of contention (between the two sides), " Krepon told ANI.
New Delhi's desire for uninterrupted nuclear fuel supply was also a problem, as the Bush Administration "has signed a Congressional legislation that does not give India a huge reserve of fuel, because the (U.S.) Congress does not want to give the Government of India a free ride if it resumes testing. It (Congress) wants that to be a hard (to come by) decision.
Krepon's views notwithstanding, the Indian delegation is expected to put the onus on Washington to show some 'flexibility' to facilitate the conclusion of the 123 Agreement, negotiations which began in November 2006, but encountered a roadblock over the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.
Krepon also claimed that Washington has reached a compromise with New Delhi on the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but added that he did not see New Delhi becoming a signatory to the treaty anytime soon.
While the U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said over the weekend that Washington is ready to resolve the remaining outstanding issues on the 123 Agreement, Krepon said US policy objectives in South Asia go beyond the signing of the nuclear cooperation agreement.
"There are more important things going on in South Asia. Even if an agreement is reached between Washington and New Delhi this month, it will take a lot longer to implement the agreement, because there will be very hard negotiations in the NSG, there will be very hard negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Government of India is not going to get the deal that it wants. This is domestically divisive in India. Even if all of this gets done, all of it, the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) is unlikely to pass legislation" committing the country in the event of an accident at a nuclear power plant constructed by a foreign company, or an MNC, "which means that at least in the US, nobody is going to build a nuclear power plant in India without a liability waiver," said Krepon.
He was also critical of Washington's latest geo-strategic initiatives, saying that the Bush Administration's penchant for undertaking such ventures have landed it in trouble.
"The Bush Administration gets into big trouble when it tries to do big geo-strategic things, like remaking Iraq and remaking the Middle East. The Bush Administration is trying another big geo-political ploy - trying to get India to be a partner against China. That's what this (nuclear) deal is really about. It's not about American firms building nuclear power plants in India. I doubt it seriously if that's ever going to happen. It's about China, and New Delhi is not going to do Washington's bidding on China. New Delhi has its own agenda, and is very capable of improving relations with China, as it has improved relations with the United States," opined Krepon.
He further claimed the existence of a triangular nuclear competition between China, India and Pakistan, which fell short of an arms race, "but it is heating up and cruise missiles are coming in, more and better ballistic missiles are coming in all three corners of this triangle."
He predicted that if there is a resumption of nuclear testing in the area, China, India and Pakistan would seek to improve their nuclear warheads.
It was all a question of calculations about nuclear weapons requirements for each country, and it was not coincidental that China is backing away from treaty negotiations to stop the production of fissile material for a (nuclear) bomb. He also said that it was no coincidence that Pakistan is building not one, but two new plutonium reactors.
He concluded by saying that there was a need for Washington to move on.
"We've got to be helping India with its energy needs, in clean energy, we ought to be helping India in so many different ways. But to make this (the nuclear deal) the number one priority, is a big mistake. We (the US) will be paying for it. India will be paying for it," Krepon said.
Already four rounds of formal negotiations and numerous meetings on the sidelines of multilateral fora have taken place on the 123-agreement since November 2006, but New Delhi is not keen to conclude the agreement in haste.
India had earlier stated that the US administration has assured it that there is nothing in the Henry Hyde Nuclear Cooperation Act that prevents them from implementing their obligations as laid in the July 18, 2005 and March 2, 2006 statements.
The Indian Government is optimistic that by late July or August 2007, the agreement could be formalized.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's expected visit to New Delhi in the next couple of months may finally see an end to the negotiations. (ANI)