HYDE ACT (Act Behind The INDO-US Nuke Deal) - Online Article

Hyde Act and nuclear scientists' note

We are of the view that India must not directly or indirectly concede ourright to conduct future nuclear weapon tests, if these are found necessary to strengthen our minimum deterrence

AFTER A meeting with Atomic Energy CommissionChairman Anil Kakodkar in Mumbai on Friday, eminent nuclear scientistsprepared a note on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and made certainrecommendations to address their concerns. The text follows:

Henry J. Hyde U.S.-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006.

Last week both Houses of the U.S. Congressfinalised the legislation on the Indo-U.S. nuclear co-operation andrenamed it as the Hyde Act of 2006. This Act will soon be signed intolaw by the U.S. President, and all future agreements will have toconform more or less to this law, if they have to be acceptable to theU.S. In view of this, and in the context of our August 2006 meetingwith the Prime Minister, we have summarised below our views on the HydeAct and our recommendations to the Parliamentarians on the actionrequired from them.

1) Full co-operation in civilian nuclear energy has been denied to India:

  • U.S. unwillingness to co-operate in theareas of spent-fuel reprocessing and uranium enrichment related to thefull nuclear fuel cycle.
  • Denial of the nuclear fuel supply assurances and alternate supply arrangements mutually agreed upon earlier.
  • Limits co-operation in the GNEP programme.India will not be permitted to join as a technology developer but as arecipient state.

2) India asked to participate in the international effort on nuclearnon-proliferation, with a policy congruent to that of United States.

The Hyde Act envisages (Section-109) India tojointly participate with the U.S. in a programme involving the U.S.National Nuclear Security Administration to further nuclearnon-proliferation goals. This goes much beyond the IAEA norms and hasbeen unilaterally introduced apparently without the knowledge of theIndian government. In addition, the U.S. President is required toannually report to the congress whether India is fully and activelyparticipating in U.S. and international efforts to dissuade, isolateand if necessary sanction and contain Iran for its pursuit ofindigenous efforts to develop nuclear capabilities. These stipulationsin the Act and others pertaining to the Proliferation SecurityInitiative (PSI), the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Groupetc. are totally outside the scope of the July 18th Agreement and theyconstitute intrusion into India's independent decision making andpolicy matters. India's adherence to MTCR is also unnecessarily broughtin.

3) Impact on our Strategic Defence Programme

In responding to the concerns earlier expressedby us, the Prime Minister stated in the Rajya Sabha on August 17, 2006that "we are fully conscious of the changing complexity of theinternational political system. Nuclear weapons are an integral part ofour national security and will remain so, pending the elimination ofall nuclear weapons and universal non-discriminatory nucleardisarmament. Our freedom of action with regard to our strategicprogrammes remains unrestricted. The nuclear agreement will not beallowed to be used as a backdoor method of introducing NPT typerestrictions on India." And yet, this Act totally negates the aboveassurance of the PM.

In view of the uncertain strategic situationaround the globe, we are of the view that India must not directly orindirectly concede our right to conduct future nuclear weapon tests, ifthese are found necessary to strengthen our minimum deterrence. In thisregard, the Act makes it explicit that if India conducts such tests,the nuclear cooperation will be terminated and we will be required toreturn all equipment and materials we might have received under thisdeal. To avoid any abrupt stoppage of nuclear fuel for reactors whichwe may import, India and the U.S. had mutually agreed to certainalternative fuel supply options which this Act has totally eliminatedout of consideration. Thus, any future nuclear test will automaticallyresult in a heavy economic loss to the country because of the inabilityto continue the operation of all such imported reactors.

Furthermore, the PM had assured the nationthat "India is willing to join any non-discriminatory, multilaterallynegotiated and internationally verifiable Fissile Material Cut-offTreaty (FMCT), as and when it is concluded in the Conference onDisarmament." But, the Act requires the U.S. to "encourage India toidentify and declare a date by which India would be willing to stopproduction of fissile material for nuclear weapons unilaterally orpursuant to a multilateral moratorium or treaty."

In his Rajya Sabha address, the PM had said,"Our commitment towards non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmamentremains unwavering, in line with the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan. There isno dilution on this count." Unfortunately, the Act is totally silent onthe U.S. working with India to move towards universal nucleardisarmament, but it eloquently covers all aspects of non-proliferationcontrols of U.S. priority, into which they want to draw India intocommitting.

In summary, it is obvious that the Hyde Actstill retains many of the objectionable clauses in the earlier Houseand Senate bills on which the Prime Minister had clearly put forth hisobjections and clarified the Indian position in both Houses ofParliament. Once this Act is signed into law, all further bilateralagreements with the U.S. will be required to be consistent with thislaw.

As such, the Government of India may conveythese views formally to the U.S. Administration and they should bereflected in the 123 Agreement.

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