Nuclear Deal

United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act

source: wikipedia

The United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006 is the legal framework for a bilateral pact between the United States and India under which the U.S. will provide access to civilian nuclear technology and access to nuclear fuel in exchange for International Atomic Energy Agency-safeguards on civilian Indian reactors. This act provides the legal basis for a 123 Agreement with India. The 123 agreement requires separate U.S. congressional approval and Indian cabinet approval and will define the exact terms and conditions for bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation.


  1. Background
  2. Rationale behind the agreement
  3. Agreement
  4. Passage in the U.S.
  5. Implementation
  6. Political opposition in India
  7. Criticism


Signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are granted access to civilian nuclear technology from each other as well as nuclear fuel via the Nuclear Suppliers Group in exchange for International Atomic Energy Agency-verified compliance of the NPT tenets. India, Israel, and Pakistan, however, have not signed the NPT, arguing that instead of addressing the central objective of universal and comprehensive non-proliferation, the treaty creates a club of “nuclear haves” and a larger group of “nuclear have-nots” by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967, who alone are free to possess and multiply their nuclear stockpiles. The treaty never explains on what ethical grounds such a distinction is valid.1 India insists on a comprehensive action plan for a nuclear-free world within a specific time-frame and has also adopted a voluntary “no first use policy”.

In response to a growing Chinese nuclear arsenal, India conducted a nuclear test in 1974 (called “peaceful nuclear explosion” and explicitly not for military purposes). Led by the US, other nations set up an informal group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), to control exports of nuclear materials, equipment and technology2. As a result, India was relegated to a pariah status within the international nuclear order. In view of continued proliferation by China and Pakistan, and its own huge population, India conducted 5 more nuclear tests in May, 1998 at Pokhran.

Rationale behind the agreement

The growing energy demands of the Indian and Chinese economies have raised questions on the impact of global energy availability. The Bush Administration has concluded that an Indian shift toward nuclear energy is in the best interest for America to secure its energy needs of coal, crude oil, and natural gas. Moreover, the Bush administration insists that India’s strong non-proliferation record and stable democracy further helped justify a nuclear pact with India while not providing Pakistan or others the same. Finally,The U.S. also expects that such a deal could spur India’s economic growth and bring in $150 billion in the next decade for nuclear power plants, of which the US wants a share3. It is India’s stated objective to increase the production of nuclear power generation from its present capacity of 4,000 MWe to 20,000 MWe in the next decade.

Indian and American critics along with nuclear industry representatives and developmental economists have questioned each of the administration’s claims. They have noted that U.S. nuclear vendors cannot sell any reactors to India unless and until India caps third party liabilities and or establishes a credible liablility pool to protect U.S. firms from being sued in the case of an accident or a terrorist act of sabotage against nuclear plants.

The Respect Developmental economic advising firm of Dalberg, which advises the IMF and the World Bank, moreover, has done its own analysis of the economic value of investing in nuclear power development in India. Their conclusion is that for the next 20 years such investments are likely to be far less valuable economically or environmentally than a variety of other measures to increase and economize electricity production in India. and also to stop or reduce the pollution by traditional usage of natural resources

Since the end of the Cold War, The Pentagon, along with certain U.S. ambassadors such as Robert Blackwill, have requested increased strategic ties with India and a de-hyphenization of Pakistan with India.

Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which would be in charge of inspecting India’s civilian reactors has praised the deal as “it would also bring India closer as an important partner in the nonproliferation regime”,4. However, members of the IAEA safeguards staff have made it clear that Indian demands that New Delhi be allowed to determine when Indian reactors might be inspected could undermine the IAEA safeguards system.

While India is self-sufficient in thorium, possessing 24% of the world’s known and economically available thorium,5 it possesses a meager 1% of the similarly calculated global uranium reserves.6 Indian support for cooperation with the U.S. centers around the issue of obtaining a steady supply of sufficient energy to grow the economy.

Indian opposition to the pact centers around the concessions that would need to be made, as well as the likely de-prioritization of research into a thorium fuel-cycle if uranium becomes highly available given the well understood utilization of uranium in a nuclear fuel cycle.


On March 2, 2006 in New Delhi, George W. Bush and Manmohan Singh signed a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, following an initiation during the July 2005 summit in Washington between the two leaders over civilian nuclear cooperation.7

Heavily endorsed by the White House, the agreement is thought to be a major victory to George W. Bush’s foreign policy initiative and was described by many lawmakers as a cornerstone of the new strategic partnership between the two countries.8 The agreement is widely considered to help India fulfill its soaring energy demands and enter the U.S. and India into a strategic partnership. The Pentagon speculates this will help ease global demand for crude oil and natural gas.

On August 3, 2007, both the countries released the full text of 123 agreement, which may be found on: 1 (

Passage in the U.S.

On December 18th, George W. Bush signed the Act into law. The Act was passed by an overwhelming 359-68 in the United States House of Representatives on July 26th and by 85-12 in the United States Senate on Nov 16th in a strong show of bipartisan support.91011

The House version (H.R. 5682) and Senate version (S. 3709) of the bill differed due to amendments each had added before approving, but the versions were reconciled with a House vote of 330-59 on Dec 8th and a Senate voice-vote on Dec 9th before being passed on to President G.W. Bush for final approval.1213 The White House had urged Congress to expedite the reconciliation process during the current lame duck session, and recommended removing certain amendments which would be deemed deal-killers by India.14 Nonetheless, while softened, several clauses restricting India’s strategic nuclear program and conditions on having India align with U.S. views over Iran were incorporated with the civilian nuclear agreement.

In response to the language Congress used in the Act to define U.S. policy toward India, President Bush stated “Given the Constitution’s commitment to the authority of the presidency to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs, the executive branch shall construe such policy statements as advisory,” going on to cite sections 103 and 104 (d) (2) of the bill. To assure Congress that its work would not be totally discarded, Bush continued by saying that the executive would give “the due weight that comity between the legislative and executive branches should require, to the extent consistent with U.S. foreign policy.”15


Following the passing of the Act, negotiations on implementing the cooperation through a ‘Section 123 Agreement’ were concluded on July 27, 2007.16 This must next be approved by both the US Congress, and by the international Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations, which controls the export of nuclear technology.16 Implementation is not expected to be easy as further actions taken could invite criticism.

Political opposition in India

The operationalisation of the deal ran into difficulties in the face of stiff political opposition in India. The main opposition party BJP criticized the deal saying that it compromised India’s nuclear weapons program, despite that fact that they had started negotiations on the agreement when in power. More crucially, the communist parties, which are not a part of the government but support it externally in the Indian Parliament, threatened to withdraw their support over the issue. They cited what they described as the imperialist policies of the U.S.A. as their primary reason of opposition. However, the government remained steadfast on its commitment to the deal and has refused to back down on the agreement, leading to the possibility of mid-term elections in India. Senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, in a statement to the Indian Express newspaper, seemed to indicate willingness to support the government provided some legislative measures17. However his party refused to follow that line and stuck to its earlier stand18. According to political commentators, if the Indian government, whether the current dispensation or a new one, were to renege on its commitment to the deal, it would seriously undermine India’s credibility in the international arena, besides rendering useless the considerable effort and time spent in finalising the agreement. The government and the left parties are currently holding negotiations to resolve the issue, but they don’t look very promising; and mid-term polls seem to be around the corner. The government has denied speculations that it intends to put the deal on hold in order to save the government19.

The BJP, the current main opposition party in the Indian parliament has asked the government not to accept the deal without a vote in the legislature. The CPI(M), an external parliamentary supporter of Manmohan Singh’s governing UPA coalition, and several top nuclear scientists and institutions in India have asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to not accept the deal in its December 2006 form as it stipulates conditions that in some areas are more severe than the clauses in either the NPT or the CTBT. 202122 The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has dared the left front to withdraw support to his government .
Several top Indian nuclear scientists have written an appeal to Indian parliamentarians to ensure that “decisions taken today do not inhibit India’s future ability to develop and pursue nuclear technologies for the benefit of the nation”. 23
Many who believe in the efficacy of the non-proliferation regime feel the 123 Agreement critically undermines the regime and sends mixed signals to other would-be nuclear states. Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr., former director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) argues along these lines.24


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2 Responses to Nuclear Deal

  1. samit gupta says:

    this is a very comprehensive nuclear deal description

  2. Pingback: US ship kills 5 Indians just after 1 year of purchase « SPEAK INDIA

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