Trumped in Vienna Part-I—Ejaz Haider

The US decision to give this deal to India or India’s own effort to latch on to it even as New Delhi was being pulled down by its own very strong anti-deal lobby was and is essentially political. It is not primarily about technicalities

What has happened Friday in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors meeting to discuss India’s Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA is as good an example as one can get of Pakistan’s inability to appreciate the terrain and plan accordingly and then, failing to do so, surrender meekly. Consider.

On July 24, we circulated a four-page letter raising objections to the BoG meeting on both procedural and substantive grounds. Here are the salient features:

1. The meeting did not follow the 45-day rule after first circulating the Safeguards Agreement on July 9. The rule is meant, as our letter detailed, to “enable BoG members to carefully examine…any Agreement…to ensure that it serves the purpose of credible verification of non-diversion for which it is being concluded”.

2. There are no good technical or substantive reasons for the BoG to waive the rule and the political exigencies of either India or the US cannot be cited for such waiver. If anything, “the unique and exceptional contents of the India-IAEA Agreement necessitate” careful consideration of the matter before it can be decided upon.

3. The consideration of the Agreement cannot be a “mere proforma exercise”.

4. The Agreement must also be carefully considered “because it is likely to set a precedent for other States which are not members of the NPT and have military programmes”.

5. The Agreement in its preamble “specifically notes India’s ‘willingness’ to ‘identify and separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities’. Thus, the IAEA-BoG is being asked to recognise and accept India’s nuclear weapon status” (italics added).

6. This reference is “unique”; it “prejudges and contradicts the purpose of the Agreement, i.e., to ensure that peaceful nuclear activities do not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons”. For the Agreement to “conform to the ‘guidance documents’ mentioned, this reference to the Indo-US joint Statement…should be deleted”.

7. Facilities to be safeguarded have not been listed and will be “added to the Safeguards Agreement as they are notified by India…. What is the purpose of the Agreement if the facilities to be safeguarded are not known?”

8. “Despite India’s refusal to place its Breeder Reactors and its Thorium-based programme under safeguards, the draft recognises India’s three-stage nuclear programme. This is gratuitous legitimisation of potential nuclear proliferation and contrary to the IAEA’s objectives”.

9. Concerns are compounded by other provisions of the Agreement: “(a) the ambiguous provisions regarding conditions for the termination of the Safeguards Agreement; (b) access for India to the international fuel markets; and (c) unspecified “corrective measures” which India would be allowed to take to “ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors” etc.

10. “India would be able to acquire nuclear fuel for the declared civilian facilities, build up a ‘strategic reserve’ for the lifetime of the reactors, and then terminate safeguards and divert part of the fuel for weapons purposes”.

11. The “Agreement does not even provide that further nuclear explosive testing would result in the termination of peaceful nuclear cooperation and Safeguards Agreement”.

12. “The reference to a ‘restricted document’, GOV/1621 of August 1973, as the yardstick for termination is unsatisfactory. The BoG cannot approve an Agreement with secret clauses. It is vital to expressly incorporate the conditions for the termination of the Safeguards Agreement.”

13. “Paragraph 28 [of the Agreement] provides for suspension of safeguards on ‘any parts of the facilities… which are removed for maintenance and repair’. This could open the door for nuclear fuel and advanced technology provided to India to be diverted for weapons purposes”.

14. “The draft does not indicate if India is willing to sign an IAEA Additional Protocol in respect of civilian nuclear facilities”.

15. The IAEA-BoG and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must “carefully weigh the consequences that may ensue from succumbing to ‘expediency’ over ‘principles’.

16. Calling it an India-specific agreement is unprecedented because the “IAEA statute does not provide for differentiation between member states on the basis of political consideration nor does it allow for special treatment for a particular state”. Such an Agreement “should be available as a model for other non-NPT states”.

17. Because this Agreement “has no utility in advancing the cause of non-proliferation”, it “threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent”.

Then, after publicly opposing the India safeguards agreement, we did a volte-face on August 1, describing the IAEA’s approval of the draft as “a historic decision….A step has been taken towards accommodating the interests of a non-NPT nuclear weapon state by evolving an innovative and new model. A significant departure has been made from the standard norms pertaining to verification and global non-proliferation, which, inter alia take into account the imperatives of promoting civilian nuclear cooperation.” We further said that “This constitutes an acknowledgement of ‘new realities’.”

There are many reasons for what has happened, some of which may even be unrelated to what was happening in the salubrious environs of Vienna. The foremost, however, has been Pakistan’s confusion from the word go about how to approach the issue — i.e., should we take the non-proliferation path and oppose the deal on that basis or should we forget about proliferation concerns and lobby for a similar deal for ourselves.

Taking the non-proliferation route — which was the basis for the opposition to the deal within the US strategic enclave — meant we could not ask for a similar deal for Pakistan.

Taking the give-it-to-us-too approach meant we could not turn around and begin invoking the threat of proliferation.

As it happened, we tried to do both. We were happy when the US non-proliferation lobby, including those hardnosed realists who are otherwise sold on deepening the Indo-US strategic partnership, began opposing the deal on the Hill. We supported those efforts while publicly calling for a similar status for Pakistan. The hope was, and until very recently, that the deal would not see the light of day. If that had happened, we could have rested easy that no one had got it. And it did seem like the deal would be stillborn. Within India itself, both Left and Right were opposed to it and the current government barely scraped through a confidence vote in Parliament.

Please note that while the July 24 letter signalled to the concerned States, including the US and India that Pakistan would not let the issue sail through on the basis of a consensus in the IAEA-BoG, at the minimum asking for a vote, the confusion in Islamabad about how to approach the issue is evident even in the latter (see points 5, 16 and 17).

The problem arises when we refuse to place an issue in its proper perspective. The US decision to give this deal to India or India’s own effort to latch on to it even as New Delhi was being pulled down by its own very strong anti-deal lobby was and is essentially political. It is not primarily about technicalities — though technicalities are important — or whether this deal will or will not allow India to become a bigger nuclear weapon state; the deal relates to (a) acknowledging India’s status as an emerging power and (b) the acceptance by the US and its allies that consolidating India’s rise and helping New Delhi play a bigger role is in the interest of the West.

Our problem was that we failed to appreciate the politics behind the deal and have now been trumped by it. The commentary in the Pakistani press for the most part has been ill-informed, a glaring example of which is the two-part article written in The News by former ambassador Asif Ezdi. But to that and the issue of politics we shall return tomorrow.

Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at This article is the first in a two-part series. The final part will appear tomorrow

Source: daily times, 4/8/2008

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