India-US nuclear deal: All you need to know about the landmark agreement
On 18 July, 2005, the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh visited Washington, and in a joint statement with George W Bush, India and the United States agreed to enter into a civil nuclear agreement.
This landmark agreement saw an implicit recognition – for the first time – of India as a nuclear weapons power.
Singh’s visit also coincided with the completion of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnerships (NSSP) which had been announced in January 2004, and which aimed to increase cooperation in civilian nuclear activities, civilian space programmes, high-technology trade, and missile defence.
The core of this agreement, in the area of nuclear energy, was the emphasis on non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Even though India did not officially join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), through this agreement it was afforded the same benefits and advantages as other leading nuclear powers, like the United States.
The then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said, “India committed itself in public, very specifically to a series of actions to which it had not previously committed itself. Actions, which will, in effect, in a de facto sense, have India agreeing to the same measures that most of the NPT states have agreed to.”
While the joint statement and related press releases list a wide range of responsibilities and actions, three essential ones were:
1. India would move to separate civilian and military nuclear facilities. India’s impetus – which was acknowledged by Bush – to continue developing its nuclear facilities has to do with its increased reliance on fossil fuels to meet is energy needs. Thus, safe, civilian nuclear energy would help in the sustainable development of India’s economy.
2. India would place these civilian nuclear facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
3. India would refrain from transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and supporting international efforts to limit their spread.
The US, for its part, would work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India, including granting India a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which would allow members to trade nuclear material with India even though it was not a part of the NPT. As part of the earlier sanctions, India had been isolated from the NSG.
Despite opposition from parties in both the countries, Congressional approval for the US-India Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (123 Agreement) came in October 2008. Before that, on 25, September 2008, Singh visited Washington and addressed Bush on the imminent completion of the deal.
He said, “I am mentioning civil nuclear initiative because for 34 years, India has suffered from a nuclear apartheid. We have not been able to trade in nuclear material, nuclear reactors, nuclear raw materials. And when this restrictive regime ends, I think a great deal of credit will go to president Bush. And for this I am very grateful to you, Mr President.”
In 2009, as Barack Obama entered the White House, concerns were voiced about US involvement with Pakistan and China, and how that would affect US ties with India following the Bush administration. However, during Singh’s visit to Washington in November, 2009, Obama vowed to uphold the historic nuclear agreement.
In a joint statement issued by Singh and Obama, India and US reaffirmed the terms of the nuclear agreement, emphasised their respective moratorium on nuclear testing and the increasing need to work towards global non-proliferation.