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Ourview | Asleep on nuclear watch

Ourview | Asleep on nuclear watch
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First Published: Thu, Dec 08 2011. 10 16 PM IST

Jayachandran/Mint
Jayachandran/Mint
Updated: Thu, Dec 08 2011. 10 16 PM IST
Finally, the wages of somnolent Indian diplomacy and very poor political leadership on the issue of securing nuclear enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies are there for everyone to see.
On Wednesday, Russia offered India a nuclear deal the latter can’t refuse. The Russian offer entails setting up ENR facilities on Russian soil to process nuclear materials required for Indian nuclear power plants. The purpose behind trying to secure ENR technologies is to ensure that India is not held hostage to a changing international political environment whereby its nuclear supplies can be choked at the will of another country or group of countries. While India already has some ENR technologies—courtesy its scientists who toiled hard under decades of technology denial regimes—access to cheaper ENR technologies makes our life easier.
Jayachandran/Mint
What the Russians are offering is not very different from the deal they had in mind for Iran. Iran, suspected to have diverted nuclear materials for military purposes, was offered a deal under which Russia offered to enrich uranium for use in Iranian nuclear power plants on Russian territory. Iran refused the offer.
Now, in one fell swoop, India has been brought to the level of Iran, an international nuclear pariah. And that at the hands of its “time-tested friend” Russia. While, the language of the offer—made by Russia’s ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin—was couched in terms of trying to overcome the stringent conditions imposed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and also meet its international non-proliferation commitments, its substance was very clear.
India cannot be trusted with ENR technologies.
There are three reasons why India should reject this deal. One, by accepting it, India will implicitly accept being equated with Iran. This will be detrimental to our nuclear interests. India has an impeccable nuclear non-proliferation record and whatever nuclear activities it has engaged in—civilian and military—have been carried out openly, without any subterfuge. This deal will be a millstone around our neck: every country engaging in nuclear commerce with us will use the Russian deal as a benchmark. Two, the deal will be very expensive: setting up ENR facilities on Russian soil will only add to the costs of processing material. This will not only be in terms of the physical cost of materials, but also possible time and cost overruns and the uncertainty involved in the whole process.
Finally, India is one of the few countries that plan to aggressively build nuclear power plants in the future. That fact alone gives us significant leverage to say no to foreign companies whose governments don’t want to transfer technology to India.
The Russian nuclear deal: a deal that India can’t refuse? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Dec 08 2011. 10 16 PM IST