Thursday, March 09, 2006

economist hates the indo-us deal. ergo, it must be good for india

mar 9th

for the very first time, i am beginning to wonder if the nuclear deal is good for india after all.

the chinese hated it.

now the atlanticist mouthpiece, the voice of NATO, the economist magazine, hates it.

by definition, this must mean it is good for india.

bloody hypocrites, the brits are happy to suck up to the chinese (the limeys are the ones manufacturing tales about zheng he the eunuch mohammedan admiral; it was a limey joseph needham who wrote a history of chinese science and quite happily awarded many indian inventions to them). they did not bat an eyelid when china proliferated happily.

this is probably the first and only time that i agree with the economist when it comes to india. i too think it'd be good for the us congress to kill the nuke deal.

i do agree with the economist on a lot of other things, not least the language.


Nuclear proliferation

Dr Strangedeal

Mar 9th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Congress should veto George Bush's nuclear agreement with India

TEN years from now, will George Bush's determination to rewrite nuclear rules for preventing the bomb's spread be judged to have been courageously right or dangerously wrong? In striking his deal with India, allowing it to import nuclear fuel and technology despite its weapons-building, Mr Bush has not for the first time seemed readier to favour a friend than to stick to a principle. He is gambling that the future benefits of accepting a rising India in all but name as a member of the nuclear club will outweigh the shock to the global anti-proliferation regime, already under severe strain from the nuclear dealings of North Korea and Iran. His gamble is a dangerous one. Meanwhile, in his rush to accommodate India, Mr Bush is missing a chance to win wider nuclear restraint in one of the world's tougher neighbourhoods.

New thinking is needed in the anti-proliferation game. North Korea has broken every rule of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and boasts proudly of its bomb. Iran claims to have no use for one, yet demands the "right" to pursue dangerous nuclear fuel-making technologies—as others may do in future unless creative solutions are found to deflect them—that could be abused for weapons-making. This week America and others were insisting at the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran not be allowed to bend the anti-nuclear rules out of shape to further what are assumed to be its weapons ambitions (see article). So why does Mr Bush propose doing just that for already nuclear-armed India?

Not just old thinking

You have to deal with the world as it is, comes the reply. India needs to import nuclear fuel and technology, hitherto denied it by a combination of the NPT, the informal rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and by American law, to support its fast-growing energy needs. And India is not Iran or North Korea. They signed the NPT and cheated. Like Pakistan and Israel, India never joined the treaty and its weapons-making breaks no laws. India is also a responsible democracy; it does not support terrorist groups or threaten to wipe neighbours off the map, as Iran did recently with Israel. Meanwhile, in return for America's bending the rules of nuclear trade, India will put more civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards, and stiffen its anti-proliferation resolve.

Leave aside whether nuclear power best serves Indians' needs—that is India's choice, made knowing the anti-nuclear rules it was up against. And while India's nukes broke no laws, in practice it got its start in the weapons business, rather as North Korea and Iran did, by misusing technologies and materials provided for civilian purposes. Mr Bush is nonetheless right that no one expects India to give up its weapons now.

But it is one thing to have as broad and close a friendship with a nuclear India as the anti-nuclear rules allow. That is already in both countries' interests. It is quite another to knock aside the rules for India's sake. To be sure, Mr Bush is not proposing that other nuclear dabblers be given a welcome if they are persistent enough to succeed—though that will be the message Iran prefers to hear this week. Rather, he wants democratic, friendly, law-abiding India to be treated as an exception by Congress, which must first amend America's own laws if the deal is to go through, and by others in the NSG.

The problem here is that India could instead prove the exception that fatally weakens the rules. The devil is both in the deal's troubling detail, and in its likely knock-on effects.

India may not have signed the NPT, but America has. In doing so, it promised not to help other countries with their nuclear-weapons tinkering. It also pioneered the reinforcing principle that only countries that have all their nuclear facilities under international safeguards (India doesn't now and won't in future) should benefit from trade in civilian nuclear technology. If countries were going to sign the NPT and renounce nuclear weapons themselves, they needed assurance that as many others as possible would follow suit. To encourage them, treaty rights—help in enjoying the benefits of civilian nuclear power—were withheld from those that shrugged off or ignored its obligations.

Allowing nuclear trade with India breaks that bargain in a particularly damaging way. The rules had started to bite: India was running short of supplies of uranium for both civilian and military purposes. By allowing it to import nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors, America will be directly easing the bottlenecks in its weapons programme (bizarrely, also agreeing to keep up fuel supplies even if India breaks America's other anti-proliferation laws, as some of its companies have in the past). Worse, India's experimental fast-breeder reactor programme, ideally suited to produce plutonium for warheads though previously claimed to be for civilian purposes, is to be exempted from all safeguards. That will allow India in future to produce scores of weapons a year, not just a handful.

Then add insult to injury. Not only is nuclear-armed India being offered all of the civilian benefits available to countries that have accepted the NPT's anti-nuclear restrictions. It has also accepted few, if any, of the real obligations of the five official nuclear powers recognised by the treaty, America, Russia, China, Britain and France. All at least signed the treaty banning all nuclear tests; India declined. All have ended the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes (only China has yet to say so publicly); India flatly refused America's request to do likewise.

A cascade of problems

Rule-bending for India is bound to encourage some other countries to rethink their nuclear options too. But less damage might have been done if the non-proliferation gains had been real ones. In particular, India should have been pressed to stop making fissile material as a condition of any bargain. Pakistan, already signalling interest, could have joined such a moratorium. With China—India's preferred measure of its nuclear prowess—having stopped producing the stuff too, there was a good opportunity to try to spin a wider web of restraint.

Both South Asia and East Asia urgently need to explore such ambitious confidence-building measures to take the sting out of dangerous regional rivalries. This one could have acted as a catalyst in the Middle East too. Israel in the past has had a stronger claim than most for its deterrent, surrounded for much of its short history by large neighbours aiming to drive it in to the sea. Yet its nuclear edge is fast eroding. With an American nudge, shutting down its Dimona reactor (it no longer needs its plutonium) could spark new thinking about a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East that could someday help finesse the Iran problem too.

Instead of a virtuous anti-nuclear cycle, there is now more likely to be a vicious nuclear one. China can be expected to insist on doing for proliferation-prone Pakistan what America wants to do for India, adding to a regional arms race that has led to a cascade of proliferation in the past. Giving India a freer ride is also likely to embolden Iran and North Korea in their defiance, with potential repercussions for the security of all their neighbours, from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

No one doubts that the world's richest democracy and its largest one have lots to offer each other as friends and partners. But assisting India's nuclear weapons ambitions ought not to be in Mr Bush's gift. When Congress is asked to change America's anti-proliferation laws, it should say no.


KapiDhwaja said...

I dont understand Rajeev. You are saying first that since the economist & the Chinese hate the deal, it must be good for India.

Next you are saying that you agree with the economist that the deal should be killed in the US Congress.

Pls clarify what you want.

san said...

Guys, I don't agree with The Economist article one bit. As I've said, after reassessing the N-Deal in its finalized signed form, I think it looks good for India.

Based on this N-Deal, we get to keep the necessary number of reactors outside the IAEA inspections regime, so that we can use them for military purposes unhindered.

The remaining reactors under inspection will be for energy purposes only, and can be used to help our economy by supplying much-needed electricity. Furthermore, ending this nuclear embargo on India will open up the floodgates for high-technology transfers. We will even have access to all sorts of arms technology that was previously off-limits as dual-use. This will not only help our military, but will also help our economy.

8 reactors, including a fast-breeder, are plenty enough for us to maintain and build up our nuclear weapons arsenal. We will be able to further develop our fast breeder technology using the Kamini reactor.

Nextly, we have the right to classify the future reactors we build according to our own needs. Whatever new reactors we want to build for military purposes, we can.

And last but not least, our real goal is to build up the plutonium charge for the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor, which will finally tap the Thorium Cycle. The Thorium Cycle is our Holy Grail -- our ultimate prize -- because it will allow us to breed U-233 and not merely the Plutonium our current reactors do. U-233 has a much more flexible decay emission spectrum which will allow it to do a lot more for us than what mere Plutonium can do. We will have a lot more flexibility in reactor design.

Once we get U-233 production from Thorium fully underway using the AHWR, then we are unstoppable -- absolutely independent and beyond their reach.

As a matter of fact, we are already starting to make use of what little U-233 we've produced thusfar, to help pull ourselves up by our bootstraps faster.

san said...

Bush has submitted the N-Deal before the Congress:

They will have debate it and then vote on it. Part of the proposal is that the nuclear cooperation agreement, that India and US are to negotiate later on, is to take effect without a Congressional vote on it.

Hehe, that'll keep the India-bashers out of the loop to keep them from spoiling things later on.

So let's all look onward and upward. Don't feel bad about the mere 14 reactors we've sacrificed -- remember, we can build more, and we will -- including for military purposes.

We are quickly going to catapult ourselves forward into the major power leagues. We will have energy, technology, prosperity -- all of it will come sooner now.

We can then focus more quickly on the eliminating the Pak threat. And since Uncle Sam absolutely cannot tolerate under any circumstances a Chinese presence by the Straits of Hormuz at Gwadar, his only option is to hasten the demise of Pak.

saras said...

It is all much ado about nothing. It is neither a victory nor defeat for either the USA or India. The US is gloating over the fact that it has been able to finally bring Indian nuclear program under international inspections and safeguards. On the other hand, India is tomtomming that at last it has been recognised as a nuclear weapon state and also that it can now get the much needed nuclear fuel for the manifold rise in the nuclear power generation.

I read two articles in the Economic Times today (the online link for this story is not yet available), which say that it is too much to expect that we are going to see phenomenal growth in the nuclear power generation, because it is not economical, too risky and environmentally unfriendly. The fast breeder reactors, which every nuclear scientist is claiming to be the ultimate solution for our energy needs, is going to be neither here nor there. Nowhere in the world, do we see this technology being successfully employed; besides, no one is talking about the problems associated with the nuclear waste.

So it is too early to uncork the champagne bottles.

san said...

saras, nuclear waste is precisely what a fast breeder reactor burns up. india can operate FBRs much more cheaply than any other country, just like we can do space launches more cheaply. france supplies 80% of its energy through nuclear power, so if they can do it, why can't we? hydrocarbons won't last forever, and their environmental risk is far more serious than nuclear power. as a matter of fact, some leading environmental experts have called for nuclear power as a solution.

nizhal yoddha said...


i have become anti-nuke (for energy purposes) and pro-nuke (for defense purposes). I do believe nuclear energy is not the answer for india's huge needs. we need -- civilizationally, among other things -- something that 'treads lightly on the earth'. something we have in plenty. solar, wind, biomass, bio-fuels. not something that comes out of holes in the ground.

nizhal yoddha said...

also, the cartoon in the economist is good stuff. it's a take off on the final, captivating image in stanley kubrick's masterpiece 'doctor strangelove', with the redneck texan actually riding the released nuclear bomb like a bronco, with the rebel yell,'yee-haaa'.

the actor who played the redneck had the most engaging name of slim pickens!

nizhal yoddha said...

slim pickin's indeed, for india.

and kapidhwaja, if the economist hates the deal, it must mean it is good for india.

however, i still think it is a bad deal for india for reasons i've articulated earlier. so i'd like it if the us congress blows it away, which it will.

saras said...

Nuclear waste disposal is the central issue in the context of nuclear power generation.
Fast breeder reactors produce more fuel than they consume, with the result that disposal of hazardous waste is going to be a bigger problem than what it is now. France sends thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste to Russia each year, but the details are shielded by a decree of "national security" in order to block debate on the issue.
It is true that nuclear power plants account for 80 percent of electrical production in France. The main reason for this is that France has fewer options for electricity generation than do its industrial partners.
France's nuclear power stations will reach the end of their design life in 2010. The French government will soon have to answer some difficult questions. Which energy choices must France make to meet its growing electricity consumption up to 2050? What are the economic advantages of nuclear power, as compared with other energy supplies? What are the other non-nuclear technologies France can actually use? And when will France be ready to use them?
Elsewhere in the world reliance on nuclear power is declining, mainly because of a growing concern about the environment. The general public today is less willing to run the risks involved in nuclear energy production. An incident in September 1999 at a nuclear power plant in Tokaimura, Japan, compelled the Japanese government to scale back its nuclear power plant construction program. Japan is not an isolated example. New nuclear power plant construction programs around the globe have been reduced or eliminated entirely. In Europe, nuclear energy users such as Sweden and Germany are staging a gradual withdrawal. Given this general trend, the question remains whether France can afford to go against the tide. France will soon have to decide whether to renovate its 58 nuclear reactors or to dismantle its nuclear energy program. The complete renovation of France's nuclear power stations would cost approximately $1 trillion.

The answer to man's energy problems lies in learning to live within one's own means. Energy conservation, reliance on renewable energy resources etc. are also known to provide some solutions to the energy problem.

Kalyani said...

Good one Saras!

Earlier,I had also mentioned,spices and condiments,potatoes and onions in our country,yess,India,are being zapped by gamma rays(subjected to radiation).Which was long back declared hazardous by the West.

At least,to ssome extent,the dissenters there,relentlessly pursue the TRUTH.But here,they are silenced or crowned with some award which is the craftiest way of silencing and defanging!

What you have written is just the tip of the iceberg.

san said...

Gentlemen, nuclear technology has not remained at a standstill, and is today much more advanced than what it was 30 years ago.

Remember something, using Thorium does not require digging vast mines the size of the Grand Canyon. Thorium does not have to be significantly purified in order to use it -- unlike Uranium which has to be refined down to the useful 1% usable inside a reactor.

The reality is that solar and wind power can be used to help power homes, but they don't have the power density to run industry. Besides, they too have their own negative cost on the environment. You may see more dead birds due to them running into the blades of wind turbines, or being dazzled by the glare of solar panels.

When nuclear energy is there for the taking, why ignore this incredibly abundant and rich source of energy, when India is uniquely blessed with the world's largest thorium supplies?

Again, radioactivity is not the mysterious and poorly understood phenomenon it was in the past. We have a much better grip on it nowadays, and are much more capable of handling it.

Dr Bhabha was a strong visionary, and was right to see the value of the Thorium Cycle. The amount of energy locked up in India's thorium supply could enable it to power the world for centuries, if not millenia. We would be the Saudi Arabia of nuclear fuel.

We have almost reached Stage 3 -- the final stage of the program that Dr Bhabha envisioned, where we will achieve total energy independence. It would be irresponsible of us to quit now, after all the treasure and work that has been invested in this.

KapiDhwaja said...

San, the Thorium we have is only enough for our own use, for the next 500 years. We dont have surplus for export. Besides after 500 years, we will run out of Thorium. So again, something more sustainable has to be found out while we use our Thorium.

san said...

kapi, 500 years is a very long time. Humanity may be at a totally different level by then, and the solar system colonized. I wouldn't worry about thorium running out in 500 years, when we've only been using oil for 70 years, and coal for another 50 years beyond that.

Regarding saras' concern about fast breeders producing more fuel than they consume, that's the entire point. For India, that would be a good thing, as it would allow us to build up our plutonium supplies which we can then use to tap thorium.

The Thorium cycle actually consumes plutonium, and generates U-233 which is yet another fuel. The U-233 can then be re-used to tap more Thorium again, generating more U-233 in the process.

So the Thorium cycle can be used to consume the surplus plutonium produced by other countries' reactors, thereby eliminating plutonium as a weapons material, while producing U-233 which while fissile, is not suitable for weapons use, as it is a high gamma radiator. U-233's propensity for full spectrum emissions, including gamma rays, makes it unsuitable for weapons and more suited for power generation.

In order for nuclear technology to beneficially evolve at a faster pace, more use has to be made of nuclear power, along with more investment in it. As nuclear technology is used more and more widely, it will improve more and more.

Anyway, I notice that some Chinese "experts" are warning that China may export reactors to Bangladesh, in retaliation for the Indo-US deal. That truly shows that China is upset. Well, tough luck, if they try to do this, we should impose a naval blockade like US did over missiles to Cuba in 1962.

If the Chinese are stupid enough to fight us in the Bay of Bengal, then they're just going to end up with ships being sunk. It is important that India make China understand the depth of our resolve on matters of fundamental security. Then they won't try and tickle us like that. We have to teach them about Issue Saliency.

KapiDhwaja said...

Yes, we can do what you say to China. Do a Naval blockade.

Also, we can do an 'Osirak' on Bangladesh. Bomb the crap out of the Nuke reactor that comes up in Bangladesh. For added meassure, we can threaten to turn off Ganga water supply through the Farakka barrage.

Kalyani said...

All futuristic thigh slapping... we will do this & that is fine as anaemic morale boosters!

What have we been doing all these days?Despite having Dogs,
*we* have been barking:))

At least Americans have eliminated some.We with our panoply of AgniVarunaPrithviVayuAakas(h)ams,logistical expertise,a *SECULAR* Army(wow!I am tingled & tickled),only stage, spectacular shows before politicians and year after year on 26th Jan,preen with pride!

How many wars have we WON? A placid Bhutan could crack down effectively on militants.

Our Army is routinely used as aid agencies or to quell internal riots.There too a crafty,wily taqiya spewing muslim conquers the Armyman by plucking some flowers belonging to Bharatha Desam and scattering them in the former's out & out Hindu custom:)

I hear many in our Army have been practising some breathing techniques and have effectively vanquished *Aakrosham*...with only juices of secular charitable feelings sloshing about in their veins:))