Eric Auner and Daniel Salisbury
India is pursuing a civil nuclear trade deal with Japan, which has said that cooperation depends on India not conducting any further nuclear test explosions.
On Aug. 21, India and Japan concluded the latest round of their strategic dialogue, which included discussions of civil nuclear cooperation. At a joint press conference with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that day in New Delhi, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said that, in the event of a future Indian nuclear test, “Japan will have no option but to state that we shall suspend our cooperation.”
India also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada, and discussed nuclear cooperation with a high-profile British delegation.
India, which tested nuclear devices in 1974 and 1998, was barred from engaging in nuclear trade with Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members until 2008. NSG guidelines ban nuclear trade with countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and that do not place all their nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. India remains outside the NPT, but it obtained an NSG waiver in 2008 that allows it to conduct nuclear trade with the group’s members. (See ACT, October 2008.) India has placed some of its nuclear power reactors under safeguards.
Since the NSG decision, India has entered into nuclear cooperation agreements of various forms with a number of countries, including France, Russia, and the United States.
India and Japan formed a working group on nuclear energy in late April and engaged in two days of negotiations on the subject in late June. Talks on civil nuclear cooperation are taking place in the context of the “2+2” dialogue, which involves the foreign and defense ministers of both countries discussing a wide spectrum of economic and security issues
In addition to indicating that an Indian nuclear test would result in the suspension of a nuclear agreement, Okada urged India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and make progress toward negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty.
Many Japanese nonproliferation advocates have opposed nuclear cooperation with India. The mayor of Nagasaki, Tomihisa Taue, released a statement criticizing nuclear negotiations with India. “This means that a nation that has suffered atomic bombings itself is now severely weakening the NPT regime, which is beyond intolerable” he said Aug. 9 during a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
A Japanese condition suspending nuclear cooperation in the event of an Indian test would be similar to a section of the 2006 Hyde Act, which amended U.S. law to allow nuclear trade with India. The Hyde Act opened the door to the U.S.-Indian cooperation agreement; that accord, signed in 2007 and approved by Congress in 2008, does not itself contain a requirement that India forswear future nuclear tests. The Indian government has traditionally defended its right to conduct future nuclear tests although it currently is observing a moratorium.
India and Canada signed their cooperation agreement at the end of the June Group of 20 summit in Toronto after bilateral meetings between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The agreement will allow Canadian firms to export nuclear material, equipment, and technology to India and will encourage cooperation in nuclear safety and waste management.
Canada has a long history of involvement with India’s nuclear program. It sold a CIRUS research reactor, as well as two CANDU power reactors, to India in the 1950s and 1960s. Spent fuel from the CIRUS reactor was later used to produce the fissile material for India’s 1974 nuclear test explosion. Canada cut off nuclear trade in the wake of the 1974 test, opening a long-lasting diplomatic rift between the two countries.
At a June 27 press conference, Singh sought to ease concerns that Canadian nuclear exports would be used for military purposes. “We have complete civilian control and there is no scope whatsoever for any nuclear material or equipment being supplied going for any unintended purpose,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “Nuclear material supplied to India will be fully safeguarded” under the terms of India’s agreement signed with the IAEA, he said. He added that India has a “fool-proof system of export controls.” Singh and Harper released a joint June 27 statement in which both expressed their commitment to “the ratification of the agreement and the completion of all remaining steps necessary to ensure its early implementation.”
When asked about the nonproliferation assurances received by the Canadian government and whether Canada would cease nuclear cooperation in the event of an Indian nuclear test, Laura Markle, a spokeswoman at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said in an e-mail exchange last month that any use of Canadian materials or technology beyond “peaceful, civilian and non-explosive purposes” would “provide cause for the immediate suspension, and eventual termination of nuclear cooperation.”
The United Kingdom has been seeking greater participation in the Indian market as well. A high-profile British delegation, which included Prime Minister David Cameron, visited India in late July. While on the trip, Business Secretary Vince Cable said the countries already are cooperating on “a certain amount of modest research,” but want to move to “a higher level.” British companies “potentially could do a large amount of [nuclear] business in India,” he said. In February, India and the United Kingdom signed a Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, in which the two governments expressed the desire “to promote extensive co-operation in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”