MANIPAL, India, April 7 (UPI) -- If his July 18, 2005 deal with U.S. President George W. Bush is implemented, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will ensure that India would never, at least in the next half-century, rival China as a technological or military superpower.
The act of scientific strangulation in the Singh-Bush nuclear agreement would rapidly push India downwards to the level of Lesotho and Botswana in nuclear and missile science. After half a century of protecting its nuclear technology, the country would slide into the category of "recipient countries" explicitly marked out for it by Bush. As such, India would no longer be permitted to even reprocess uranium on its own, but would have to depend on "advanced countries" such as Japan and Germany for this essential process. Ironically, at present India is far ahead of both in nuclear science.
Just as others did before him, Manmohan Singh has made the mistake of believing the temporary backing of the U.S. bureaucracy to be sufficient protection from the angry reaction of his own people, once the consequences of his actions become clear. However, in this case, the price for such misdeeds is likely to be paid not by Singh personally but by the Congress Party, which will henceforward be seen as having betrayed its nationalist past.
Thanks substantially to the economic liberalization initiated by P. V. Narasimha Rao in 1992, India and the United States have inevitably been moving closer. Business-to-business contacts are booming, and despite Education Minister Arjun Singh's distaste for any knowledge coming from beyond the seas, the years ahead should see U.S. universities setting up campuses in India. The two economies and the two peoples are moving ever closer together, to the benefit of both. What has not changed is the hatred of the "Cold Warriors" in the CIA and the State Department for India, especially at this country's efforts at building itself up as a Science Superpower. Unfortunately, there have always been influential people in India willing to join the State Department and the CIA at their game of emasculating India, even though such a process is likely to spark off an anti-U.S. backlash that could impact other ties.
India is indeed beginning to shine, but this is despite a central government that has been scared away from meaningful economic reform, and which is presiding over ballooning subsidies, rising interest rates and a reign of terror by income-tax authorities. However, for such an upward trend to be made permanent, there needs to be a core of excellence in science and technology, based on the education system and on research.
Under Arjun Singh, instead of expanding their reach, the existing centers of excellence are to be constricted. New regulations and legislation -- in the name of society, of course, would drive away new entrants to the field of quality education, even while asphyxiating those already there. And judging by the torrent of defense imports that Manmohan Singh's cabinet is clearing on a monthly basis, indigenous capability will continue to decline.
Now, under the nuclear deal, the primary research centers for scientific excellence in the country will come under the straitjacket of international inspections in the form of the International Atomic Energy Authority's "Additional Protocol" that the Department of Atomic Energy in India is being ordered to accept by Prime Minister Singh. With that, India will enter into the same category as Iraq and Iran, countries where independent research and knowledge generation get treated as international crimes.
Under the fine print of the July 18, 2005 Bush-Singh nuclear agreement, as many of nine key research facilities in India will come under rigorous IAEA inspections. This will include the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research at Mumbai, known for its advances in nanotechnology. It will cover the plasma research laboratory at Ahmedabad, where exists India's successful fusion prototype. It will also include the Variable Energy Cyclotron at Kolkatta as well as that city's Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, and the cancer-battling Tata Memorial Center at Mumbai and the BARC Isotope Radiation Technology Board in Mumbai, besides even the Institute of Physics at Bhubaneshwar and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
Clearly, physics and mathematics are no longer suitable subjects for unsupervised study in the world's new Ekalavya, India. Any institute that has even a remote chance of "dual use" -- doing work that may help a nuclear weapons program -- will be placed under safeguards that would make impossible any substantive indigenous research in fields essential for the future prosperity of India.
As the IAEA "Additional Protocol" addresses not actuality but the vague concept of intent, any "suspicion", whether real or contrived, can be made the basis for a witch-hunt of a facility. This would be under either the "Pursuit" and the "Contamination" clauses that such agreements contain.
Under the pursuit clause, any IAEA inspector can order the full inspection of any facility that she or he subjectively believes is related to the weapons program. This can include enterprises such as L&T or facilities such as those within BARC.
Under the contamination clause, even the use of very small or inconsequential materiel from abroad can, by the letter of the law, be used as justification for treating the entire output of a facility as having "flouted the safeguards" and place it on the punitive list. This determination would be done entirely by the international inspectors who, as Richard Butler showed, did not need any evidence at all to put in place a humiliating and crippling regime of spot inspections and surveys.
As former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein found to his cost, not having any weapons of mass destruction was no defense against "proof" in Butler's mind that he had them.
Further, by claiming a link between the inspected entity and an unsafeguarded facility, the IAEA inspectors have the authority to conduct intrusive searches of such "unsafeguarded" facilities as any private company or think-tank or even the BARC. Even a romantic email from an employee of one to a girlfriend working in another can be made the basis for such an extension of the inspections, although of course, even this fig leaf is not needed, all that is required is simply "suspicion of intent".
It is this Kafkaesque machinery that Manmohan Singh is letting loose against some of the finest centers of Indian excellence. As U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns has made clear to IAEA chief Mohammad El-Baradei, the destruction of Indian nuclear science sanctioned by Manmohan Singh is going to be an expensive but mandatory priority for the IAEA
Why has the India-phobic U.S. State Department and the CIA become eager since 1998 to conclude such a nuclear agreement with India? The reason lies in the reality that Indian scientists have reached the "tipping point" in several technologies that have substantial civil and military applications. For one, around four to five more nuclear tests would have powered India into the 150-kiloton range in its weapons program, thus giving the country the ability to make even sophisticated "bunker-buster" devices. Small wonder that the Vajpayee government was arm-twisted into declaring a moratorium on further testing.
Next, the Indian Department of Atomic Energy's advances in the harnessing of fusion energy as well as in the development of thorium-based Fast Breeder Reactors convinced U.S. and other NATO officials that unless Indian capabilities got capped and rolled back, by 2009 the country would have achieved nuclear self-sufficiency, despite the fact that successive governments have hobbled key programmes by underfunding and by the consistent refusal refusal to procure critical equipment and sanction adequate testing of prototypes.
India has produced the world's first U233-fuelled prototype reactor. This means that just around five more years are needed before India becomes the "Australia" of thorium, holding the bulk of world supplies of this radioactive material, the way Australia does in natural uranium. The country's nuclear program had to be strangled before this benchmark was reached, and now under the nuclear deal it will be.
Apart from the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, India is the only other nuclear weapons state to be on track for developing the "fourth generation" of nuclear weapons. Such devices, now being simulated in laboratories in the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain would allow the development of "low-yield " nuclear explosives that would devastate entire cities but have low residual radioactivity.
In other words, the threshold for the use of a nuclear weapon would get substantially reduced once such weapons become operational, which they are expected to be in the United States, at the latest by 2017.
Conversely, the "first generation" of nuclear weapons was comprised of uranium and plutonium atomic bombs of the World War II variety, that had relatively low blast for a huge fallout. The "second generation" of weapons comprised fusion-boosted explosive devices such as hydrogen bombs, that had a destructive capacity several orders of magnitude higher than a Hiroshima-type bomb. Indian scientists have developed such weapons, but need a few more tests before the triggers and the maintenance of them get perfected. The Manmohan Singh government has now made that impossible by sharply curtailing the fissile material available for renewal and for the building of new warheads.
Such a provision amounts in effect to signing the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, at a time when no other country has done so. This is on top of the effective implementation of the Combined Test Ban Treaty which was expressly designed to stop India from going beyond the First Generation threshold. The two agreements mean that India's armed forces will have to watch in impotent dismay as Pakistan and other rivals supplied by China gain the upper hand in their nuclear arsenals
Manmohan Singh's nuclear deal with Bush means that India has zero chance of progressing to the "third generation" stage of nuclear weaponry, which would see the development of enhanced-capability warheads such as those using electromagnetic pulses. Even given the usual sabotage by Indian Ministry of Finance officials and others eager to play Washington's game, Indian scientists would have been able to reach this level of sophistication in nuclear weapons design by 2016 at the latest. Now, that will be impossible.
Unlike Manmohan Singh, who has been economical with the truth to an extent astonishing for those who once admired the man, the U.S. side has not hidden the fact that Singh, who took an oath in 2004 to defend the integrity and interests of India has effectively signed the CTBT and the FMCT, even though the United States -- to which he has handed over responsibility for India -- has expressly rejected both.
Worse, he has agreed to an Indian version of the Pressler Amendment, under which it is the president of the United States, and not the Parliament in India, that will have final responsibility for the determination of major policy.
Under the terms of the Waiver Authority Bill introduced during the 109th U.S. Congress, each year the U.S. president will be the final authority on the decision as to whether or not the U.S. side will honour an agreement that Manmohan Singh has condemned India to follow "in perpetuity".
Along with the U.S. president, other entities sitting in judgment on the actions of India will be the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives. As far as is known, neither of these two bodies is subject to any form of control whatsoever by the people of India, a group that was sovereign before Manmohan Singh decided to extinguish such an irrelevancy on July 18, 2005 in Washington
But Brutus is an honorable man, as are they all. Assuming that the numerous distinguished voices in support of the nuclear deal are doing so because they are not aware that the line that "India had no option" is incorrect, it would be pertinent to set out one of the many options available to India rather than the suicide of her security.
Now that the country has come at the threshold of designing and building 900MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors, friendly countries such as Venezuela could have been tapped for funds to go into production.
Subsequently, India could have exported such reactors to these and other countries, of course under safeguards implemented by itself. The money generated through such sales could have been used to fast-track the FBR program and bring forward the date when thorium replaces uranium as the feedstock for the nuclear energy programme. As Australia and Canada are refusing to provide uranium to India, alternative sources such as Kazakhstan could have been tapped. Within three to five years, such an acceleration of development of the Indian programme would have resulted in the United States hurrying forward to sign a nuclear agreement that allows India to retain its technological edge and freedom of maneuver.
A government in India not in thrall to external interests would have resumed testing, so as to cross the 150-kiloton threshold. If a few crude devices are creating such fear in the minds of U.S. planners about North Korea, then such a demonstration of Indian capability would lead them to accept an alliance with India on terms that acknowledge the justice of the world's most populous democracy being given the same privileges as Britain and France.
Money needs to be spent on more centrifuge machines that can reprocess fuel, even as R&D budgets for the FBR program expand and uranium mining gets top priority. Funds for such activities can be raised through sale of the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors that have been indigenously designed and built. Indeed, even in the now-being-dismantled CIRUS reactor, there is nothing left that is Canadian except the name. The entire technology used is Indian, which is why agreeing to its shutdown was an act that punishes Indian scientists for their efforts while rewarding a country that ran away from its obligations in 1974.
Next, instead of trembling in fear at any junior State Department official as now, the Government of India would permit the test-launching of Agni 3 and boosted versions. Only a visible ICBM capability that includes nuclear warheads would convince the U.S. State Department and the CIA that their policy of constriction of India has failed, and that conciliation is called for. However, for that, what is needed is a government in New Delhi that places Indian interests first
What is it in an "international civil servant" of the Manmohan Singh variety that makes him or her so deferential towards the wishes of U.S. bureaucrats? What is it in the Congress Party that has made it so ready to abandon whatever vestigial traces remain of its nationalism?
The contours of the future are clear. With each turn of the screw in the U.S. Congress, the Bush administration will order Manmohan Singh to make even more damaging concessions, so that eventually -- by the time the agreement gets ratified - India would in effect have become part of the NPT regime as a Non-Nuclear Weapons State, and one moreover that has committed itself to the CTBT and the FMCT.
Sadly, the Indian media has largely been silent on the precise contours of this terrible sellout, with a few notable exceptions.
When first reporting that Russia has supplied uranium to Tarapur, almost all newspapers said that this was because of the Singh-Bush nuclear deal, when in fact the United States was -- and is -- bitterly opposed to such a supply of uranium, desiring to control each lever within the Indian nuclear establishment the way it now does in Pakistan.
After this fiction got exposed by the violent and public U.S. reaction to Russian help to Tarapur, again no media outlet pointed out that this time around, the Russians have, under U.S. pressure, sent uranium pellets to India and not uranium ore as previously. This means that India is no longer judged eligible to be worthy of doing the reprocessing of uranium ore into pellets, New Delhi has thereby been brought down to the same pariah status as Tehran.
In the coming weeks, by signing a restrictive safeguards agreement with the IAEA under U.S. pressure, Manmohan Singh will sign away a scientific capability that Indira Gandhi worked hard to preserve. Thus, Manmohan Singh and Bush have worked out together a perfect blueprint to ensure China's supremacy in Asia.
-(Professor. M D Nalapat is Director of the School of Geopolitics at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India.)