Joint Press Conference by National Security Advisor, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Foreign Secretary
The centre fielded a high-powered team - the Chairman of the Atomic Energy
Commission, Anil Kakodkar; Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and National
Security Adviser MK Narayanan -- to hardsell the 123 Agreement, reached last
week in Washington to the journos.
M K Narayanan: Ladies and gentlemen of the press: We are happy to inform you that the governments of India and the United States of America have finalized the text of the bilateral agreement for cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. India and the United States are today issuing a Joint Statement on the conclusion of negotiations on this agreement.
The finalization of the text of this Agreement after five rounds of discussion is a significant milestone in the implementation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush’s vision to transform the relationship between India and the United States, which was expressed in the Joint Statements of 18th July 2005 and 2nd March 2006. The commitments expressed in the Joint Statements of 18th July 2005 and 2nd March 2006 have been fully reflected in the final text of the bilateral cooperation agreement.
The purpose of the Agreement is to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation between India and the United States covering nuclear reactors and aspects of the associated nuclear fuel cycle. The Agreement is between two States possessing advanced nuclear technologies, both parties having the same benefits and advantages. We are confident that the Agreement fulfills the terms outlined by the Prime Minister to Parliament on the 17th of August 2006.
The significance of the Agreement, which has become a touchstone of the transformed bilateral relationship between India and the United States, is that when brought into effect, it will open the way to bilateral cooperation between India and the United States in the area of civil nuclear energy.
The Agreement is also significant in opening the possibility of India cooperating with other countries in the world in civil nuclear energy. We look forward to this prospect. India regards international civil nuclear cooperation as potentially most important for energy security and for an environmentally sustainable pattern of development. India is ready to work with like-minded countries to fashion a new consensus on non-proliferation and realize the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world through universal nuclear disarmament.
In order to make cooperation in civil nuclear energy a reality, India will now negotiate an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. The India-US bilateral agreement also opens up the possibility of an unconditional exemption for India from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Guidelines, as foreseen in the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement.
The text of the Agreement will be made available to the public soon, at a time to be agreed by the two governments.
Shivshankar Menon: I will now read to you the Joint Statement by Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Minister for External Affairs; and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State on India and United States Complete Civil Nuclear Negotiations, July 27, 2007.
"The United States and India have reached a historic milestone in their strategic partnership by completing negotiations on bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, also known as the ‘123 agreement.’ This agreement will govern civil nuclear trade between our two countries and open the door for American and Indian firms to participate in each other’s civil nuclear energy sector.
The conclusion of negotiations on this agreement marks a major step forward in fulfilling the promise of full civil nuclear cooperation as envisioned by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The successful completion of the text permits us to move forward on the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative, first announced by the two leaders on July 18, 2005, and reaffirmed on March 2, 2006. The next steps include India negotiating a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and support for nuclear trade with India from the forty-five member Nuclear Suppliers Group. Once these additional actions have been completed, President Bush will submit the text of the agreement to the U.S. Congress for final approval.
Civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and India will offer enormous strategic and economic benefits to both countries, including enhanced energy security, a more environmentally-friendly energy source, greater economic opportunities, and more robust nonproliferation efforts.
This achievement reinforces the growing bilateral relationship between two vibrant democracies. We are committed to the strategic partnership outlined by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and look forward to working together to implement this historic initiative.
Question: This is a question for the National Security Advisor. Sir, you have been quoted as saying that the agreement is good but it is not the best that we could have got. What did you mean by that?
M K Narayanan: I said that the agreement is good but there is always something that you can always get better I can see that. I do not know from where you have got the quote unless it is this morning. We negotiated a text and I think the text is an excellent one. I did not want to be too presumptuous enough to say ‘the best possible’ because in a negotiation there is a certain amount of give and take on both sides. But what we have managed is that we have got all the commitments which our Prime Minister made to Parliament, they are fully safeguarded as far as this text is concerned.
Question: How do you think is this agreement going to alter the balance of power in the region?
Shivshankar Menon: This is an agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy. It is not about the balance of power in the region.
Question: Talking of full civilian nuclear cooperation, would it also entail the transfer of technology related to reprocessing, heavy water reduction and enrichment? Also, some scientists have articulated apprehensions that the reprocessing formula that has been worked, that is setting a safeguarded facility, will expose the three-stage programme to international surveillance? What do you make out of that? The first question can be answered by Dr. Kakodkar.
Anil Kakodkar: The objective of setting out this civil nuclear cooperation is to make sure that we benefit not only from the reactor and the fuel supplies that we get from outside, but also continue to benefit in terms of the enormous additional energy potential that would be there in the spent fuel. For that purpose this agreement gives advance consent rights for us to reprocess the spent fuel and reuse the material so recovered in national safeguarded facilities. So, as you can see, it allows us to derive the full benefit out of the cooperation. With regard to the domestic three-stage nuclear power programme, I think that is independent. That will be pursued in accordance with our own national programme and there is no interference of one into another.
M K Narayanan: I might just add, I presume that the question was whether the fast breeder programme would be interfered with. As the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission has just stated very explicitly, the fast breeder programme at the moment is not under any kind of international obligations.
Question: This is a question for either FS or NSA. Looking forward to the process of getting NSG exemption, what kind of assurances does India have so far and particularly what do you expect China’s position to be on this?
Shivshankar Menon: I think it is a little premature because we have not actually asked the question of individual countries. So far we have briefed them about what we were hoping to do but without a finalized 123 agreement. We had not actually gone to any of these countries and asked, "What will you do if we ask that question?" Now that we have a finalized text, I think we and the US will be briefing the members of the NSG and then I think we will be in a position to give you a response about individual countries, where they might stand, what they do, etc.
Question: My question is to NSA. I believe that in the text there is no reference to India conducting future tests. If that were to happen whenever it happens, will there be a Presidential waiver? Is the Indian scientific community on board? The second question may probably be answered by Dr. Kakodkar.
M K Narayanan: This deal deals primarily with the civil nuclear cooperation. There is no reference here to detonation or to any test. So, what happens in the event of a test, we will come to that position later on. This one is with regard to civil nuclear cooperation. Both sides are agreed on what they need to do in terms of policy guidelines. If India decides that it has to test, I think Article 14 carries a whole multilayered thing on what we need to do. But as of now there is no particular reference to testing or non-testing as far as this.
Anil Kakodkar: The point is, this finalized draft of this agreement allows us to carry on with the domestic programme that includes both domestic three-stage programme, domestic R&D and of course the strategic programme. It allows us to also carry on the civil nuclear programme which is eligible for international cooperation. I think the rest is too speculative in the sense that would be decided at different points of time.
Question: Dr. Kakodkar, Sir, are you satisfied with the text of the 123 agreement?
Anil Kakodkar: Yes
Question: Dr. Kakodkar, you were quite unhappy and you made it very clear in the public eye, in the media that you were very unhappy in the past by the way negotiations were going. So, specifically on the issues that you have discussed in the last week in Washington, - whether to do with reprocessing fuel, supply assurances, testing - are you satisfied with the deal that you have got with the Americans today?
Anil Kakodkar: The point is simple. Whatever I had said earlier was a part of the national position; whatever I am saying now is also a part of the national position; and whatever this agreement has achieved is also consistent with the national position. So, I have no reason to be unhappy.
Question: You have not answered the question about testing and reprocessing. Can you explain to us what India has got on these issues?
Anil Kakodkar: I explained that in detail earlier I thought. The benefit of the civil nuclear cooperation starting from the first reactor, which would come all the way into making use of the spent fuel arising out of such imported fuel and reactors through reprocessing into reuse in other safeguarded reactors. All that is provided for in this agreement. This is what exactly we are looking for as far as the full civilian nuclear cooperation. So, it is there. I was very unhappy when I thought it will not be there but it is there.
Question: I understand that the 123 agreement does not commit the United States to selling India technology and components for reprocessing, enrichment, heavy water. Is it our understanding that the United States will not block the Nuclear Suppliers Group from authorizing the export of such components as figured in the trigger list of the NSG? Secondly, my understanding of the manner in which the fuel supplies and the continuation operation of reactors have been immunized in the event of a test is that there is a mechanism for replacing any fuel supplies that the US may want return with fuel supplies from friendly countries. Would such a mechanism be possible if the NSG adopts as part of its rule change, the cessation of cooperation in the event of another Indian nuclear test because the first American draft of the NSG rule change last March has one of the conditions that this entire exemption for India is dependent on the six commitments India have made, one of which is continuing the moratorium.
M K Narayanan: I think it is our expectation and we will work towards an unconditional NSG exemption from the guidelines for India. As far as we are concerned, we think that fuel supply assurances that we have got, many of which were expressed in public in March 2, 2006 in the Joint Statement, stand and will be carried out in practice. That is our expectation. So, to the extent that you are asking what if the NSG does something or the other, frankly that is hypothetical. What we are looking at is an unconditional, clean NSG exemption. That is what we will work for. On the transfer of technology, maybe I should hand you over to the Chairman.
Anil Kakodkar: As I mentioned, any civil nuclear programme has the reactor activity and the fuel cycle activity. Now, this agreement would, as I said, allow us to derive full benefit out of the reactor and associated fuel cycle activities as a kind of uninterrupted chain. You also know that India has its own full capability in all areas. So, what is important is that we are able to derive full benefit out of whatever cooperation we get from outside and we do not have any issues left in terms of not knowing what will happen to spent fuel and things like that. So, it is fully provided for.
M K Narayanan: If I might just amplify what the Foreign Secretary was saying, I think this agreement contains a full reflection of the March 2, 2006 supply assurances. I think there has been no derogation of those rights. If companies are going to come up with something new, as the Foreign Secretary said, we will deal with it at that time. As of now, the text contains, as I said, the assurances that are contained with regard to fuel supplies in the March 2006 are repeated in full in this agreement.
Question: By allowing India to import fuel, does this agreement not free up indigenous nuclear fuel supplies for use in India’s strategic weapons programme and thereby contribute to the nuclear arms race in South Asia and therefore affect the balance of power in the region?
M K Narayanan: I think it is time that certain countries overcame the belief that we are interested in proliferation. I would make use of this opportunity to drive home this point. If we need additionalities as far as our strategic stockpile is concerned, we know how to do it. We did not need to use this route for that purpose. I think it is important to understand that. We do not wish to enter into a debate on this issue. This agreement was intended primarily to drive the civil nuclear cooperation programme. I believe that the text that has been finalized opens that possibility. We are not using it as an excuse to enhance our strategic capabilities. The earlier countries forget that, I think the better.
Question: The question is for Mr. Narayanan. The whole deal has been done under the ambit of the Hyde Act which empowers the President of the US to snap the deal the day India conducts the nuclear explosion? Have we mortgaged our right to conduct nuclear explosion in Washington?
M K Narayanan: We have not mortgaged any right. If anything, we have enhanced our rights. I do not think I need to say anything further on the subject.
Question: The question is to the National Security Advisor. You have said that all concerns have been reflected in the deal. Now recently, very recently about 23 US Congressmen led by Democrat Edward Burke have written a letter to President Bush saying that if the 123 agreement has been intensely negotiated it seems to be bypassing the US law and the will of the Congress. In that case, the deal maybe heading to be in jeopardy. Do not you see this to be heading for yet another stumbling block?
M K Narayanan: We and the US Administration have arrived at an agreement. I think the negotiators on both sides understand the limits of the law, the limits of flexibility and how far we can go. In doing this, and to answer the first question that Parul made, the question is the best deal that we could get could have very well have other problems, but we have got a deal, a very good deal which we believe should meet the legal requirements of both countries. Now I cannot speak on behalf of individual Senators or Congressmen in this matter because we dealt with US Administration and I think they know the limits of where they can go.
Question: My question is to Foreign Secretary Menon. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee goes for the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in just a few days. Will he take this opportunity to engage a large number of Foreign Ministers including the Minister from China on the civil nuclear deal?
Shivshankar Menon: Certainly. This will now be a topic in several of our conversations with those countries which are concerned with this issue. I am not sure as to which of the NSG members he is meeting at the ARF. I know he has a very detailed schedule and they are trying to set up a meeting between the Foreign Minister of China and EAM. Certainly this is one of the issues which we will raise. We will inform our friends of what has occurred, what we just informed you about, and about how we plan to take this forward in the future.
Question: I will go back to an issue that was raised earlier.