How credible are the Bhartiya Janta Party’s concerns about the 123 agreement and the NSG waiver? Those are the key issues Karan Thapar explored on the Devil's Advocate with one of the parties most outspoken critics Arun Shourie.
Karan Thapar: Let’s start with your central objection that the 123 agreement traps India into Hyde Act which will end up emasculating and crippling its nuclear deterrent. Now that India has got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and can trade with countries like France and Russia, hasn’t the 123 become irrelevant and, therefore, haven’t your concerns and objections become academic?
Arun Shourie: Each time something happens, we say let’s wait for the next one. This is to be seen as a chakravyuh, as an architecture. There are certain things in the Hyde Act, the123 agreement, the IAEA protocol, and there are certain thing in the additional protocols, which are yet to come, which has already been specified in the Hyde Act. In the NSG waiver, there are three other things, so it is all to be taken as a part of architecture.
NSG waiver in the end says that if any member country of the NSG is satisfied that conditions have arisen that it must stop nuclear commerce with India, then all countries should act in accordance of Paragraph 16 of the NSG guidelines.
Karan Thapar: This was in your series of articles in The Indian Express and I’m afraid you’re wrong. You’re referring to Paragraph 3e of the NSG waiver. Paragraph 3e doesn’t say this at all. All Paragraph 3e says is that NSG countries are required to consult and contact on the implementation of the waiver. It does not go as far as you’re suggesting
Arun Shourie: There is no reason we should have any doubt on that. So I’ll read out to you what it says. I’m reading paragraph 5e: “In the event that one or more participant governments consider that circumstances have arisen which require consultation, participating governments will meet and then act in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the guidelines.”
Karan Thapar: And that does not specify that all countries would stop just because one has stopped. Your interpretation is not just wrong but it is, forgive me, exaggerated.
Arun Shourie: It’s not either. It is exactly the interpretation of the Americans themselves. It is the assurance they have given to their Congress.
Karan Thapar: I’m afraid you’re wrong. The American Ambassador speaking to the Network 18 programme Indian Tonight on Wednesday made it crystal clear that Paragraph 3e does not amount to your interpretation. It doesn’t even amount to a periodic review. It is simply a process of contact and consultation on the implementation of the waiver.
Arun Shourie: That is not what the US Government has told the US Congress. Mr Mulford’s statement should be seen in that context.
Karan Thapar: Forgive me, the US government has not as yet communicated with the US Congress about the NSG waiver at all.
Arun Shourie: No, please understand what they have said in their record of their answers to questions of 45…
Karan Thapar: But that’s not in connection with the NSG waiver. That at best has a connection with the 123. The NSG waiver only happened last Saturday. Paragraph 16 doesn’t lead to automatic termination. I’m afraid your interpretation is a part of the confusion that’s entered into the debate.
Arun Shourie: That’s not the case at all. You’re spreading confusion. You please read the text once.
Karan Thapar: I have read the text. I have researched it thoroughly before I came here. I double-checked with the American Ambassador when he was here on Wednesday. I double-checked with the Indian authorities. No one believes that your interpretation of that paragraph is correct. That’s why I’m saying to you that your concerns emanate from the 123 but now with the NSG coming into place, the 123 is irrelevant. Therefore, your concerns have become academic and irrelevant.
Arun Shourie: Absolutely not. Paragraph 16 of the NSG guidelines provides as follows: “In the event that one or more suppliers believe that there has been a violation of supplier/recipient understanding avoid acting in a manner that could prejudice measure that maybe adopted in response to such a violation.”
Karan Thapar: That does not mean that they have to act in a particular way. Once again you’re over-interpreting.
Arun Shourie: You don’t see the implication of all this?
Karan Thapar: I do — you’re over-interpreting. You’re seeing the worst possible interpretation that is based upon a misunderstanding, perhaps, I would even say, a wilful misunderstanding.
Arun Shourie: That is absolute bunk and nonsense and you’re using words that are not justified by the text. Text clearly says exactly what the Hyde Act has said — if America terminates the trade if it believes India has not acted according to the Hyde Act…
Karan Thapar: For the 123, not the NSG. You’re confusing the two.
Arun Shourie: No. The two are part of an architecture. You have raised these nonsensical words such as exaggerated and wilful misunderstanding…
Karan Thapar: Explain to me why you think that the NSG allows for the whole of the NSG terminating the trade ties because one country terminates. It is against the NSG guidelines…
Arun Shourie: That is not the case. The US government is obliged to ensure under clause 16 of the guideline that if it terminates its commerce with India all other countries will coordinate.
Karan Thapar: That’s Hyde Act you’re talking about. You’re now interpolating that into the NSG guidelines. The NSG is not subject to the Hyde Act. NSG has its own rules. Individual countries of the NSG don’t observe the Hyde Act regulations and stipulations. You’re reading one into the other.
Arun Shourie: … because they are part of an architecture. We have gone to the NSG and the IAEA as a consequence of the 123 and the Hyde Act.
Karan Thapar: I accept that but the essential point you’re missing and, this is the one I want to emphasise, is that now that we’ve got the NSG waiver, the 123 has become academic and irrelevant. If India chooses not to go ahead with the 123, the Americans will be angry and will deem us to as ungrateful but we would have opened a window to unfettered commerce with the NSG, particularly with countries like Russia and France who are not going to accept America’s regulation s on their head.
Arun Shourie: If that were the case, Russia and France would have already entered into nuclear commerce with us despite American blockade.
Karan Thapar: We are the country that has held back. They are keen to go ahead. Their ambassadors have communicated that much to us.
Arun Shourie: That’s only now.
Karan Thapar: No, it was earlier.
Arun Shourie: That is since the statement of the Prime Minister in February 2007 in regard to the four plants that Russia was prepared to give us. We raised the maintenance question — that you went to Russia and the Russians said that the agreement was ready, then why did you not sign it.
Karan Thapar: As a gratitude to America so that they had an even plain field for their companies. It wasn’t because of any legality.
Arun Shourie: That is what I’m trying to say. This is from February 2007. The sanctions we had on Uranium 20 years before that were only of America. But we could not go to France and Russia.
Karan Thapar: The NSG waiver has ended the experience of 30 years. That’s a significant step. What I’m saying is that people may believe or disbelieve your concerns with the 123. They may be valid, they may be invalid but now that that waiver has opened up opportunity for trade with the NSG countries, your concerns with the 123 and the Hyde Act are overtaken and hence irrelevant because they don’t apply to the NSG.
Arun Shourie: When the 123 agreement came you said ‘oh but the Hyde Act is irrelevant.’ Now that the NSG waiver has come, 123 has become irrelevant.
Karan Thapar: That’s because 123 and Hyde Act don’t affect NSG countries. They are separate, sovereign countries.
Arun Shourie: No. It’s a part of the architecture and India will have to pay the consequences after this waiver, as Germany and Japan have said.
Karan Thapar: Let me quote to you the leading non-proliferation authority, Daryl G Kimball of the Arms Control Association in America. He’s made it absolutely crystal clear that the restrictions of the Hyde Act have not been incorporated in any shape and form into the NSG. The Bush administration resisted efforts to incorporate in the NSG waiver the same restriction and conditions on nuclear trade that are mandatory to US law. Now I come back to my point: your concerns about the 123 are academic because they don’t apply to the NSG. The NSG has opened a new window which doesn’t have the same
restrictions and it actually makes up for the deficiencies of the 123.
Arun Shourie: Till yesterday you were saying there are no deficiencies in the 123 and that my interpretation of the Hyde Act is overblown. Now you’re saying all that is academic and NSG is all that counts. That’s not my interpretation. We can go on in circles about this.
Karan Thapar: The NSG waiver doesn’t put any restriction on fuel supply or assurances or upon the size of strategic deterrent that India can develop.
Arun Shourie: We were told the opposite — the NSG waiver will provide for a positive statement about India building strategic reserve, and that IAEA protocol will provide for India taking corrective steps in case…
Karan Thapar: It does permit corrective steps. The IAEA protocol in its preamble does permit corrective steps for India but it doesn’t specify what they are. By definition, corrective steps are something you can’t specify because then you lose the sovereignty of defining them.
Arun Shourie: When we quoted the preamble of the Hyde Act, everybody said the preamble is non binding, but in the IAEA safeguards you say they are binding.
Karan Thapar: In the case of the Hyde Act, George Bush in his signing statement in December 2006 specified that he would not honour and go by section 103 and the preamble. He said so and that’s why people argued that it’s not binding.
Arun Shourie: Again, another complete distortion. Bush’s signing statement had two points that in regard to foreign policy and seeking the determination of American foreign policy to an international body like NSG he would not give up US presidential powers
Karan Thapar: And he would therefore not implement section 103.
Arun Shourie: What is section 103?
Karan Thapar: The one that we’re talking about.
Arun Shourie: Not at all.
Karan Thapar: Yes. The whole of interpretation of the Hyde Act is irrelevant to the NSG
Arun Shourie: You are making assertions about the Hyde Act which are absolute bunk.
Karan Thapar: The NSG has given India fuel assurances. There is no bar on the size of strategic reserve. It gives India unlimited access under NSG concerns to non proliferation and enrichment technologies. It also allows India the right to reprocess. All of those were deemed to be deficiencies by some analysts — deficiencies in the 123 that have been taken care of by the NSG.
Arun Shourie: You are just completely fabricating things which are not there in the guidelines at all. Where is this bit about unlimited supplies in the NSG guidelines?
Karan Thapar: There is no bar. The NSG waiver permits India access to fuel supplies without restriction, it permits India to develop strategic reserves without limitation, it permits India access to proliferation technologies that are so defined to do with enrichment and reprocessing.
Arun Shourie: You are completely lying through your teeth to your viewers.
Karan Thapar: The point is — there is no bar on them. This is a waiver which is an exemption.
Arun Shourie: Karan this is your technique; you slip in your words and mislead the viewers.
Karan Thapar: Do you still believe that your concerns which are limited to the Hyde Act and the 123 apply to NSG countries, which are not subject to the Hyde Act or the 123? Do you still believe it?
Arun Shourie: Absolutely.
Karan Thapar: They have no sovereignty?
Arun Shourie: The NSG will work as a club. It says it will coordinate its efforts. Article 16 of the guideline specifies that they must coordinate their efforts. If one country is satisfied that conditions have arisen in which there has been a violation by the recipient country, they will all coordinate the effort.
Karan Thapar: Let’s come to the politics behind your concerns with the nuclear deal. For many people, the BJP is the architect of the relationship with America, which is today culminating in the Indo-US nuclear deal. Yet today, by some amazing transformation, the BJP has converted itself into the principal opponent to its own vision for the future.
Arun Shourie: BJP is the architect of strategic relationship, not of strategic subservience, and we believe that this architecture puts us in a position in which we would have to accept the American umbrella…
Karan Thapar: America’s aim is to make India strategically subservient. Is it a trap that America has set for India?
Arun Shourie: Of course.
Karan Thapar: Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the man who called America India’s natural ally. And today you’re saying that America has set a trap for its natural ally?
Arun Shourie: It is an ally and you have to be very cautious with this ally. Just see what they have made of Pakistan and several other countries.
Karan Thapar: Middle class supporters were exultant when the waiver was granted. Today you are putting yourself in opposition to them.
Arun Shourie: Are you the only one who understands the middle class? Don’t we know about the middle class? It will have consequences for the next three decades and we believe that it does subordinate India in a strategic relationship which is just a first step.
Karan Thapar: Isn’t it interesting that you’re arguing the same point which the CPM in China raised? So is BJP on the side of China when it comes to Indo-US nuclear deal?
Arun Shourie: You can get the CPM fellows and ask them that aren’t they ashamed of the fact that they are arguing the same thing as BJP. Is this even an argument?
Karan Thapar: Why does China not want the deal to go through? They believe that it would give India an opening which should be resisted. You seem to be arguing China’s case for them.
Arun Shourie: I’m arguing that in my view we have a great threat from China and we can not rely on the US umbrella to face it we have to strong independently.
Karan Thapar: Do you have no second thoughts about your criticism on the NSG waiver? You may be right about the Hyde Act, you may be right about the 123, but are you still critical on the NSG waiver?
Arun Shourie: Of course not.
Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, a pleasure talking to you.
Arun Shourie: Thanks.