Nuclear diplomacy and India: controversies and relations

Voluntary restriction on Nuclear Testingalso described as safe guard moratorium on nuclear testing. In order to define liability in case of nuclear accident a law will be passed.

The indo-US nuclear deal is popularly described as 1 2 3 agreement because it was signed as per section 1 2 3 of the US atomic energy act 1954. The section says if a country has signed an NPT and US president is satisfied then US can share nuclear technology for peaceful use, in case of India the problem was it has not adopted NPT therefore in 2006 US amended section 1 2 3 through Hyde act which removed the requirement of NPT, the deal was concluded in 2007 and ratified by the Indian parliament in 2008.

The highlights of agreement are –

  1. The US will supply nuclear fuel to India rather it will help in maintaining the strategic reserves of Uranium i.e. at least one-year fuel in advance for the reactors in the civil category, in case the US is not able to fulfill requirement then it will ask others to supply the nuclear fuel.
  2.  The US will give India a nuclear reactor one of their suppliers is exporting 6 reactors for kovvada in Andhra Pradesh.
  3. The US was very reluctant to allow the reprocessing of the spent fuel. Their argument was that such a facility is not been extended to any country.

    The text of agreement says India will set up a centralized reprocessing facility where the spent fuel of all the 14 reactors will be brought and it should be safeguard with IAEA.

US was looking to establish a connection between termination of deal and nuclear testing, which was outrightly rejected by India. The agreement says that if India conducts the nuclear test then US will try to understand the circumstances that will be followed by negotiation b/w two countries which should conclude within a year.

Any of two, terminate the deal by giving one-year notice in advance. The deal is reviewed annually by the US president.

Implication of the deal –

  1. India’s nuclear isolation was broken.
  2. Access to the latest nuclear technology which is vital for energy security.
  3. Recognition as a country with nuclear weapon.
  4. Retaining the right of conducting the nuclear test.
  5. De-hyphenation of India-Pakistan by USA.

Indo-Japan Nuclear deal-

India is only non-NPT country with whom Japan has signed the nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement was finalised in Nov-2016. This deal was important for two reasons-

  1. Japan along with China and Russia enjoyed the monopoly over the steel which requires the core of the Nuclear reactor.
  2. The French supplier Areva is controlled by Mitsubishi, general electric, and Westinghouse of USA are controlled by Hitachi and Toshiba respectively, in the absence of an agreement with Japan the French and American suppliers would have failed to get the consent for supplying the nuclear reactor. When the negotiation started with Japan, they proposed highly unrealistic conditions that India has to make unequivocal conditions that it will never conduct the nuclear test. This was refused by India rather it was insisting on 1 2 3 models.

Following the Fukushima accident in 2011, the talks got suspended. Later when they were resumed India changed the proposal from purchasing the steel to purchase of reactors. The nuclear agreement with Japan has two set of documents –

  1. Notes on views and understanding, it carries two commitments by India
    • No first use
    • Voluntary restricting on nuclear testing
  2. The second set of documents is the main agreement. According to Japan, both the document was binding whereas the Indian position is that only main agreement is binding. Japan is trying to establish a connection b/w the conduction of the nuclear test and the termination of the nuclear deal. India can not accept this interpretation because then the others will also start demanding similar provisions and one more possible is negative fallout is the dilution of predictability among the nuclear agreement which might hurt the prospect of NSG membership.

Given the geopolitical scenario where the US is withdrawing and China is expanding it is highly unlikely that Japan will do anything to undermine India’s position. Realistically India will conduct the nuclear test if China carries out some serious provocation, given the fact that China is as big a security threat to Japan as it is to India, Japan will have a sympathetic view.

According to the agreement Indian companies and their Japanese counterpart will form the joint venture to built nuclear reactors. This arrangement will facilitate the transfer of technology. India will reprocess the spent fuel for Japan, this is how the japan has been made a stack holder in the process of having the NSG membership.


India’s Nuclear Policy

After the success of Cyrus, and indigenous reactor with the name Dhruva was developed so as to have an indigenous source of Pu for the weapons. The first nuclear test was in May-1974 with the name operation Smiling Buddha which was described as a peaceful nuclear explosion by PM Gandhi, their explosion was carried out all of them were fission devices and sub-kiloton devices.

The yield of the nuclear test is expressed in kiloton with respect to TNT(Trinitrotoluene). In response to the nuclear test by India a cartel came into existence in the form of Nuclear Supplier Group. Initially, it was also called London club, its purpose is to control the transfer of nuclear technology and to do so it takes decisions to consensus if a country is looking to receive nuclear technology but not a membership then it has to fulfill two conditions –

  1. Sign NPT
  2. Adopt full scope safeguard i.e. bring all the present and future nuclear facilities under the inspection of IAEA.

For the membership there are 5 conditions –

  1. Should be in a position to export the technology
  2. Compliance with the guidelines
  3. Contribution in preventing nuclear proliferation at the international level.
  4. Should have taken the step to address proliferation domestically
  5. Sign NPT or any one of the following treaties which have declared a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
    1. Treaty of Bangkok – it has declared southeast as nuclear-weapon-free
    2. Treaty of Pelindaba – to declare Africa as a nuclear-weapon-free
    3. Treaty of Tlatelolco – to declare Latin America as a nuclear-weapon-free
    4. Treaty of Rarotonga – which has declared small island nations as a nuclear-weapon-free
    5. Treaty of Semipalatinsk – to declare central Asia as nuclear-weapon-free

When India started the negotiation for nuclear cooperation agreement, one of the questions was – why would NSG will permit the USA, Russia, France to share nuclear technology with India. In Sep-2008 the external affairs minister Mr. Pranav Mukherji address NSG and gave to commitments-

  • No first use
  • Self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing

Very next day US brought a resolution that in case of India none of two conditions will apply and it can receive Nuclear technology from the member. This is described as special clean waiver till date NSG has granted such exemption only to one country.

Following the disagreement over nuclear liability act USA pushed NSG chairman to write a letter to IAEA regarding the fulfilment of condition. Following this development US, Russia, and France especially USA started insisting that India should get membership of NSG.

The liability issue was resolved in 2015 and for the first time claim for membership was made in June-2016 When the NSG meeting was held in Seoul. During voting, China and 9 other countries voted against us. Their argument was India is not a member of NPT which is a mandatory clause.

On the other hand, is instead of a criteria-based approach the approach should be based on performance where non-proliferation credentials should be considered. Following that China proposed that all the non-NPT countries like Israel, North Korea, Pakistan should also be made members along with India and for that it will devise a two-step formula, spent more than 2 years there is no hint for that formula. They are just looking to delay if not deny the entry.

India is working on a multipronged strategy –

  • It has got the membership of multilateral export control regimes like MTCR, Australia Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, along with NSG these three forms of technology denial regime.
  • India is looking to improve relations with China in that regard two informal summits have taken place in Wuhan and Chennai. If China does not agree then the next option is to have the support of 47 other members to isolate it.

The membership will have the following positives –

  1. It will facilitate access to sensitive nuclear technologies which in turn will push the nuclear power programme in the desired direction.
  2. By virtue of being the member India will be able to export nuclear technology especially in the neighborhood.

In 1998 five nuclear tests were conducted under operation Shakti. Out of them 4 were fission devices and one was a thermonuclear device, a few days later Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test to give a message to the global community that the purpose is not to attack rather it is to defend that is why National Security Advisory Board headed by Mr. K. Subramanyam asked to drafted the nuclear doctrine. It was made public in 1999 and adopted on 4 Jan-2003.

The highlights of doctrine are-

1. No first Use

When the nuclear doctrine was discussed and debated there were three school of thought –

  • Pragmatism (favouring no first use)
  • Maximalism (supporting first use)
  • Rejectionism

Finally, pragmatic school of thought prevails and No first use was adopted. It says India will not be first to use a nuclear weapon but if attacked it will carry out massive retaliation to cause unacceptable damage.

This is known as second-strike capability. To have second-strike nuclear tried is required i.e. all the 3 wings (Army, Navy, Airforce) must have the mechanism to deliver nuclear weapons. Especially the navy must have a submarine that can use nuclear missiles. The tried was completed when INS-Arihant was inducted, it uses the missile Sagarika which can carry nuclear Warhead but to have credible tried just should be at least 4-5 submarine i.e. being negotiated by India with other countries like Russia and France.

In 2003 when the doctrine was adopted there was a slight modification b/c of the following clause which says irrespective of the fact whether a country is a nuclear weapon state or non-nuclear weapon state, if it uses biological or chemical weapons against us then the retaliation will be in the form of nuclear weapons.

This might sound like a dilution of no first use but it is a deterrent that India has to project as it does not have the stocks nor the production facility of biological or chemical weapons rather it is a signatory of the biological and toxic logical convention as well as Chemical weapon convention. United Nations has officially recognized that we neither produce nor we have the stocks of such weapons.

In 2010 National security advisor said no first use is pledge only towards non-nuclear weapon state, at times there is debate that India should move from no first use to first use policy which is supported by the following structural factors –

  1. India’s technological today is much better compared to 2003 therefore the shift is possible.
  2. The gap b/w India and China in terms of conventional war have increased, one of the options to neutralize that edge enjoyed by china is to carry out the first strike.
  3. Pakistan had adopted terrorism as an instrument as state policy against India these attacks over a period of time have caused huge looses therefore the option of the first strike should be considered.

No first Use has also many positives associated with it-

  1. If two countries are having no first use policy then the possibility of nuclear war is minimum, On the contrary, if both countries are having first use policy then the chances of nuclear war maximum.
  2. No first use saves political leadership from unnecessary psychological pressure.
  3. By adopting no first use participating in arms race can be avoided but in first use the attacker must have more weapons and missile than the adversary.
  4. No first use was one of the critical factors when nuclear deals were signed and NSG granted India especially clean waiver the change in policy will adversely affect these arrangements, Instead of changing the policy the focus should be on anti-ballistic missile system as well as improving the nuclear tried through submarine and better fighter aircraft. It will enhance the credibility of deterrence.

2. India will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states – India will continue with the policy of voluntary restriction on nuclear testing.

3. For decision making, there is nuclear command authority comprising of the political council headed by the PM. Executive council under national security adviser, National security advisory board, and Strategic force command under the officer of the rank of Air marshal. The final decision lies with the political council, but the responsibility of execution is on strategic forces command, as per protocol whenever PM is not available the responsibility is delegated to someone else.

4. Credible Minimum deterrence

As per this policy India will always maintain certain minimum no. of a nuclear weapon to cause unacceptable damage to work out what is unacceptable to our country it is important to understand their society, polity, economy, and defense setup.


Q. Asia’s first nuclear reactor was built in which country?

A. China
B. Japan
C. Singapore
D. India

Answer – D

India’s and Asia’s first nuclear reactor was the Apsara research reactor at Mumbai.

On 4th August 1956, the APSARA reactor attained criticality. The design of APSARA, a pool type reactor, using enriched uranium fuel was conceptualized in 1955 by Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, the great visionary and father of the Indian nuclear program.

International Atomic Energy Agency

  • About:
    • Widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace and Development” organization within the United Nations family, the IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear field.
  • Establishment:
    • The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology.
  • Headquarter: Vienna, Austria.
  • Objective:
    • The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
      • In 2005, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for a safe and peaceful world.
  • Functions:
    • It is an independent international organization that reports annually to the United Nation General Assembly.
    • When necessary, the IAEA also reports to the UN Security Council in regards to instances of members’ non-compliance with safeguards and security obligations.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited

  • The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is an Indian public sector undertaking, Headquartered at Mumbai.
  • It is wholly owned by the Government of India and is responsible for the generation of nuclear power for electricity.
  • NPCIL is administered by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

As of 2020, there are 22 reactors with an installed capacity of 6780 MWe operating above 80% plant load factor in the country.

  • Among these eighteen reactors are Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) and four are Light Water Reactors (LWRs).
Nuclear Power plants

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

  • The SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • Established in 1966 at Stockholm, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

  • The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is:
    • to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology,
    • to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy,
    • and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.
  • The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
  • Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970.
  • A total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.

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