Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hillary sets up camp on the right track

By T.P.Serrnivasan

Hillary Clinton, who was named after Sir Edmund Hillary [ Images ] whom her parents admired, set out on her own hazardous expedition to India well equipped and well prepared.

She could not have reached the summit in a hurry, given the treacherous glaciers on every step of the way, but she has covered some ground, set the course and is poised to climb further.

Two unrelated developments blinded the way as the journey began. The India-Pak Joint Statement from the venue of the NAM Summit completely spoiled the political climate in New Delhi [ Images ].

The polarisation was so acute that the whole thing, nothing more than a diplomatic fiasco, was seen as manipulation by the United States. If she is so effective in absentia in Egypt [ Images ], what havoc would she cause in person in Delhi? That was the question.

Kasab [ Images ] wiped Hillary Clinton [ Images ] off the television screens on the day she arrived in Delhi after her successful visit to Mumbai [ Images ], which set the tone for combating terrorism, boosting trade and enhancing economic cooperation.

The so-called confession by the terrorist should have been a non-event, which revealed no new facts, but he was given attributes of political judgement and a sense of timing. Analysts linked his confession to the India-Pakistan Joint Statement and the filing of charges in a Pakistani court and made it into the news of the decade. Hillary Clinton's visit looked like a side show beside the exploits of Kasab.

Strobe Talbott's FT op-ed suggesting that Hillary Clinton should deliver tough messages on climate change and non-proliferation made our knights put on their shining armour to take on the windmills.

There was nothing in the environment minister's speech which was new or earth-shaking. That is the language Indian climate change negotiators, including this writer, have been using ever since Rio in every forum. Ours are survival emissions and not luxury ones like those of the developed world and we would not sacrifice our development for the sake of environmental protection.

Indira Gandhi [ Images ] had declared in 1972 in Stockholm that poverty is the worst polluter and that the polluters must pay. It did not take any great courage to make these arguments, but to pre-empt a constructive discussion by posturing did not help matters.

Hillary had taken her climate change negotiator with her to India to look for solutions, not to repeat well known positions. He has been working diligently with the Chinese and eventually we will end up accepting a deal, which the Chinese will work out with the US and take credit for.

The achievements of the visit were modest. The agreement reached, but not signed, on defence matters, is a necessary formality if the defence contracts should fructify. No Administration in the US can go against a Congressional requirement, but the terms have to be such that our sovereign right to use the equipment in our best interests should not be compromised.

This must have been in the works since the 2005 signing of the Defence Agreement. It should not be beyond our officials to work out a formula, which would meet the requirement without hurting our interests.

Defence Minister Antony is not someone who is dazzled by US weapons technology. He will buy equipment after due deliberation and full consultations and he will sign nothing that will surrender our sovereignty. This is not the first time that assurances of end use have been given to secure supplies.

The progress on the nuclear deal is impressive. India's emphasis on commencing the reprocessing dialogue has been respected and the two sides will meet on neutral ground to work out the details.

The prophets of doom on the basis of moves within G-8 on enrichment and reprocessing technologies were surprised by Hillary's clarification that the contemplated prohibition would not apply to India. Now they are predicting that the truth will come out when the negotiations begin.

For the present at least, there is no reason to cry wolf. The US points are also being met by the allocation of two sites and the near completion of acceding to the Convention on Nuclear Damage.

Just after the Clinton visit, I spoke to someone close to the Obama [ Images ] Administration about the nuclear agreement. He said that he had no great expectation that India will buy nuclear reactors from the US.

The internal procedures for selling such equipment are so stringent that it will take years before any deal would be concluded. He said that the defence purchases and collaboration in combating terror were more crucial in maintaining the momentum of the relationship.

He pointed out that Hillary's reference to the syndicate of terrorism in Pakistan was a signal to India that it was not just the fight against the Taliban [ Images ] that was important, but also the elimination of terrorist outfits like the LeT.

Hillary was not at all combative in her approach to the major issues that remain to be tackled. She took a slightly long term perspective and signalled certain directions for solutions. Climate change, non-proliferation and trade are the three issues that need to be addressed in the new strategic dialogue.

More than just establishing the architecture for such a dialogue, she has given broad indications for finding a way. She established that while President Obama is engaged in more pressing problems, he considers cooperation with India a major part of his foreign policy.

On the question of matching protestations of India's importance with action to meet Indian aspirations for full participation in global governance, it was obvious that the Obama Administration had not yet come to any clear position.

To state that dialogue should continue on this issue is going behind square one. Earlier, there was at least an affirmation that India should have its place in bodies like the Security Council and G-8.

Nothing that Hillary Clinton did or said, at least publicly, has attracted criticism. This in itself is a sign of success. Further engagement is necessary to climb the heights and the two sides have at least set up a base camp to continue the climb in fair weather.

T P Sreenivasan is a former ambassador to Vienna [ Images ] and the United Nations. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, working on a book on India-US nuclear cooperation.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Good Intention, Bad Drafting

By T.P.Sreenivasan

I have lived all my professional life with comments from fellow Indians that Pakistani diplomats were smarter than the Indian ones. The only consolation was that, according to Pakistani diplomats, they heard from their nationals that Indians were way ahead of them.

In fact, no one could tell, as both were smart and often the outsiders marvelled at the brilliance of South Asian diplomats. Any document produced between them was so balanced that both could claim victory.

But for once, the Indian diplomats have been outsmarted by the Pakistanis in Egypt [ Images ]. The joint statement may be no sellout in substance because India has made it clear that the composite dialogue will begin only after verifiable action is taken by Pakistan. But the text simply says the opposite.

'Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues.'

This is simple English language, which cannot be interpreted in any way other than as a commitment by India not only to begin the dialogue without waiting for any action by Pakistan this time, but also not to suspend it even if there are other terrorist incidents in the future. There is only give and no take in this particular instance.

Some may claim that there is a major 'take' in the text in the form of the missing 'K' word. Yes, the word 'Kashmir' is not there in the text. But why all issues, including 'all outstanding issues'? Why did not the sentence stop with 'all issues with Pakistan'? Quite obviously, Kashmir is the outstanding issue in the text, as anyone can see.

The very fact that Pakistani spokesmen are gloating over their success, while many Indian thinkers and writers are agitated is proof, if proof were needed, that, for once, our capable diplomats let their guard down and let the Pakistanis run with the ball. There is no escape route in the text, even if our cleverest spokesmen like Minister of State Shashi Tharoor [ Images ], who apparently had no say in the drafting, argue that our options are open.

The only way is to refrain from starting the composite dialogue till we have satisfaction over Pakistani action on Mumbai [ Images ]. We simply do not budge and stick to our position regardless of the language of the statement.

I have no quarrel with the idea of resumption of talks if that indeed is the intention. There may be matters, which are not in the public domain, in the mind of the prime minister. He may want to strengthen the democratic forces in Pakistan as against the army and the ISI and President Zardari may well gain by the Indian gesture.

It may also please the Americans in light of the Hillary visit. But if that is the intention, we do not need to hide behind ambiguity. There may be some merit in saying in public what we say privately. If the honest judgement is that it will serve the national interests, by all means let us go for it. Let us not lose the substance and preserve the form.

NAM summits seem to be the places where we make concessions to Pakistan. It was in Havana that India conceded for the first time that Pakistan was as much a victim of terror as India was. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Pakistan was the obvious target in the eyes of the members of the UN when we talked about terrorism. We had managed to create such a vocabulary over the years and Pakistan felt compelled to exercise its right of reply every time the word, 'terrorism' was mentioned.

By conceding that the greatest perpetrator of terror against India was a victim of terror, we let Pakistan off the hook. Moreover, since Pakistan accuses India of State terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] and also in Lahore [ Images ], we were also unwittingly accepting the allegation.

By stating that 'terrorism is the main threat to both the countries' with an unprecedented reference to Baluchistan, we have given away our trump card. This aspect of the statement is even more damaging for us.

To say that the sentence on Baluchistan has been attributed to the prime minister of Pakistan is to question the whole logic of bilateral statements. Otherwise, why not have a sentence attributed to the Indian prime minister that Kashmir is an integral part of India?

The UN records are replete with the various tricks that Pakistan has tried to tie us in knots. One instance deserves special mention. In the midst of the preparatory work for the Vienna [ Images ] Conference on Human Rights in Geneva, the Indian delegate had to leave the committee to walk her dog.

Using this opportunity, the Pakistani delegate moved an amendment to the text to urge member states to refrain from violating human rights in 'UN recognised disputed territories'.

The committee was willing to accept it, but the chairman kept it pending till he could consult the Indian delegate. She was told the next day that the amendment would be included if India had no objection. She called me in New York and asked whether she could let it go. I was aghast because it was a thinly veiled reference to Jammu and Kashmir. There were many disputes in the world, but Kashmir was the only one which was mentioned as a disputed territory in every UN map. We were saved from great embarrassment because of the thoughtfulness of the chairman.

India-Pakistan problems have made their contribution to many UN resolutions of both the Security Council and the General Assembly. One celebrated case is on the question of self-determination. Although the UN Charter declares that all peoples have the right to self-determination, India had reserved its position on this issue.

India and Pakistan used to quarrel over this problem for many years, but it was agreed between us that all peoples 'under alien or colonial domination' have the right to self- determination, much to the relief of the rest of the world. Whenever the issue came up, this phrase was inserted and there was no more argument on it. I do not know the history of that formulation, but we believe that Palestine, but not Jammu and Kashmir, is covered by it.

I remember we had to put 'state(s)' in a text on peace-keeping because we wanted plural and Pakistan wanted singular. We were willing to accept 'state or states,' but Pakistan would not agree. We had the last laugh because neither the Chinese nor the Arabic text could accommodate the grand compromise between India and Pakistan. They just wrote 'state or states' without realising that it was not acceptable to Pakistan.

The latest joint statement may well become historic like the other compromises, but no interpretation of the text will meet our position unless we believe that terror or no terror, we will proceed with the composite dialogue. It will not matter since the battle will be in the composite talks and we will certainly mind our language there.

Former Ambassador T P Sreenivasan is a visiting fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Remarks by Former Ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan at the Brookings
Institution on July 15, 2009

Thank you, Steve, for your generous remarks. Let me thank you also for
inviting me to spend a delightful two months at the Brookings and for
mentoring me. Five years after retiring from the Indian Foreign
Service, I felt the need for some education and that prompted me to
seek this opportunity and it has been a marvelous experience. I am
grateful to the entire Brookings community, particularly President
Strobe Talbott, for the many courtesies extended to me. A special word
of gratitude to Dhruva Jaishankar, who has been most helpful. He
constantly reminded me of his father, Ambassador Jaishankar, who was a
young recruit to the Indian Foreign Service when I met him many years

I should also place on record my gratitude to Mr. Sreedhar Menon and
Mr. Tushar Kothari for joining hands with Brookings to make my
Fellowship possible.

The purpose of this presentation is not to give you any dramatic
findings from my study of India –US nuclear cooperation in the last
two months. I shall reserve them for my book. Today, I would rather
seek to elicit insights from you into the subject of India-US nuclear
cooperation, particularly the prospects for such cooperation in the
new setting in the US and in India.

I had noticed a certain nuclear deal fatigue in Washington, though
many of its architects and its opponents gave me their time quite
liberally. The forthcoming visit of the Secretary of State to India
and a G-8 decision on reprocessing and enrichment has, however,
generated new interest in the subject, at least in India.

The US voted for change, drastic change, while India voted for no
change. Of course, neither of the electorates had India- US relations
on their mind when they voted. But the advent of new governments in
the US and India cannot but have a major impact on India-US relations,
more so on nuclear cooperation.

In India, the Manmohan Singh Government received a new mandate, but
with a significant difference in its composition . The new coalition
is more cohesive, with the Congress Party in a commanding position.
Even more significantly, the leftist parties are not a part of the
coalition. The left parties had left the coalition on the issue of the
strategic partnership with the United States and, more specifically,
the nuclear deal and fought the election on that issue. Therefore, the
victory of the Congress party is a vindication of its policy of
seeking a closer relationship with the US and it will not be
constrained by the reservations of the leftists. In the US, the new
administration is committed to a strategic relationship with India,
but it includes individuals, who have held the view that the nuclear
deal does not contribute to the non-proliferation objectives of the
US. The priorities of the new administration also seem to have changed
on account of the global economic crisis and the developments in the
Afpak region. Ironically, the coyness of the former Government of
India has now shifted to the new administration in the US, making it
still difficult for them to become embracing democracies.

To explore whether the nuclear deal has any chance of being
implemented by the present administration, we need to go into the
reasons why the Bush administration made the policies necessary to
sign a 123 agreement with India. The conventional wisdom is that
development of a strategic relationship with India to balance China,
gaining access to the emerging market in India and bringing India into
the non-proliferation regime are among the reasons. These reasons
still hold good today, though Democrats have traditionally been
comfortable with China. Against the background of global recession,
the US is likely to be more sensitive to Chinese views, which include
opposition to the nuclear agreement. But the proclaimed commitment of
the Obama administration to implement the nuclear agreement could be
attributed to the continuing validity of some of the original reasons.
No one doubts the desire of the new administration to strengthen and
diversify India-US relations, an idea, which the Bush administration
had inherited from the Clinton administration.

Perhaps, it is the adherence of the Obama administration to the
non-proliferation regime, which will create roadblocks in the
implementation of the agreement. It is far from clear whether the Bush
administration meant the agreement with India to be the beginning of
the end of the NPT regime. Possibly, it did not love NPT less, but
loved India more. If, in the process of shaping a new arrangement with
India, the NPT regime suffered, it did not seem to be of concern. A
moratorium, rather than ratification of the CTBT, was sufficient to
bring India into the nuclear mainstream. Similarly, a commitment to
negotiate an FMCT in good faith and to sign it, when ready, was
adequate and no interim measure was necessary to cease production of
fissile materials. More than anything else, India’s possession of
nuclear weapons and absence of comprehensive safeguards did not stand
in the way of India having the same rights and privileges as other
responsible states like the US. These might all be anathema to some of
Non-proliferation champions in the new administration.

Although President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons
is welcome to India, the path he has chosen to reach there is strewn
with dangers that may upstage the nuclear agreement. If the US Senate
ratifies the CTBT and the pressure is mounted on India to sign the
it, the two countries are likely to be on a collision course. Indian
public opinion was seen to be strongly in favor of an option to test
and one of the virtues of the agreement is that it does not expressly
prohibit testing. “We have the right to test and they have the right
to react” is the grand compromise that sold the agreement to the
Indian public. How long do the two countries have before a crisis
arises on this issue? FMCT is at some distance, but much depends on
how soon and in what form the FMCT will present itself. The
possibility of difficulties arising on this cannot be ruled out,
depending on the timing of the finalization of the FMCT.

As for the issues that the previous administration left unresolved
such as reprocessing and perpetuity of supplies, the situation is even
grimmer. A decision by G-8 to refrain from transferring enrichment and
reprocessing technologies to non-NPT countries has already set the
Ganges on fire. The fear is that the G-8 countries in the NSG will try
to reopen the clean waiver given to India, following the latest
decision. It has been pointed out that the G-8 decisions are not
binding; the NSG waiver cannot be reopened except by consensus and
that ENR material transfers, according to the 123 Agreement, were
“subject to the Parties’ respective applicable laws, regulations and
license policies”. It is also a fact that President Obama is not
enthusiastic about reprocessing even within the US, On June 29,
2009,he quietly cancelled a lengthy environmental review that was the
first step in allowing the resumption of commercial nuclear
reprocessing in the US. But anything that affects full civilian
nuclear cooperation is seen as detrimental to the spirit of the

Another concern is that the agreed dialogue on reprocessing may itself
run into rough weather as the Indian position is that it cannot buy
from the US till this as well as the perpetuity of supplies issue are
resolved. The US, on the other hand, attaches importance to India
signing the Convention on Nuclear Damages and earmarking two sites for
American nuclear parks. Some experts have suggested that these issues
are not so urgent, because India can merrily go on purchasing material
from other countries, leaving the US out. This approach can hardly
please the Americans, including the architects of the agreement.

Another aspect of the nuclear cooperation I would like to explore is
the linkage between the talks between Jaswant Singh and
Strobe Talbott and the 123 agreement. I had seen it as a logical
outcome of the marathon talks as the five benchmarks that Talbott had
put forward figure in one form or the other in the Joint Statement.
Headway was made in the talks on CTBT, FMCT, export controls and India
had no problem in working for the normalization of relations with
Pakistan. The only issue on which there was no progress was the
so-called strategic restraint, which had to do with the nuclear
weapons India has developed. When the US decided to exclude the
military installations from the purview of the agreement, a meeting
point suddenly emerged and an agreement became possible. In effect, it
was a change in the US insistence on strategic restraint that led to
the new understanding.

But there are others, who believe that that the agreement was a new
idea, invented by the Bush administration and that the previous talks
and the NSSP discussions were useful only in creating the atmospherics
for the
agreement. “Clinton created the atmospherics, we created policy”, an
architect of the agreement told me. This lets the BJP off the hook for
disowning an agreement they had initiated. But this is a point worth
investigating. I know for a fact that the BJP Government had mooted
the idea of inspection of additional nuclear facilities in return for
relaxation of the technology denial regime.

Today, there are a number of proposals for the globe to move towards
nuclear disarmament. Even some of the cold warriors are moving away
from the deterrence doctrine to recommend not only reduction, but also
elimination of nuclear weapons. The US and Russia are in the process
of taking the initial steps in that direction. Some cynics are of the
view that these proposals are designed merely to avoid a breakdown of
the NPT Review Conference in 2010. Some movement towards nuclear
disarmament may prompt non-nuclear weapon states to recommit
themselves to their nuclear virginity. The India-US nuclear agreement
is likely to get some attention in this context. It remains to be seen
whether the US would go slow on the implementation of the agreement to
avoid criticism on that account.

The relationship between defense and nuclear cooperation has been a
matter of discussion in India. The leftist parties had alleged that
massive acquisition of weapons from the US was a precondition for the
nuclear agreement. It is to be explored whether defense cooperation
will provide sufficient incentive for the US to maintain nuclear
cooperation even if there is delay in nuclear trade.
These issues I have raised are by no means exhaustive. Since the
agreement is unprecedented, it is not easy to anticipate every problem
that is likely to arise. I would very much encourage a discussion on
these and other aspects. I am sure that I will greatly benefit from
your views and advice. On that will depend the nature of the study I
am planning to produce.

Thank you.
Hillary's Passage to India

By T.P. Sreenivasan

India adored Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander who conquered Mount Everest in 1953 long before Hillary Clinton came on the scene. That name recognition may have contributed to Hillary Clinton being referred to as “(D-Punjab)” in a memo from Barack Obama’s campaign during their fight for the nomination. As she sets out on her journey to India today in her new capacity as secretary of state, she has as much a hazardous climb ahead of her as Sir Hillary had in the previous century.

The recent elections in India and the United States will have a profound impact on the ties between the two countries. The Bush Administration was ready for a tight embrace of India, but India shied away because of the hesitation of the leftists, who were part of the ruling coalition. But today, when India is ready to move forward with a popular mandate, it appears that it is the turn of the U.S. to backtrack. Priorities seem to have changed on the Potomac. Short-term concerns may well have overtaken the logic for building a long term relationship.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have set the right tone with India, but it is on policy that trouble may arise. The contours of the nuclear agreement with India, in particular, do not fit neatly into the policy framework of the Democrats. In the eyes of some Obama advisers, the nuclear deal was a sellout to India and, given a choice, they would retrieve much of what was negotiated by Bush. But the Obama Administration is committed to the implementation of the deal in a way that it does not hurt the nonproliferation objectives of the U.S. India, on the other hand, wishes to consolidate the gains of the Bush era and build on them.

The next steps that each country has in mind do not coincide. The U.S. side wants India to adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damages to provide liability protection to U.S. companies and announce two nuclear reactor park sites for U.S. firms. The Indians would rather tackle the modalities of reprocessing and tie up perpetuity of supplies. The latest G-8 decision to ban the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing items to non-NPT countries strikes at the very root of full civil nuclear cooperation. This move might jeopardize the talks scheduled for modalities of reprocessing. What would happen to the spent fuel from Tarapur if reprocessing is not facilitated? This partnership may end up looking like a three-legged race in which two athletes are tethered together but incapable of deploying their collective strength.

The path to a world without nuclear weapons that Mr. Obama delineates is also different from the Indian vision. He sees the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty as the major milestones in this journey. India can hardly afford to embrace these as it has to preserve and protect its minimum deterrent against real and immediate threats.

Other tensions are brewing as well: Indian industry has anxieties over Mr. Obama’s emphasis on moving jobs from Bangalore to Buffalo, when the market forces dictate movement in the opposite direction. Skills developed in India and facilities set up exclusively for the U.S. market should not become monuments of failed theories of globalization.

War on terror is a common responsibility for the U.S. and India and a primary area of cooperation. But the biggest perpetrator of terror on India is also the chief fighter of terrorism for the U.S. The U.S will not talk to terrorists, but it wants India to keep talking to Pakistan even after the horror in Mumbai. Moreover, the U.S. persists with old solutions for new problems such as propping up regimes with dollar infusions. Mrs. Clinton will face questions in India as to what guarantees the U.S. has extracted about the end use of the lethal weapons that are gifted to Pakistan.

At the G-8 summit earlier this month, India once again called for the reform of the Security Council as an imperative for equity in the new international matrix. As though in anticipation, Mrs. Clinton made the tantalizing offer “to cooperate with New Delhi as it shoulders the responsibilities that accompany its new position of global leadership.” She should know that nothing short of a commitment to expand the permanent membership of the Security Council on objective criteria such as population and constructive contributions will meet the aspirations of New Delhi. If she can make that commitment, she needs to do nothing else to make the visit historic. Signing some agreements or setting up commissions will not have the same impact.

Sir Hillary did not climb Everest by himself. He shared his moment of glory with an Indian, Tenzing Norgay, whose contribution may well have been as significant. Mrs. Clinton will have the same support if she is willing to share the view from the summit with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, by no means a novice in statesmanship.

Mr. Sreenivasan is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Istitution in Washington. He was India’s deputy ambassador to the U.S. from 1997 to 2000 and permanent representative to the United Nations from 2000 to 2004.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Remarks by former Ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan at the Amma Satsang in Washington

July 12, 2009

I am greatly privileged to be invited to say a few words in the
presence of the highly revered, respected and loved Amma. Like all of
you, I am here to pay my respects to her, to hear her, to pray with
her and to seek solace in her divine embrace
I have been given this privilege perhaps because I had the great
honour to represent India abroad, including in the United States, for
many years. India is a land hallowed by a galaxy of saints
and seers like Amma, who have enriched the spiritual life of humanity.
I have also had other blessings. I was born and
brought up in a village not far from the place, where Amma grew up.
All of you understand Amma’s language of love, but I am one of those
who can also understand her mother tongue. And most of all, my wife
and I had the privilege of receiving Amma in our humble home in
Maryland ten years ago. We still cherish her visit and the love and
affection she showered on us.

I do not need to speak to you, who are devotees of Amma about her uniqueness and greatness.
You know more than me about her
boundless love for all of us and to humanity itself. The uniqueness of
Amma, as I said in my book, which includes a chapter on her, is that
her message is simple and direct. Unconditional love for God and for
humanity. And that love finds expression in her embrace, in her
comforting words and in her tireless efforts to wipe every tear from
every eye. Her work for the rehabilitation of the poor, to give them
comfort and dignity is legendary. What strikes me is that she is not
just the inspiration for the work being done by her devotees; she is
actually involved in every aspect of her labour of love. She once told
me that she had learnt enough engineering to decide how deep the
foundation should be for the homes she built for the tsunami victims.
She had a say, she said, even in the amount of salt put into the
"sambar" served to her devotees.

We are blessed that we live in the same age that Amma does. We are
blessed that she is here to guide us. We are blessed that we can feel
her motherly love and divine touch. Future generations will scarcely
believe, as Albert Einstein said about Mahatma Gandhi, that "such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood".

Thank you.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Victory for the Watchdog

The long drawn out election process for the next occupant of the 28th
floor of the A block of the Vienna International Centre to succeed Dr.
Mohamed ElBaradei was not a clash of personalities, but an extension
of the perennial search for the soul of the Agency, the eternal quest
for balance between the promotional and regulatory mandates of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The victory of Yukia Amano
of Japan over its nearest rival, South Africa’s Abdul Minty is clearly
a victory for the “watchdog” role of the IAEA. The resistance to him
till July 2, 2009 by the developing countries stemmed from the fear
that he, representing as he does the only country in the world which
became a victim of a nuclear attack, would turn the Agency into a
ferocious watchdog rather than a benevolent advocate of atoms for

Amano, being aware of this perception, was careful enough to order his
agenda in a way that might reassure those who opposed him: “I will
dedicate my efforts to the acceleration and enlargement of the
contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity
throughout the world. I will work towards the enhancement of technical
cooperation and its related activities, the prevention of the spread
of nuclear weapons, and the overall management of the Agency.” But
nobody doubts that his agenda will be reversed in actual practice.
Prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons will be his highest
priority and the IAEA’s “other job” will recede further in the

Dr. Homi Bhabha, who chaired the preparatory meetings of the IAEA, had
shaped a carefully balanced mandate for the IAEA in 1956. The
objective of the IAEA is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution
of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world”
and to “ensure, as far as it is able, that assistance provided by it
or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in
such a way as to further any military purpose.” But this delicate
balance began to get eroded as the Agency was given the additional
responsibility to monitor the implementation of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Today, it is hard to remain focused on
the promotional aspects of the Agency’s work because it is perceived
as the instrument of non-proliferation. Even the budget of the Agency
becomes lopsided as voluntary contributions pour into the safeguards
budget, while the pledged contributions for technical cooperation get
dwindled every year. The original idea was that the Agency should give
equal importance to its three pillars—nuclear power, safety and

The IAEA is at the cross roads today because demands for technical
assistance to developing countries, who want to develop nuclear energy
for peaceful purposes are as pressing as the demand for measures to
deal with proliferation and nuclear terrorism. An eminent persons
group convened by the Director General to look at the prospects of the
IAEA in 2020 could not strike a balance because the group tended to
engage, to a large extent, on issues beyond the mandate of the Agency,
such as disarmament. The new Director General has the responsibility
to guide the Agency in the right direction, keeping as close as
possible to the mandate of the Agency. The developing world did not
believe that a Japanese non-proliferation expert will be the person
for the job at this time.

No statistics are available to see the percentage of success that
Japanese or Korean candidates have registered when they contest for UN
positions. Very few of them lose because they select the positions
after much thought and once candidates are put up; their Governments
go all out to support them. It was, therefore, a foregone conclusion
that Amano would win. As a candidate, he had impeccable credentials as
a specialist in non-proliferation and disarmament and had also served
as the Chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors. As the resident
ambassador to the IAEA, he knew his colleagues, who had to cast the
votes. In spite of these advantages, Amano had to struggle to get the
required number of votes to make it. Till the very end, there was some
expectation that the impasse would continue and the present incumbent
would be persuaded to stay till a consensus candidate was found.

Directors General have been elected by secret ballot in the past, but
the polarization between developed and developing countries was never
so acute or persistent as it happened this time. Amano was referring
to this when he said: “The tasks awaiting us will be tremendous, but I
am confident that a Director General who is trusted fully and actively
supported by all Member States will not fail to achieve the goals
enshrined in the Statute.” It will take the new Director General time
to get universal support, given the bitterness of the election.

The towering personality of ElBaradei and the unanimous support he
received during his three terms, crowned by the Nobel Prize for Peace
has set high standards for the Agency and its head. IAEA is, perhaps,
the only UN Agency, which has never been plagued by charges of
incompetence or corruption. The same integrity was evident in the
manner in which he handled sensitive and crucial matters throughout
his term. His steadfast opposition to the second Iraq war on the
ground that there was no evidence to show that it still had nuclear
weapons was a shining example of his impartiality, transparency and
wisdom. His single-minded pursuit of truth in the case of Iran was
subject of criticism by both sides in the dispute. While he was
considered soft on Iran by the United States, Iran made no secret of
its irritation over its persistence. His commitment to
non-proliferation was unshakeable, but he had no hesitation to support
and facilitate the India-US nuclear agreement. He gave great attention
to the development dimension of the IAEA and maintained its balance.
He leaves the Agency with an impeccable reputation, which will be a
hard task to follow by his successor.

The IAEA, with the global responsibility for promoting the peaceful
uses of nuclear energy, needs to reorder its priorities, considering
that its budget is less than that of the Vienna police force. Much of
its resources is spent in the safeguards area, leaving aside its
primary purpose of promoting nuclear energy in such crucial areas as
power generation, health and water. As the world moves towards “global
zero”, the IAEA should focus more on development. By the time the
General Conference formally appoints him in September, the new
Director General should win the confidence of the developing world.
The world has a major stake in his success.

July 4, 2009