Wednesday, August 24, 2011

India-US Defence Co-operation.


(Lecture at the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Aug 24, 2011)

I have seen the days, not long ago, even after the cold war, when India and the United States virtually had no defence co-operation at all. I had spent a year in Washington as a senior Indian diplomat without ever entering the portals of the Pentagon. I remember spending the first few weeks in Washington to rescue a nominal Defence Policy Group, which had got embroiled in some protocol problems. The first time I stepped into the Pentagon was after our nuclear tests of 1998 when we were invited for a briefing on nuclear weapons command and control. The purpose of the briefing appeared to be to show how complex, complicated and hazardous the upkeep of nuclear weapons could be.

Needless to say, India’s dependence on the Soviet Union for most of its military hardware and the perceived Indian tilt towards Eastern Europe was the reason for the lack of any defence cooperation during the cold war days. More than any ideological obsessions, what drove India into a Soviet arms embrace were the rupee payment arrangements, lower prices and manufacturing licenses. That legacy, further complicated by the US entanglement with Pakistan, continued well into the early twenty-first century.

India has, however, been a user of US defence equipment since the 1960s. The massive shipment of US arms following the Chinese aggression of 1962 cannot be forgotten. Subsequently, the US made several proposals in 1984, 1987, 1991 and 1995 and India was not unresponsive to them. These were mainly of commercial in nature and they had no strategic underpinnings. Differences over the NPT and CTBT and the nuclear tests of 1998 complicated matters. It was only when the Bush Administration recognized India’s potential as an emerging power in Asia and engaged in a genuine dialogue on cooperative security issues that defence cooperation, in the strategic sense, was ever considered.

We have come a long way since then. Today, it makes world headlines when India decides not to purchase a particular aircraft from the United States. It is no news at all when India and the United States stage joint exercises in the Indian Ocean. Indian defence officials, including the Defence Minister himself, make working visits to Washington and the top brass of the US army are seen in the corridors of the South Block round the year.

The changes in strategic thinking in the US and India culminated in the signing in June 2005 of a bilateral Framework Defence Agreement just before the announcement of the nuclear deal. The commotion in the two countries over the nuclear deal eclipsed the Defence Agreement, which looked like a purely commercial deal, but today the Defence Agreement has assumed greater significance than the nuclear deal in terms of mutually beneficial cooperation between the US and India. It also has great implications for India’s standing in its tough neighbourhood and in the world.
We should recognize that there is a fundamental disconnect between the aspirations of the US and India in fostering defence cooperation. The US envisages India as a partner in their own scheme of things in Asia, friendly to US interests and balancing China in the long term. The US would like India to be its partner in the Indian Ocean region to address regional contingencies. The US is seeking collaboration in “multinational operations of common interest”, ranging from humanitarian and disaster relief activities to interdictions and even a “coalition of the willing” in the absence of a UN mandate. India, on the other hand, is seeking to have high technology to equip itself to strengthen its defences, without mortgaging itself to another power. We are looking for commercial deals with no strings attached. We would also like to have licenses to manufacture these weapons in India to avoid the vagaries of supplies at crucial moments. In other words, India wants arms length cooperation as opposed to integrated defence links.

The divergent views of the two countries on the ultimate objective of defence cooperation have led to India holding back from some of the links necessary for smooth defence dealings between the two countries. For instance, even after ten years of consideration, India has not posted a mid level officer on a permanent basis to the US Pacific Command. We do not allow unsupervised contacts between the armed forces. Even after joint exercises, India has not signed a Memorandum of Agreement for Tactical Communications System Interoperability. Though a navy to navy fuel arrangement was in place during the Malabar series of exercises, India has stepped back from a Mutual Logistic Support Agreement.

Though the US arms sales to India and joint military exercises have proceeded, India has been reluctant to sign some of these agreements that the US considers necessary to safeguard the technology transferred through these sales and to ensure that the arms are not used against the interests of the United States. But in July 2009, the two countries announced in New Delhi that they had agreed on an “end-use monitoring” arrangement that would provide safeguards for the sale of sophisticated US weaponry to India. The arrangement was for a provision to be written into future defence contracts, guaranteeing that sensitive equipment will be used for its intended purpose and not transferred to a third party.

The list of defence equipment India has imported since 2002, which is available in the public domain, is really impressive, given the reservation that India has about a strategic involvement with the US. These include counter battery radars, an amphibious transport dock along with 6 helicopters, C130 transport planes, 24 Harpoon Block II missiles, C17 Heavy transport planes, P-8 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, VVIP planes equipped with advanced electronic warfare suites and others. Other orders for attack helicopters and light howitzers are on the anvil.

India’s decision in April 2011 to eliminate the top two US contenders from its short list of suppliers for the Indian Air Force’s fourth generation of advanced combat aircraft came as a rude shock to the United States. American officials and many analysts had given the impression that this was a done deal for the US, not only because of the suitability of the aircraft for Indian conditions, but also because it was seen as a reward for the nuclear deal. With the adoption of the nuclear liability law, it became clear that the nuclear trade that was envisaged in the nuclear deal would not materialize in the near future. In fact, there is a school of thought in Washington that the US should not sell nuclear reactors or material to India as long as India stood outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Instead, Washington should press for more defence deals from India. The US leadership, including President Obama himself, lobbied for the aircraft order at all levels and made it clear that the order would be a demonstration of India’s readiness to give substance to its strategic partnership with the US. The US sought the contract at the technical as well as at the political level.

The disappointment over India’s decision to exclude the US aircraft from consideration received disproportionate attention in the US and the Indian action was portrayed as a negative signal on the strategic relationship. The sudden resignation of the US Ambassador Timothy Roemer was also linked to the failure of the US to bag the contract, for which he himself had staked his personal prestige and influence. “India has bought a plane, not a relationship”, screamed the headlines, as though this deal alone would have ensured perpetual friendship, while the other defence deals were ignored as insignificant. India has taken the position that the decision was purely technical in nature, though it was known that, among other things, India was hesitant to put all our aircraft eggs into the US basket. Pakistan had already obtained fighter aircraft from the US and it was considered imprudent to acquire the same aircraft for our fleet. At the same time, India signaled its disinclination to upgrade the strategic dialogue to a joint 2+2 (foreign and defence ministers) format, as the US has with Japan, in turn, leading to postponement of the Strategic Dialogue.

The matter of the aircraft deal was set aside by the time Secretary Hillary Clinton visited India for the second Strategic dialogue, but the shadow of the aircraft deal and the nuclear liability law cast a shadow on the conversations she had with the Indian Minister of External affairs. The decision of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to strengthen the guidelines on transfer of reprocessing and enrichment technology also led to a war of words.

After a period of extraordinary warmth during the days of the nuclear deal, India-US relations have moved to a more realistic level, with suspicions on the Indian side and disappointments on the US side showing up. Those who have witnessed the roller-coaster nature of the history of India-US relations will not be surprised by these developments. A stable strategic relationship can be built only on mutual trust and identification of a common strategic agenda. The time for it has not yet come and both the countries need to strive for it.
Thank you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Distinguished Lecture Series on Indian Foreign Policy by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. Goa University, August 17, 2011
India’s Quest for a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council
By T.P.Sreenivasan
I am grateful to the Goa University and the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs for inviting me to deliver a lecture in the Distinguished Lecture Series on India’s Quest for a Permanent Seat on the UN Security Council. Public Diplomacy is fairly new to India, but it has spread its wings far and wide and has made a tremendous impact. I am delighted to be part of its effort to bring the intricate aspects of diplomacy to a wide audience and to attract talent to diplomacy as a profession. I must state, however, that the views contained in my lecture are my own and I have had no official briefing. I shall rely on my own experience of either dealing with the issue or following it in the last 32 years.
The UN reform we are seeking, particularly the expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council, is nothing short of a revolution. We are challenging the very foundation of an institution, born out of a world war, the winners of which gave themselves the responsibility of maintaining world peace and security by assuming extraordinary powers. The UN Charter, which was crafted by them, has been embraced voluntarily by 192 nations. That there has not been a world war since and that the UN has served as a stabilizing factor in the world is the strongest argument for continuing the status quo. But the contrary argument is stronger, because the global equations have changed so much in the last 66 years that it is imperative that the UN must reflect those changes to maintain its representative character and moral strength. The struggle is on between those who wish to perpetuate their privileged positions and the forces of change that cannot but win. But no one can predict the time and nature of revolutions. They have their own logic and time.
The question today is not whether change is needed, but whether a real change can be brought about by the provisions of the very Charter that established the institution. If history is any guide, major changes take place when the time is ripe, in unexpected ways, regardless of the strength of those who seek change and those who resist. The provisions of the law that seek to protect the establishment will be thrown to the winds and the old system will yield place to the new. A Malayalam poet declared many years ago: “Change your out dated laws, if not, they will change you yourselves.” We have many examples in history to show that those who have conceded changes have lasted longer than those who have resisted the forces of change.
India was among those who lit the first spark of inevitable change, back in 1979, at the height of the cold war, when an item entitled “Equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council” was inscribed on the agenda of the General Assembly. The demand was to add a few more non-permanent members, on the simple logic that the ratio between the strength of the General Assembly and that of the Security Council should be maintained. The exponential increase in the membership of the UN should be reflected in the size of the Security Council. This principle was, in fact, followed in 1965 when the number of non-permanent members was raised from 6 to 10.
The reaction from the permanent members was instant and shocking. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, they opposed the move tooth and nail. They argued that any expansion of the Security Council would undermine its efficiency, integrity and credibility and ensured that the agenda item was postponed year after year, with a nominal and sterile debate. The idea remained alive, but no action was taken till the end of the cold war.
The game changed in the early nineties, when the idea of adding new permanent members was brought up by Brazil and we initiated the exercise of ascertaining the views of the members and setting up a mechanism to study the proposals and to reach consensus. The permanent members led by the US offered a “quick fix” after initial hesitation and proposed the addition of Japan and Germany as permanent members on the ground of their being the highest contributors to the UN budget after the US and a marginal increase in the non-permanent membership. If India had not stopped the “quick fix” and insisted on comprehensive reform with the support of the nonaligned group, the door for expansion would have been closed after inducting Japan and Germany at that time. We demolished the payment argument by stating that permanent membership should not be up for sale. If I may be permitted to quote from my own speech at the Working Group in February 1995, “Contribution to the UN should not be measured in terms of money. We do not agree with the view expressed by a delegation that permanent membership is a privilege that can be purchased. Financial contributions are determined on the basis of “capacity to pay” and those who pay their assessments, however small, are no whit less qualified for privilege than the major contributors.”
As a lethargic debate went on in the Working Group for years, national positions evolved and loyalties changed, but it became clear that the expansion of the Security Council could not be easily accomplished. The formation of an interest group called the “Coffee Club” and later “Uniting for Consensus” which opposed any expansion of the permanent membership made the situation more chaotic. We ourselves advanced our position from seeking to establish criteria, such as population, seminal contribution to the UN, participation in peacekeeping operations etc to staking a claim and began campaigning bilaterally in capitals. Over the years, our claim became strong and it became universally recognized that if a single developing country were to become a permanent member, that would be India. One adverse consequence of the debate, however, was that the discussions highlighted that a vast majority of member states had not served even once on the Security Council, while countries like India, Japan, Pakistan and Egypt had served on the Council several times. This led to our long absence from the Council from 1993 to 2010 after having been elected as a non-permanent member 7 times in the earlier period.
Efforts made outside the Working Group were also fruitless. After the deliberations of a High Level Group, Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed two Plans; Plan A, proposing creation of 6 permanent and 3 non-permanent seats and Plan B, proposing 8 new seats for 4 years subject to renewal and 1 non-permanent seat. The Plan B had greater acceptability in the Group and it was at the insistence of General Satish Nambiar, the Indian member of the Group that Plan A was included. Another exercise undertaken by India, Brazil, Germany and Japan (G-4) to get the General Assembly to adopt a resolution on expansion failed to take off because of differences with the African Group. It, however, resulted in the G-4 conceding for the first time that they would not insist on the veto at least for 15 years. The General Assembly recently entered intergovernmental negotiations to suggest a “timeline perspective” to agree on reform in two stages on the basis of a draft text, but no progress has been reported as yet. A move is afoot by the G-4 to introduce a resolution to decide that both permanent and non-permanent membership will be expanded, but its fate is uncertain.
The story so far of our quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council is “Kabhi Khushi, Kabhie Ghum” (Joy sometimes, despair at other times), as Ambassador Hardeep Puri described it, drawing inspiration from a Bollywood movie of that name. In fact, there is more despair than joy in that saga. The only reason for joy is that the need for expansion has been recognized by the entire membership and that there is also recognition that if the permanent membership is ever expanded, India will be the first developing country to find a place in it. For the rest, there are almost as many views as there are members of the UN about the size, composition and rights and responsibilities of the members of the Security Council. As of now, there is no formula for expansion which can command consensus or even secure two thirds majority of the General Assembly, including the support of the 5 permanent members.
The framers of the UN Charter did not intend that it should be amended easily. But that has not prevented the UN from transforming itself to deal with new issues and new circumstances. Today’s preoccupations of the UN like peacekeeping, human rights, environment, climate change etc were not anticipated in the Charter. The flexibility and resilience of the Charter have been tested again and again and nothing in the Charter has prevented the UN from taking on new responsibilities and obligations. Charter amendments have not been initiated even to remove anachronisms like the enemy countries clause and the name of one of the permanent members. The most crucial article of the Charter on the veto itself has been changed in practice as abstention by a permanent member is considered a concurring vote. The proposals for reform like the working methods of the Council introduced in the Working Group from time to time are mere diversionary tactics as these can be adopted without any amendment to the Charter. But when it comes to an expansion of the Security Council, the only way is to bring a Charter amendment. This explains why the only amendment of the Charter was made in 1965 to raise the number of non-permanent members from 6 to 10 when the strength of the General Assembly increased. The different groups of countries and entrenched interests are in no mood to repeat the exercise, particularly if the permanent membership should be touched.
The permanent members, for instance, consider that they only stand to lose by adding new permanent members with veto. They have made it clear that there is no question of veto being extended to the new permanent members, even though some of them tactically accept the African demand for veto. Even the UK, France and Russia, who have extended support to India and others, have not taken any action to bring about changes. One thing that France and the UK dread is the suggestion that the EU should have only one representative, while they already have two inside and another at the door. They are not willing to float a formula for expansion even to set the ball rolling. The same is the case with many others, who have pledged support to India and other candidates. In many cases, such support is an easy gesture to win goodwill. No group, outside the G-4, is actively campaigning for a formula. The African Group differs significantly from G-4 because of their insistence on the veto and an additional non-permanent member. Moreover, the idea of the African Group is to rotate two permanent memberships within the Group, itself a contradiction. The Uniting for Consensus group wants to add only 10 new non-permanent members. This is an attractive proposition for a large number of small states, whose chances of serving on the Council will increase, while they have nothing to gain by adding new permanent members. In other words, the G-4 proposal for 6 new permanent members and 4 non-permanent members cannot as yet win a two thirds majority in the General Assembly, not to speak of the support of the P-5.
The US, which had supported Japan and Germany in the early nineties, now favours “two or so” new permanent members, including Japan and “2 or 3” non-permanent members making an addition of only 5 more to the Security Council. Such a formula is a non-starter. The support extended to India by President Obama during his visit to India is in the form of a wish without a commitment to bring it about. His words were: “In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.” Though this is a significant departure from the previous US position, it is not enough for the US to extend support to India; it should shape a formula, which is acceptable to the membership. Its reservation over Germany and Brazil will itself deprive it of being decisive on the issue of expansion.
We did not need Wikileaks to find the reasons for the reluctance of the US to bring about expansion of the Council. But we now have it in black and white what we knew from the beginning. “We believe expansion of the Council along the lines of the models currently discussed will dilute US influence in the body…..On most important issues of the day—Sanctions, Human Rights, Middle East etc---Brazil, India and most African states are currently far less sympathetic to our views than our European allies”, said the US Ambassador in a cable in December 2007. The US delegation at the UN seems to have only a watching brief till intervention becomes necessary to prevent an expansion that will not serve US interests. There is expectation, however, that President Obama might declare openness to a modest expansion of the Security Council at the next session of the General Assembly. But a special report of the Council on Foreign Relations which has urged the President to do so makes the expansion contingent on demonstration of the qualifications of permanent membership. The position of the aspirants on non-proliferation, climate change and human rights will be subject to scrutiny. A few days ago, our Minister of State for External Affairs indicated that both India and the US were actively involved in the ongoing negotiations.
China is opposed explicitly to Japan and implicitly to India, though it pays lip service to developing countries’ representation on the Council. Its position could be decisive as the permanent members will coordinate their positions before any advance is made.
If I may go back to where I began, it will be difficult to accomplish the fundamental change we are seeking by way of the procedure laid down for change. Like it happened in the case of the formation of G-20 when G-8 could not resolve the unprecedented economic crisis, a situation may arise when the P-5 find it difficult to maintain international peace and security without additional permanent members and thus force their hands to accept change. Such an ominous future was predicted by the President of the General Assembly, when he said on May 16, 2011, “Unless we find the determination to advance on the issue, the UN will lose its credibility. Our organization will be marginalized and important issues will be discussed in other forums and groupings, which are perceived to be more efficient and more representative of the new realities of the day.” Such a situation may arise sooner than later and that gives us reason for joy even in the midst of despair.
India and the other aspirants for permanent membership, in the meantime, must maintain pressure for expansion. But to give the impression that permanent membership is the holy grail of Indian foreign policy does not enhance our prestige. Legend has it that India spurned an offer to take over China’s permanent seat on the Security Council, saying that we would win it in our own right one day. That position has won us more glory than what we have gained by our constant knocking at all doors. Making support for our permanent membership the litmus test of bilateral relations is untenable. We should appear more confident and secure even as we demand our rightful place in keeping with our status as the largest democracy with a dynamic, fast growing economy, an impressive record in UN peacekeeping, ability to protect the global commons and to combat transnational terrorism and strong record against proliferation.
May I also say, without appearing to spurn the proverbial “sour grapes”, that permanent membership without veto is not such an attractive trophy that we should expend unlimited resources and energy on it. As a member of the Council, India will be called upon to take sides on every issue in the world, sometimes losing friends in the process as we are fiercely independent and do not play second fiddle to anyone. The lack of the veto may make us vulnerable as a result, if issues of crucial importance to us come up in the Council. India has been playing a significant role even without being on the Security Council for many years. A posture of our willingness to serve when required to do so rather than being desperate about securing a seat here and now may be a good strategy to adopt. The UN needs reform not to make one country or the other happy, but to make itself more relevant, credible and effective in the world and it will be ready for a revolution sooner rather than later.
Thank you.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

From Hiroshima to Fukushima-
Nuclear Lessons Learned and Unlearned
(Nagasaki Peace Day Lecture, 2011. Indian Pugwash Society at IDSA, New Delhi Aug 9, 2011)
I feel greatly honoured that I have been invited to deliver the Nagasaki Peace Day Lecture, 2011. I have been a member of the Indian Pugwash Society for some years, but this is the first time that I am participating in its activities other than using its excellent publications and website resources.
I am delighted that this session is being chaired by my senior colleague, Ambassador Arundhati Ghose, whom I admire and respect.
The long journey of the nuclear genie from Hiroshima to Fukushima and beyond has kept humanity on the edge of a precipice for more than half a century. We have been through many twists and turns, with fear of total annihilation looming large even while rays of hope emerged in the distant horizon from time to time. Sincere efforts were made to put the genie back in the bottle or to put it to productive use, but the nuclear danger has remained with us till today in different manifestations. Sadly, nuclear policies of various countries were determined by their ambition to acquire destructive power in their search for security. But security has eluded the planet, initially by the threat of use of nuclear weapons by design or accident, then by nuclear terrorism by non-state actors and now by the possibility of accidents in civil nuclear stations. The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was caused by an act of war, but it set in motion a chain of events that led to the atoms for peace initiative, the creation of the IAEA, the advent of the NPT and related Treaties and the dream of a nuclear weapon free world and global zero.
Just as Hiroshima marked the beginning of a rethink on the possession of nuclear weapons, Fukushima should mark the beginning of a relook at civilian nuclear power as we know it today. It is not enough that we audit the facilities and satisfy ourselves that we are safe against the known risks like earthquakes and tsunamis. Needless to say, we should strengthen safety features and open our facilities for peer review to ensure that we are in tune with the best standards in the world. There should be transparency in the operations of our reactors and the results of studies done in the past on risks should be shared with the civil society. But above and beyond these measures, we have to rethink the whole question of civilian nuclear power generated by the same processes that are employed in the making of weapons. We should not be lulled into the belief that physical protection will save us from the vagaries of nature or simple human errors. We owe it to the future generations to start thinking of alternatives, whether it is fusion, sun, wind or waves. Fukushima must set us thinking on the use of nuclear power as much as Hiroshima prodded us to start thinking of the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The lessons we learnt from the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are valuable even if a world without nuclear weapons is nowhere near realization. Nations still consider nuclear weapons indispensable for their security, though 9/11 demonstrated that the power to destroy the world many times over provides no guarantee of security. The world tends to huddle under their nuclear installations and nuclear umbrellas in a futile quest for security. Those outside these false comfort zones find ways and means to acquire dubious nuclear capability from death merchants like A.Q.Khan. The grand bargain of the NPT has not prevented proliferation even among the signatories. The IAEA, which was designed as a mother cow to bestow the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy on developing countries was transformed into a watchdog, without keeping the concomitant promise of nuclear disarmament by nuclear weapon states. The CTBT and the FMCT are still in limbo. The India-US nuclear deal is embroiled in the liability act and the ENR guidelines.
In the distant horizon, however, there is hope because of the lessons we have learned and unlearned after Hiroshima. Today, there is no serious fear that any sovereign nation will use nuclear weapons against another. Four cold war veterans began trudging along a difficult path of disarmament, which goes beyond arms control and non-proliferation, to reach the top of a mountain from which a new vista of a nuclear weapons free world might come to view. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had visualized that vista long ago and drawn up an action plan to reach there. President Barack Obama started a journey from Prague in the same direction, though he is not sure whether he can complete that journey in his own lifetime. The global zero has inched away from the proverbial square one. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had their impact on mankind.
Today, a major challenge is to protect nuclear material from terrorists, whether state- sponsored or non-state. They obviously have no conscience to be touched by Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Much of the nuclear material, which has been reported lost, has not been recovered, but some material has been recovered, which was never reported lost. Sufficient knowledge and material are out there to put together a dirty bomb or even a clean one. A failed nuclear state may even place a sophisticated arsenal in the hands of terrorists. The war on nuclear terrorism is an urgent necessity, a lesson we have learned after 9/11 and other terrorist attacks in different parts of the globe.
A nuclear renaissance emerged out of a sense of security as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were caused by human error rather than by systemic deficiencies or natural disasters. The increased awareness of climate change and the role of nuclear power in mitigation of global warming gave nuclear power a new halo. In 2009, the IAEA reported that 65 countries lined up at the IAEA to seek technology to either start or expand nuclear power programmes. While the growth of nuclear power slowed down in the US and European Union, it began to grow exponentially in Asia, notably China and India. The India-US nuclear deal removed most of the restrictions on import of nuclear fuel and equipment imposed by a technology denial regime and India signed new contracts for supply of reactors and fuel.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011, involving a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and release of radioactive materials, following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami could not have come at a more inopportune time for the nuclear renaissance. It was the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind. The severity of the nuclear accident was rated 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, indicating an accident causing widespread contamination with serious health and environmental effects. Fukushima had an instant impact on the use of nuclear power everywhere in the world, ranging from evaluation of the safety situation everywhere to announcement by Germany and Switzerland of complete withdrawal from nuclear power by 2022 and 2034 respectively.
Although many countries, notably India, declared business as usual, the nuclear power scene around the world changed beyond recognition. In any event, it was clear that by 2050, nuclear power would be absent from the US and the EU. Whether any announcement is made or not, every country has begun to plan quietly for finding viable alternatives to nuclear power. The lesson we learned from Fukushima is that the prospect of dotting our coastline with nuclear reactors is perilous even if it guarantees much needed electricity as an engine of growth. Human survival should have a higher priority than human development.
Fukushima has clearly accentuated the divide between those who believe in nuclear power as the panacea for our power shortage and those who believe that nuclear power is fraught with dangers, ranging from accidents to proliferation risks and long term damage from waste disposal. The former group would have us believe that the risks far outweigh the benefits of nuclear power, while the latter would have us close down reactors instantly and switch to solar, wind and wave energy. Having been a champion of nuclear energy and its benefits, I would advocate a third way. First and foremost, let us not minimize or hide the impact of Fukushima on mankind by arguing that nobody has died in the Daiichi plant while thousands perished in the tsunami. We do not know how and when the radiation leaks will manifest in disease and death. The most recent reports on the aftermath are alarming. The Wall Street Journal reported on July 20, 2011 that Japan has banned all beef exports from the affected areas and introduced a health review of human beings for thirty years.
Business as usual is not an option for nuclear power after Fukushima, just as we learned after Hiroshima that nuclear weapon should not be a legitimate weapon of war. We should begin visualizing a world without nuclear power in 30, 40 or 50 years and begin developing alternate sources with the same vigour with which we developed nuclear reactors. Once that vision is recognized, human ingenuity will be channelized into innovation. We do not need to halt production or stop imports of nuclear material and reactors, but let there be a sunset clause for nuclear power in our planning for the future. I am painfully aware that there are no takers for this approach yet and the established camps on both sides of the divide have dismissed it as utopian, foolish and worse, devious. I am no scientist, but someone who argues that the imported reactors are bad, while the indigenous reactors are benign, cannot be credited with much scientific wisdom. If the processes are the same and safety features are similar, how can “swadeshi” be better than “videshi”? Nuclear disarmament was also dismissed in the same manner before, but at least the vision of a nuclear weapon free world is now shared by the haves and the have-nots. The lessons of Hiroshima have been learned, but the lessons of Fukushima are wished away.
The nuclear dilemma persists, despite the process of learning and unlearning ever since the atom was unleashed, but some truths must be recognized from experience, regardless as to whether one country or the other incorporates them in its policy framework.
First, the devastation from the use of nuclear weapons is so great for the present and future generations of mankind that use of such weapons should not even be contemplated. Nuclear weapons must be declared illegitimate and eliminated. Second, non-proliferation efforts on discriminatory basis will not eliminate the threat. As Dr. Mohamed Elbaradei says in his book, “The Age of Deception”, “the threat will persist as long as the international community continues to address only the symptoms of each nuclear proliferation challenge, waging war against one country, making a deal with a second, issuing sanctions in a third, seeking regime change in still another. So long as nuclear weapons remain a security strategy for a limited few possessor countries, with umbrella arrangements that extend that security to a secondary circle of allied countries, so long as others are left out in the cold, the proliferation risk will be with us.” The need for total elimination of nuclear weapons is a lesson that Hiroshima taught, but it took us 66 years just to acknowledge it. No one knows how long it will take to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Fukushima, preceded by Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, has also had its lessons. First, nuclear power carries with it a safety risk, which cannot be ignored, whatever be its benefits. As Prof. Amarjeet Singh said at this very forum last year, “safety makes all plants mutual hostages…. A nuclear accident anywhere in the world affects the prospects of nuclear power everywhere.” He was prophetic when he said, “Nuclear energy is more brittle than other strategies to mitigate climate change as one major future accident could overnight nullify the resources and time invested in nuclear power up to that point.” Fukushima came just eight months after those words were uttered in this very hall. No amount of action by the international community can eliminate this danger, unless we have the courage to visualize a world without nuclear power and work for finding alternatives for energy production.
We have seen political, economic and environmental colonialism and should be aware of “nuclear power colonialism” in the making. We appear to be eyeing the “buyer’s market” in reactors and fuel as their supply increases as major countries move away from nuclear power. We should not forget that President Bush had defended his nuclear deal with India by saying that India’s use of nuclear power will reduce pressure on oil. A Japanese Minister has just declared that Japan might terminate its fast breeder reactors to eliminate the rationale for reprocessing. When developed countries move away from such technologies, export incentives for such material to developing countries will increase. The reduced demand in some countries makes the market move to other regions. In fact, fear has been expressed that the ironic consequence of Fukushima may be a more dangerous global nuclear landscape. India and China may well be the victims of this trend unless we exercise caution.

Hiroshima and Fukushima have brought to light two facets of the danger from the nuclear genie. Man developed nuclear weapons in his quest for security and realized the folly of mutually assured destruction. The quest for energy security has driven him to develop nuclear power, the more benign manifestation of the atom. The time has come for him to pause and ensure that the second quest does not prove as dangerous as the first.
Thank you.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Pakistan's Charm Offensive Works

By T.P.Sreenivasan

Pakistan's foreign ministers do not have to be young, attractive, fashionable or of the weaker sex to attract attention in India. Even at multilateral conferences in India, filled with fashionable young women, the television cameras stay focused on Pakistan's representatives, regardless of their sex appeal. The interest becomes ecstatic if a visiting Pakistan Minister happens to have the attributes of Bollywood stars. Rightly did Seema Goswami call Foreign Minister Hira Rabbani Khar "Pakistan's new weapon of mass distraction." More sensational, but poorer in taste was the headline, "Pakistani bomb lands in New Delhi." India is still reeling under the imagined value of her pearl and diamond necklaces, Cavalli sunglasses and Birkin bag.

No doubt, Pakistan was on a charm offensive this time, demonstrated not just by the charm of the brand new Foreign Minister on her first ever foray into diplomacy, but also by the Foreign Secretary having a new and friendly mask this time, in contrast with his previous postures. Consequently, the admonition administered by our Foreign Secretary for the meeting with the Hurriyat appeared harsh in the media. But more significantly, India seems to have been charmed into conceding ground on many of its established positions.

The fundamentals of the Pakistan position remained intact through the hype about "new engagement" and "new beginning." HRK, as the Pak Foreign Minister was affectionately called, began with an assertion that India should not dominate South Asia. Then she walked into a meeting with Kashmiri separatists even before meeting her host. She also made sure that the right phrases about outstanding issues were included in the Joint Statement.

India's main agenda, the punishment of the perpetrators of 26/11 was quickly sidelined when HRK dished out the wisdom that the judicial process took time and much groundwork had to be done. If it is still in the stage of groundwork, she has no responsibility to deliver on this issue. India naturally insisted on speeding up the judicial process, but without making it conditional for advancing the peace process.

The Joint Statement appears to be a wish list of Pakistan.For instance, two sides expressed satisfaction on the holding of meetings on the issues of Counter-Terrorism (including progress on Mumbai trial) and Narcotics Control; Humanitarian issues; Commercial & Economic cooperation; Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project; Sir Creek; Siachen; Peace & Security including CBMs; Jammu & Kashmir; and promotion of friendly exchanges.

Though the composite dialogue is not mentioned, the assertion of the dialogue process is with a view to resolving peacefully all outstanding issues through constructive and result oriented engagement, and to establish friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations between the two counties.

The trust issue is dealt with simply by agreeing to build a relationship of trust and mutually beneficial cooperation in conformity with the determination of the people of both countries to see an end to terrorism and violence and to realise their aspirations for peace and development.

Terrorism is no more a threat from Pakistan to India, but terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security and the two have reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and manifestations. Both sides agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism including among relevant departments as well as agencies to bring those responsible for terror crimes to justice.

Although we know that Pakistan is building up its nuclear arsenal at break neck speed and holding up the negotiations on a fissile material treaty, India had no problem in promoting "Confidence Building Measures, between India and Pakistan and to agree to convene separate meetings of the Expert Groups on Nuclear and Conventional CBMs, in Islamabad in September 2011."

The press went to town on the absence of the K word in the discussions but the Joint Statement loudly proclaims that the two sides held discussions on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences. Our position that the only matter to be discusses is terrorism in Kashmir has been totally forgotten in the formulation. Mani Shankar Aiyer's formula of "uninterrupted and uninterruptable" dialogue has been embraced bu HRK, but it, mercifully, does not find a place in the statement. How can there be uninterruptable dialogue with Pakistan? Even if there is another 26/11, will we continue the dialogue process?

The provisions made for border trade are elaborate and specific, glossing over the problems of the past. On trade itself, the tone is unduly optimistic, considering the hesitation Pakistan has always had in normalising trade relations with India. By reaffirming the commitment to the Indus Water Treaty, we seem to have sacrificed one of our bargaining points on the water issue.The resumption of the Joint Commission also masks the problems in bilateral relations.The schedule of meetings envisaged gives a false impression of progress.

The extent and depth of the agreements reached at the talks has given Pakistan reason to convince the world that the bilateral relations are back to normal despite lack of satisfaction over 26/11 and continuation of terrorism as its state policy. HRK has established her credentials. The US will be particularly impressed. Has India been swept off its feet by the charm offensive of Pakistan? Or is there a change of heart in Pakistan to prompt concessions by India? Only time will tell.