Jeffrey LewisAppeal On India-US Nuclear Deal

I’ve seen a couple of news stories about the Appeal to Parliamentarians on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal issud by the usual suspects—prominent Indian nuclear scientists who oppose the US-India nuclear deal.

I haven’t seen a copy posted elsewhere yet, so here it is.

I’ve already gotten a few e-mails from people pointing out what they see as logical flaws or inconsistencies.

Such criticism, it seems to me, misses the point. Whatever the statement’s intellectual merits, and I agree they are precious few, the authors make a very straightforward appeal to familiar, if tired, ideas of sovereignty and nationalism.

Were it not for the self-righteous, post-colonial sense of victimization and the reference to nuclear disarmament, John Bolton could have written this statement.

Appeal to Parliamentarians on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

While the nation and Parliament discuss the Indo-US nuclear deal from various angles, we feel it is our responsibility to place before the nation our well-considered views on the impact of this deal on the future of Indian nuclear science & technology, and its effects on the energy security of the nation. We have all worked in the field of atomic energy from the very early years after India’s independence. From very small beginnings, we have now reached a stage where we are in possession of all the technologies needed for the production of electricity from indigenous nuclear minerals, and have successfully applied these technologies in diverse sectors from health, agriculture and industry to national and energy security. All this has been possible with the support of the people represented in the government through Parliament, and the outstanding statesmen who have guided and supported our plans. We therefore feel it is our obligation to make public our perceptions for the effective and continued nurturing and utilization of this technology in the country.

Science is universal. Knowledge can be created in any part of the world, and technology comes with experimentation and the willingness to take risks. We have followed all these paths to reach the present stage of development. We are amongst the most advanced countries in the technology of fast-breeder reactors, which is crucial to the future of our energy security. Along the way we have derived benefits from international collaboration. At the same time, we have also shared some of our abilities in this field with the world. Indian scientists have been ambassadors, with knowledge and creativity as their tools. It is of prime importance to uphold these cherished traditions.

It is significant that the most advanced country in nuclear science and technology has come forward to accept us into the international nuclear community, by the historic document signed by our Prime Minister with President Bush on 18th July, 2005. The basic principles for cooperation were well laid out in this bilateral understanding and the Prime Minister has appraised our Parliament of this. No doubt it needs the concurrence of the other nations comprising the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Based on this agreement, the US lawmakers and the administration are in the process of re-framing their laws, which could change the nature of relations between the two countries. This is a most welcome initiative of the UPA government, and is a continuation of the process essentially begun during the previous NDA government. Thus, there is no question of any political partisanship on this matter.

However, the lawmakers of the US Congress have modified, both in letter and spirit, the implementation of such an agreement. At this juncture, among other aspects, it is essential that we insist on the following four central themes:

(a)India should continue to be able to hold on to her nuclear option as a strategic requirement in the real world that we live in, and in the ever-changing complexity of the international political system. This means that we cannot accede to any restraint in perpetuity on our freedom of action. We have not done this for the last forty years after the Non-Proliferation Treaty came into being, and there is no reason why we should succumb to this now. Universal nuclear disarmament must be our ultimate aim, and until we see the light at the end of the tunnel on this important issue, we cannot accept any agreement in perpetuity.

(b)After 1974, when the major powers discontinued cooperation with us, we have built up our capability in many sensitive technological areas, which need not and should not now be subjected to external control. Safeguards are understandable where external assistance for nuclear materials or technologies are involved. We have agreed to this before, and we can continue to agree to this in the future too, but strictly restricted to those facilities and materials imported from external sources.

(c)We find that the Indo-US deal, in the form approved by the US House of Representatives, infringes on our independence for carrying out indigenous research and development (R&D) in nuclear science & technology. Our R&D should not be hampered by external supervision or control, or by the need to satisfy any international body. Research and technology development are the sovereign rights of any nation. This is especially true when they concern strategic national defence and energy self-sufficiency.

(d)While the sequence of actions to implement the cooperation could be left for discussion between the two governments, the basic principles on which such actions will rest is the right of Parliament and the people to decide. The Prime Minister has already taken up with President Bush the issue of the new clauses recommended by the US House of Representatives. If the US Congress, in its wisdom, passes the bill in its present form, the ‘product’ will become unacceptable to India, and, diplomatically, it will be very difficult to change it later. Hence it is important for our Parliament to work out, and insist on, the ground rules for the nuclear deal, at this stage itself.

We therefore request you, the Parliamentarians, to discuss this deal and arrive at a unanimous decision, recognizing the fundamental facts of India’s indigenous nuclear science & technology achievements to date, the efforts made to overcome the unfair restrictions placed on us and the imaginative policies and planning enunciated and followed in the years after Independence. The nation, at this critical juncture, depends on its representatives in Parliament to ensure that decisions taken today do not inhibit our future ability to develop and pursue nuclear technologies for the benefit of the nation.

Statement issued by:

Dr. H. N. Sethna, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Dr. P. K. Iyengar, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission
Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Dr. S. L. Kati, Former Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation
Dr. A. N. Prasad, Former Director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
Dr. Y. S. R. Prasad, Former Chairman & Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation
Dr. Placid Rodriguez, Former Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research


  1. Sampathkumar Iyangar (History)

    The text of the “appeal” is here:
    I have forwarded forwarded An explanatory note for Members of Indian Parliament about the appeal to them to scuttle the Indo-US nuclear deal, signed by eight “eminent” scientists to all members of the Parliament:


    Eight mandarins who had, at different periods of time, directed the squander of huge resources diverted from providing basic needs like sanitation and food to India’s impoverished populace – more than a third of whom languishing in abject poverty – for dreaming a grandiose pipe dream have been set up by India’s nuke Mafia to wave a red (and saffron) flag on the eve of India’a 60-th Independence day.

    Claiming that they have put India “in possession of all the technologies needed for the production of electricity from indigenous nuclear minerals,” the bigwigs have urged Parliament “to work out, and insist on” civilian nuclear cooperation with the US strictly as per the terms of a “process essentially begun during the previous NDA government.” They advise the MPs scuttle the “unacceptable product” that would result “if the US Congress, in its wisdom, passes the bill” incorporating safeguards recommended by the US House of Representatives. The pundits eulogize “the imaginative policies and planning enunciated and followed in the years after Independence” turning completely amnesic about the disastrous consequences of the “imaginative planning” by the State dumped for good in every other sector. They talk only about their “future ability to develop and pursue nuclear technologies for the benefit of the nation” while ignoring the dismal performance so far of the white elephant establishment, the biggest flop show.
    Nobody will dispute “technology comes with experimentation and the willingness to take risks.” Even if there are takers for the tall claim “We are amongst the most advanced countries in the technology of fast-breeder reactors, which is crucial to the future,” the mandarins must tell the MPs why France chose to abandon the only commercial FBR in the world named Super Phoenix and why Japan has deferred its prototype FBR by a few decades! Can we ask semi-fed, semi-clad people to go on funding monstrous experimentation costs forever? The Fast Breeder can serve as a laundry to produce weapons grade plutonium and the obvious reason for the pundits to be obsessed with it is to continue thriving in a blissful atmosphere of non-accountability in the name of national security.
    A look at the specific points made by the superscientists gives away the evil forces behind the missive to the MPs: (a) Hold on to the nuclear option (to kill a few million people instantly by flattening Karachi or Lahore or Islamabad or Shanghai (!) like Hiroshima/Nagasaki?) because global polity is ever-changing and signing NPT will mean acceding to restraint; (b) Any safeguard or “external” control meant for preventing WMD proliferation must be only to imported facilities and materials (like limiting authority of Police to restrict and seize “self made” country weapons of gangsters!); (c) The right to carry out R&D in WMD is sovereign and any agreement with an international body will infringe nation’s independence (which countries from Australia to Canada to Germany to Japan to ASEAN or even Saddam Hussein were not aware!)
    In essence, the message of the scientists to Parliament is clear: “Hands off the nuclear Mafia since we will not accept “external supervision or control” and can stage a Fidel Castro or Kim Il Sung on India with our capabilities. Don’t think of providing affordable energy to the people. Let us continue plundering in the name of national defence and you can have a share of the loot if you want.”
    Finally, let it not be forgotten that one of the self-appointed experts has not been cleared of the charge of illegitimately proliferating dangerous technology to Iran’s Mullahs immediately after retiring; another one, apparently bought over by the nuclear Mafia only lately, catalogued more than 130 safety deficiencies (still not taken care of!) in nuclear facilities ONLY AFTER he was denied a service extension and he condemned the “harassment” on “Nuclear Czars” in National and International media.
    [The author is a hammer&tongs technician featured in the Directory of Experts in Technology Acquisition compiled in 1990 by Dept of S&T, New Delhi. He chose to abandon his flourishing venture specializing in the development of components for nuclear and aerospace applications when coerced by nuke czars into conniving in irresponsible environmental practices and WMD proliferation.]

  2. Sampathkumar Iyangar (History)

    And this was the annex to the MPs to give them a brief on what the “eminent scientists” had to say:
    The mission of the India’s N program was defined by Vikram Sarabhai as “availability of abundant energy that would be too cheap to meter.” Canada and the US helped establish it when India gave commitment to never divert fissile material for weapons.
    In 1974 when the emergency queen Indira Gandhi wanted to become a Durga, in the eyes of illiterate Indians, by blasting an “Atom Bomb”, Raja Ramanna hijacked the program to conduct crude test in 1974. The country earned a pariah status and DAE has been squandering resources to reinvent the wheel in Kafkaesque secretiveness. A deadly Mafioso siphons off huge sums to vanishing entities by bribing selected politicians. Well-connected business tycoons cut deals with corrupt officials and evil scientists of the Mafia, often supplying look-alike imitations and defective parts, which are then used to build reactors. Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is supposed to control the danger to safety through such rackets but is packed with creeping crawlies. Rampant nepotism plagues the establishment and hundreds of bright technologists and scientists languish as desk-bound babus sans meaningful support for advancing technology. Activities of DAE are beyond the scrutiny of statutory authorities, the judiciary, and even the Parliament.
    Upon utter failure of Nehruvian policies and bankruptcy in 1990, when Manmohan Singh had to carry out economic reforms everywhere in 1990s, they were scuttled in the nuclear sector by the Mafia, The tycoons switched loyalty to BJP politicians. Like Indira Gandhi used Ramanna in 1974, Vajpayee used R Chidambaram in 1998 to deflect peoples’ attention away from nonperformance. He tendered “advice” to go for another blast.
    Singh’s renewed initiative, after BJP was dethroned, to open up the sector again met with stiff resistance from the nuclear czars, who started singing an altogether different tune – separation of civil and military nuclear installations, the prerequisite for US cooperation in nuclear technology, would affect R&D capability to develop Fast Breeder Reactors. The Fast Breeder can serve as a laundry to produce weapons grade plutonium. The obvious reason for the pundits to be obsessed with it was to continue thriving in a blissful atmosphere of non-accountability in the name of national security and promising to transform the country into a Superpower.
    As final resort, the science parasites found strange bedfellows in a band of “Left” parties of India, who are in a position to constantly blackmail Singh into following their diktats – to go slow on privatizing government-owned companies, to dump insurance sector and airport reforms etc. The comrades whose loyalties have traditionally been pledged to headquarters overseas were taken care and started talking about dilution of the country’s sovereignty.
    Falling in line with every other developed/developing nation that shirked the terrific option and getting international cooperation will sure trigger the transformation of India from a rogue state squandering scarce resources on WMDs into a preferred destination for developmental investment in sectors including nuclear power. It will let the neighboring countries breathe a little easy but end the reign of the evil nuke Mafia.

  3. Maverick (History)

    Sampath is still angry at the GOI for not buying the stuff he produced.

    Hardly an unbaised observer.

  4. Satish Gogisetty (History)


    What is your point?

    Are you trying to say that we should accept being rated and treated as a second class country for ever?

    We are a peaceful country. We were offered Permanent seat in security council but, Nehru offered it to china (Hindi-Chini bhai bhai …what happened), we were initially asked by west do explode a nuke before china so that they can close the loop and keep china out like we are now but, we are a peace loving country and our leadership had no strategic vision so china exploded the bomb and started playing along with US against USSR along with Pakistan while we rallying around with Nonaligned nations they closed the loop with NSG.

    Now we have developed the capability to make NSG irrelevant for ever and our government wants to squander all the hard earned technology.

    Cheap energy my foot. You need lot of investment to build a reactor. When import reactors, spare parts and uranium from outside our strategic and foreign policy can be influenced with the threat of sanctions. We are giving them the leverage that they don’t have now.

    Let us briefly examine what we will get from this deal in the present form.
    1)They got fundamental research institutes like TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) under civilian list, where will we get our future scientists from? Even if you invent/discover some thing new we cannot use it our strategic program while the whole world is free to see it copy it and use it what ever way they want. If you don’t have independence doing fundamental research in science you cannot progress technologically.
    2)We get to import reactors, spare parts and fuel as long as we obey outside powers. We don’t have the right to reprocess the imported even if it is for purely for civilian purposes (Do you have any idea of TARAPUR episode and dump site where used fuel is lying around for decades and US will not allow us to reprocess it).
    3) They will not allow us to reprocess the imported uranium/domestic uranium being used in civilian reactors. They will not allow us to enrich uranium for our civilian reactors (Brazil is a good example in case of enrichment). They want to categorize India as a recipient country (while India in technological perspective clearly comes under donor or supplier category) in GNEP which they just dreamt of yesterday and want to kill our 3 stage program. Creating another block for us like NSG when NSG was becoming irrelevant for us. We cannot participate in any other nuclear energy incentive in which US is not a participant.
    4)They get to see, analyze and steal our technology by intrusively inspecting indigenously built reactors categorized as civilian. They will go after private suppliers supplying materials for our strategic program.
    5)Technologically our heavy water reactors in last 7 years have become one of the safest and efficient comparable to the best operating performance in the world.
    6)Technologically freeze our nascent weapons program by pulling getting a formal/informal commitment on test ban and try to roll it back.
    7)Legally bind us to keep our reactor under permanent inspection regime.

    Shortage of uranium is only temporary in our country (10 yrs) till we start mining at new sites. When we start mining at these new sites and scale up our breeder program in due course of time we can easily achieve energy and strategic independence.

    US is interested in getting their hands on our research data on thorium (which is very unique [accepted by all prominent nuclear scientists in the world]). We are one of the most advanced country’s in breeder reactors (acknowledged by the father of French breeder reactor program, and we will be world leader in 10-15years).

    Coming to your point of killing millions of people with nukes, I must say that you have no idea of what you are talking. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent (makes your enemies think 1000 times before they attack you overtly). Cold war between USA and USSR is a very good example.

    In this world POWER respects POWER. If you have MONEY power+ MUSCLE POWER every one will respect you. India is unstoppable rising economic power (with so many ills in the society it is still growing at 8%/yr). What US is trying here is to limit/mould our growing MUSCLE POWER to suite their needs in future.

    Every day example of how MUSCLE POWER works. A well built, hefty and muscular guy escorting a lady will deter 99.99% of people from behaving improperly/mischievously with the lady. In our contest well built, hefty and muscular guy represent a very large, potent and technologically advanced nuclear weapons and the lady represents our mother land India.

    Our conditions must be:
    1)India will take what ever action it feels appropriate if the fuel/spare supplies are interrupted or not available at reasonable costs or cooperation is disrupted [It acts like an exit clause and will prevent other countries from influencing our strategic program and foreign policy]. [Goal post changed diluting fuel supply guarantees]
    2)India will have the right to enrich imported fuel and reprocess used imported fuel for peaceful purposes (verifiable). The technology cooperation will be full meaning it must include full life cycle. [Goal post changed again]
    3)Indian companies must have the right to make components and service the imported reactors. Indian companies having subsidiaries dealing with strategic program must be off limits in all ways (no principle of pursuit). [Unknown]
    4)India must be a full scale supplier in current NSG set up and any future setup like GNEP or must be able to participate in any future incentive in which US may not be a part. [Goal post changed]
    5)All the technologies developed by India are intellectual property of India. India holds all the rights and reserves the right to not allow intrusive inspections of those components or technologies even if they are part of a civilian reactor/ facility developed by INDIA (example: some features in reactor design, reprocessing technology, enrichment technology, extraction technology,…etc.). [Unknown]
    6)End user verification will be applicable only for imported fuel and spare parts. [Goal post changed]
    7)India must not have any obligation to publish or communicate its future nuclear plans. (Like number of new research facility/institutions/military/civilians reactors to be built, research programs/nuclear plans, fissile material stocks, amount of indigenous uranium used for strategic program…etc.) [Goal post changed]

    July 18th 2005 agreement meets most of the above conditions but, the current legislation in US in its current form is unquestionably a deal breaker.

  5. Pradeep Elamanchili (History)

    Dear Mr. Sampath Kumar,
    Yes, Semi-fed, semi-nude bumpkins. Heathen dare they, I’ll be darned.

    The indignation is so intense, that even attempts at a “semblance” of a rational discourse have been thrown to the winds.
    Of course, there could be another explanation, that the masters in Pindi and Beijing are getting desperate.


  6. Akash (History)

    Hi Sampath

    Sorry to hear that the GOI rejected the shipments of parts you made as trash and decided that your claims apart, your firm wasnt good enough for being a Grade A supplier. But surely enough time has passed that you should live and let live, and understand that quality is paramount when it comes to the nuke industry? Surely they couldnt have done otherwise.


  7. Rahul (History)

    We’ve had a great deal of comment already on Mr Iyengar’s clearly reasoned, coherent arguments. How simple his world is: all India needs is food and clothes, anything aside from an improved bullock-cart be damned. And we shouldn’t own weapons that will kill millions of people.

    What sort of unsophisticated, over-emotional rant is this?

    Well before Pokhran-II, we had a nuclear-armed neighbour to the north, with whom relations were not cordial. Our experience had led us to believe (no doubt with less than complete objectivity) that China could not always be counted upon to stand by written agreements and diplomatic assurances when encouraged otherwise by realpolitik. And so we built nuclear weapons, not to flex muscle (why do so many experts assume the most childish of reasons for developing countries’ policies?), not because our ‘mandarins’ enjoy killing millions of people, but because we needed some level of insurance.

    Will that insurance work? Hard to say, but the Americans’ weapons buildup over half a century, conducted in parallel with efforts to create adequate arms control treaties, was built at least in part on a similar view of the Soviets: talk, but verify – and hedge. Did the Soviets absolutely want to attack America with nukes? Perhaps, perhaps not. The fact remains that they did not, though I’m sure there were more complex factors involved. Were American policy-makers gleeful psychopaths who wanted to kill Moscow schoolchildren? Most likely not, though I’m sure the methods they chose are open to question. Why assume that of us?

    The Australians did not need nuclear weapons, Mr Iyengar, so did not build them. The British did, and they did. The Canadians, and the Japanese, were protected by the world’s most powerful country. Nuclear weapons development is not always about flaunting sovereignty, but can, in some circumstances, help protect it. North Korea might do it to show off – it doesn’t mean India does it for the same reasons. What works for Canada did not work for France, and will not work for us.

    And who did France report to, when they built the Bomb? Did America have people looking over their shoulders, when they built up the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons? Assuming that we should, while they did not, is arrogance. There’s a comment on Schachtman’s blog that , adpated a little, applies here: it’s like a two-pack-a-day father telling his kids that smoking is morally wrong.

    And we need nuclear technology for energy. Perhaps not to meet all our needs, perhaps not as the mainstay of our energy generation – but we need it. High technology isn’t an ego-boosting indulgence for us, it is a necessity if we are to survive and build our economy.

    Where will your’affordable energy’ come from, Mr Iyenagar?

    Is Middle-Eastern oil going to remain affordable for ever? Shall we run our power plants on cow dung, perhaps, or vegetable oil? Can you run an automobile factory on solar panels? How will abandoning nuclear energy help us fight poverty? We’ll save on money now – will we not have to pay a higher price ten or twenty years down the line?

    And for a technician, your arguments are remarkable in their ability to miss the point, when it comes to technology development. Nuclear technology is not child’s play, and it will take us years – many years – to get it right. Will money be spent chasing down the wrong alleys? Yes, as with any technology. How many great technologies got it right on the first try, Mr Iyengar? Should we have dumped them the moment they didn’t work?

    Nepotism and bureaucracy exist in all organisations. Yes, they waste time, money, and effort, often criminally so. So what do we do: fix those problems, or abandon nuclear technology as a whole – and throw out the baby with the bath-water?

    I apologise to bloggers and readers for belaboring the obvious, but the obvious was not dealt with in the original comment.

    Wonderful blog, by the way, though I don’t agree with much of what is said here. I’ve got it on RSS feed, now.