Jane VaynmanStill Working it Out on the India deal

If you haven’t been paying the closest attention to developments on the India nuclear deal, don’t worry, it’s still almost not quite but closer kind of getting there.

Reuters reports on the latest unspecified disputes in negotiations over the 123 Agreement:

There has been some backsliding on the landmark US-India nuclear agreement and both sides must compromise in order to close the gaps, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said on Wednesday.


Burns acknowledged completing the deal has been tougher than anticipated.


US and Indian technical experts made little progress when they met in London this week in another attempt to work through persistent differences.

On May 1, the two countries claimed extensive progress during two days of talks in Washington aimed at salvaging their landmark deal.

But they soon ran into new snags, Burns postponed his New Delhi trip, and technical experts were sent to London for talks this week.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation on May 23, Burns said that they were almost there. (Looks like the intersting stuff was in Q&A, since its not in his prepared remarks for this talk.)

[Burns] said he would be travelling to India in the next week or two for the “final effort” on the 123 agreement. “We have made enormous progress… We are 90 per cent there… In the next few weeks, we can see a major effort,” he said.

At least some of the delays are due to India’s concern over the Hyde Act (full text) which allows for nuclear cooperation but also has what for India are very troubling provisions. A number of issues in dispute have been described often in the press (such as here and here) with the nuclear testing issue being the most prominent. ( The Hindu had an good article outlining the issues from an Indian perspective.)


Speaking of India, I will be on the India delegation at an arms control simulation with Russian college students next week, taking place this sweet location. When I last played this a few years back, spies hacked my delegations’s security system (aka hotmail) and threatened nuclear war. Should be a fun time!


  1. samir (History)

    Dear jane,I am reading the news relationg to the 123 agreement and non-Proliferation issues with interest. I am atloss to understand why only the states signing NPT should be allowed to maintain and upgrade their nuclear weapons? For example why India should be asked to curtail its nuclear capabilities when China is free to increase its stock?

  2. Amit Joshi

    There is also the PIL before the Supreme Court that was filed this month.


  3. Anon

    Samir, although India played a significant role in negotiating the final text of the Nuclear Nonproliferaiton Treaty, it didn’t sign the NPT, and so isn’t bound by it. India is therefore free to do whatever it wants domestically. E.g., New Delhi can use its rapidly dwindling ready-use stockpile of uranium for military rather than civilian purposes and, to use your phrase, “maintain and upgrade” its nuclear arsenal, and hope that domestic opposition recedes, and the economics become more favorable, so that it can start mining and milling its own domestic uranium ore.

    In contrast, Uncle Sam signed and ratified the NPT, and for a variety of reasons (related not only to America’s NPT obligations, but also to requirements in the Atomic Energy Act, as amended) cannot in any way assist India’s nuclear weapons program. Moreover, under the Atomic Energy Act (the Hyde Act just reaffirms this), the U.S. would have to terminate any bilateral cooperation if India detonates again a nuclear explosive device.

    Assuming that Nick Burns, et al., abide by the Atomic Energy Act and Hyde Act, if India wants some of Uncle Sam’s nuclear exports (mainly reactors and U.S.-origin uranium), then it will have to forgo (a) nuclear explosive testing, (b) reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel, and© imports of U.S.-origin enrichment and reprocessing technology.

    If India can’t stomach that, then it should walk away from the deal. And walk away—I personally hope it does.

  4. mrthorium (History)

    According to the Hindu’s strategic affairs editor, Varadarajan, who has been following the deal the closest on the Indian side, the Indian government had assumed the J18 deal covered any future test too:

    “The reality is that we find ourselves stuck with an American law that has not been amended and was never sought to be amended (by the Bush administration),” an official said, referring to the section of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act that mandates the incorporation of a nuclear test penalty clause in any bilateral agreement with a country that is not a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    “Even though we made this point repeatedly, they sought to ignore it. So now we are both stuck,” he said.

    See http://svaradarajan.blogspot.com/search/label/Nuclear%20Issues

    So basically I agree with anon above that India should walk away from the deal before it is too late.