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For Immediate Release
Contact: Chintan Patel (chintan@yidream.org, 571-278-5074)

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Congressional Forum Highlights Implications of Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Congressman Jim McDermott (D, WA-7), in cooperation with Young India, hosted an event March 29th on Capitol Hill that brought together a distinguished panel to analyze the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The event focused on strategic, energy and economic implications for Indo-US relations and the future of the nonproliferation regime.

Congressman McDermott (D, WA-7) opened by saying, “ This [the Nuclear Deal] is one those issues where, unfortunately, and we aren’t having an opportunity to hear a debate so that we can get an idea to know what we ought to do.” The Congressman thanked Young India for putting the briefing together that brought experts from various perspectives on to a single platform for staffers and Members to learn more about the issues at hand.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of IEER, while recognizing the need for greater power generation said, "Even if the Indian nuclear establishment goals for nuclear energy are realized, it will play a very modest part in India's energy needs." He went on to add that the energy viability argument underlying the deal is weak as there are other energy cost effective alternatives available. Dr. Makhijani pointed out that in the future there may arise a situation where Indian independence in foreign policy could be compromised because of dependence on foreign nuclear fuel since Indian uranium reserves are insufficient for a even a modest size nuclear power sector. He did however state that a failure to ratify this deal might lead to a real popular backlash in India. Dr. Makhijani concluded by suggesting that the governments of both countries make the deal fully public to encourage a more open debate on how to jointly promote sound energy policies, non-proliferation, and universal elimination of nuclear weapons, while arriving at the best basis for further strengthening of Indo-US relations.

Mr. Bruce Fein, from The Lichfield Group, opened his remarks by saying the deal was “constructive”. He addressed the proliferation issue by drawing the audience’s attention to the fact that other nuclear powers and the head of the IAEA himself have welcomed the deal. Citing India’s commitment to adhere to the MTCR and other obligations and constraints within the NSG framework, Mr. Fein sought to offset proliferation concerns. He tried to reassure nonproliferation supporters by mentioning India’s legislative response in regards to comprehensive export control. Mr. Fein shared his perceived rationale why India would oppose any stoppage of its plans to create more fissile material by saying, “ India will not blink when it comes to its national security issues like its nuclear arsenal when they confront China and Pakistan as rivals.”

Dr. Leonard Weiss followed Mr. Fein and started by saying, “India needs energy and it can get energy in many other ways [other than nuclear].” "He cited data from an Indian government model of its power sector based on an assumption of energy independence in the year 2030 which shows that nuclear energy would only provide 6.6% of installed electrical capacity in that year.” Dr. Weiss pointed out that wind energy today produced more power than nuclear energy for India. Dr. Weiss questioned the energy premise of the deal. He drew the audience’s attention to, what he considers an objectionable clause, the fact that India will adhere to safeguards only if it is guaranteed nuclear fuel. Dr. Weiss said, “What we have is an agreement to have an agreement,” demanding more details be furnished. He raised doubts on India’s desire to put restraints on its nuclear program citing earlier transgressions. Dr. Weiss concluded his remarks by requesting Congress to pause and wait for details before proceeding further.

Dr. Stephen Cohen, while supporting the change in US non-proliferation law, felt that the administration had somewhat “oversold” the political, economic and strategic benefits of the nuclear deal with respect to the extent of Indo US alliance that this deal would accrue. He acknowledged the need for stronger bilateral ties between the two nations, especially in context of their mutual/common concerns regarding the emergence of China. In addition, he downplayed the risk posed by India’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities stating that “I just can’t imagine that Indians are going to build much more [nuclear capability] than what they already have”. However, he urged the US administration to formulate a regional non-proliferation strategy for South Asia, in consultation with India, Pakistan, and China.

Mr. Rohit Tripathi, President of Young India, was the last speaker and shared with the assembled the motivations behind the deal. He said, “We are curious to learn more about the scientific and political reasons for the deal and this briefing is an attempt to explore them.” Mr. Tripathi stressed the need to separate the political and scientific analysis. Reinforcing Young India’s commitment to Indo-US relations, Mr. Tripathi was non-committal about making the nuclear deal a focal point for bilateral relations. Citing the minimal energy benefits availed by the deal in its current format he urged policymakers to produce a deal that truly addressed energy concerns while furthering the more important goal of nuclear nonproliferation and ultimate disarmament. Acknowledging that a non-passage of the deal by the US Congress would have a detrimental impact on relations given the primacy it has come to acquire he stressed the need to expand the scope of the deal. He shared Young India’s position that a broader energy deal be negotiated that not only talks of technology transfer in the areas of power generation but also distribution and end-user efficiency. Mr. Tripathi wanted to see nuclear energy as a part of the larger energy dialogue, not the part. He concluded by reminding the audience that Young India was committed to the strongest possible partnership between India and the United States but emphasized that the basis for this partnership must be sustainable.


 






 
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