Chidambaram on the legal issues arising out of the Indo-US nuclear deal

P. Chidambaram delivered the Convocation address at the 6th annual convocation of the NALSAR University of Hyderabad on July 19, 2008. Somewhat unusually, he chose to speak on a very topical issue – the legality of the civil nuclear deal that is the focus of so much attention in legal and political circles. An edited excerpt from that address appears as an op-ed piece in the Hindustan Times, and makes for interesting reading.

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    India developed nuclear weapons of its own without outside support or help. Then it was giving a brave face for almost 30 years ignoring the world community by refusing to sign the NPT. In July 2005, The US administration declared its willingness for full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India. The US- INDIA NUCLEAR DEAL seeks to open full nuclear energy cooperation with India. India is allowed to trade freely in nuclear materials, equipments and activities within its limits. This deal accepts India as a nuclear state that will be integrated into the global nuclear order.

    What is 123- Agreement?

    Under 123- agreement The Government of India and the Government of the United States of America AGREES MUTALLY TO

    1. RECOGNICE the significance of civilian nuclear energy for meeting growing global energy demands.

    2. DESIRIE AND cooperate extensively in the full development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

    3. WISH AND develop such cooperation on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty, non-interference in each other’s internal affair.

    The deal has generated a certain interest since it marks an end to India’s nuclear isolation and is also seen as a tribute to India’s growing profile in the global order.

    There are two types of opinion going around in India regarding the deal. A section of press and political parties calling it GOOD and another section calling it BAD.


    With about 17 percent of the worlds population, India is endowed with a paltry portion of the worlds oil and gas reserves, amounting to less than one percent of the known global total. Nuclear energy currently accounts for a pitiful 3 per cent of India’s overall energy, despite a sizeable nuclear infrastructure. The deal could greatly increase that figure in the coming decades. It will definitely bring significant impact in the field of agriculture, defense, business, trade and of course civilian nuclear energy cooperation.

    India with incredible economic growth that is only surpassed by China’s, the deal clearly has its advantages. India still lacks infrastructure and needs to improve upon its living conditions. The nuclear deal might just help India to take the next step towards realizing those goals.

    India has been largely unable to meet its demand for a greater electricity supply. The electricity demanded is estimated to increase substantially in the coming years. Under such conditions, the development of nuclear plants under the United States-India agreement will allow India to better meet the challenge of the inevitably increasing electricity shortages. This will also decrease India’s dependence on Petrol, Coal, Diesel and gas and substitute it with more environment-friendly options towards its growing demand for power.

    The U.S.-India deal will have the following impacts

    1. It will help India to integrate herself in the global nuclear framework.

    2. The deal will help India Increase energy diversity, greater access to technology and the potential for newer and deeper strategic partnerships.

    3. The deal gives India an elevated standing in the global nuclear and political order.

    4. The deal will improve US-India relationship and will increase trade in goods, greater investment in a diverse range of industries, and further social and cultural exchange between the two countries.


    The condition that India must negotiate inspectional jurisdiction over its civil nuclear facilities with the International Atomic Energy Agency and win approval from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group puts India on disadvantage.

    The deal is unclear about permanent fuel supplies, has a broad termination clause and imposes curbs on India’s right to conduct nuclear tests. The key provisions of the agreement do not protect India from a tougher American law that mandates stringent penalties should India conduct another nuclear test. The Hyde Act, passed in December last year, provides that US President will have discretionary powers to terminate the civil nuclear cooperation if India conducts a nuclear test. The agreement that is derived from the Hyde Act also puts India in the back seat.

    Signing the Indo – US nuclear agreement will have the following Impacts.

    1. It will bring Indian nuclear facilities under international supervision for the first time.
    2. India would incur huge costs on separating military and civilian nuclear installations.
    3. Give up on Indias long-held policy of nuclear disarmament.
    4. Indias independent research activities oriented to peaceful purposes will be affected.
    5. The nuclear deal with the US has the potential to assist Indias overall energy supply in long term only, perhaps, ten years time. Also n nuclear energy is costly.

    6. India will be slowly forced to become dependent on imports with practically the entire activities coming under safeguards inspection with a miniscule of activities left under the strategic category.

    Well, please suggest whether the US- India Nuclear deal should be made operational?

    (The writer VINOD KURIAKOSE can be contacted at