uch has been said about the Indo-US nuclear deal including our own cacophonic takes here
. At this point, a deal will most likely
be signed during President Bush's visit in March. A compromise was apparently reached on the contentious breeder reactor issue - it is now likely
to be declared 'civil' in the near future. Meanwhile, the DAE
with the construction of additional fast reactors as planned.
Once the agreement goes through the U.S. Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group
(NSG), India along with Russia, France, Japan and others will be roped in under President Bush's GNEP
initiative. India can somewhat benefit from this deal by getting limited Pu
supplies to its already well-developed fast reactors. But experts such as Steven Kraft has said
that the Pu
reprocessing plan is clearly a long term idea with the required technologies expected to mature only 50 to 60 years after. Of course, to satisfy the immediate energy needs for the next two decades, India will import
fuel and dozens of traditional Uranium-based reactors from the usual 'heavy-weights' like France, Russia or USA.
Let's be clear on one thing: all this bonhomie heavily depends on the current mood of the Big Boyz
at that time. The P-5
(especially the P-1
), can at any time threaten to cut-off supplies or inflict intrusive IAEA
funds more than 50% of its budget ) if and when India's foreign policy decisions or military hardware purchase doesn't pleases them. Hence it is important for India to pursue alternative strategies, not only as a Plan B
against possible sanctions but also as an additional energy source to feed its economy.
In this post, we ponder new, far-reaching avenues to secure India's energy supplies and in the process forge new strategic partnerships for the 21st century. With its excellent non-proliferation record, India has no reason to fear from pursuing a peaceful nuclear energy coalition with friendly developing nations.
Amidst all the world attention towards Iran, Brazil quietly started
Uranium enrichment in a brand new plant in Resende near Rio de Janeiro sending out alarm bells
among American strategic thinkers. Note that despite being an NPT
signatory and having the 6th largest Uranium
reserves in the world, Brazil had to lobby hard with the IAEA
to do this (yet another instance of the discriminatory NPT
regime). India and Brazil have already worked closely in several areas alongside the G-20
nations. They successfully lobbied against rich nations to eliminate their agricultural subsidies during WTO
summits in Cancun and Hong Kong. India should go ahead and further this close relationship and sign a bilateral energy partnership, to provide technical assistance to Brazil it its civilian program in exchange for Uranium mining rights.
South Africa is another potential partner with huge
Uranium reserves and one of the most advanced pebble-bed reactors
. Brazil, India and China have already shown interest
in this technology. India can commit itself to purchase a few of these reactors in return for sanction-free Uranium supplies. Further trade agreements can be signed to give preferential treatment to South African goods and services in the huge Indian market. (Personally, your blogger too prefers a South African Steenberg Shiraz
than an over-rated French Bordeaux
). Note that till the early 90s under the whites-only government, it had an active
weapons program with heavy
Israeli assistance (who in return 'clandestinely' (duh!) got the fuel). Surprisingly, just when the apartheid
was beginning to be abolished, the whites-only government shut down its weapons program and signed the NPT
A more daring approach is to target an African country like Niger ( currently the #3 supplier
in the world ) aiming for exclusive mining rights of yellow cake. A pro-active measure is to lure this poor
country with few other natural resources with massive Indian investments, economic assistance or even military aid. As an ex-French colony, Niger's mining activities are probably under proxy French control. New Delhi can try lobbying with Paris but nevertheless it shouldn't be afraid of dealing directly. After all these years, what good it did to African nations by remaining loyal to their former colonial masters. This idea has its own risk since Niger was also the major embarrassment
to President Bush's pre-invasion intelligence 'slam-dunk'. Similar policies should be cooked-up to approach other major Uranium suppliers like Nigeria or Kazakhstan ( similar
to what the Chinese are doing).
All these ideas require creative thinking and bold realpolitik
on the part of Indian strategic thinkers (not the 'cheerleader'
variety). Make no mistake - no one is going to give India's energy supplies on a platter. The NSG
cartel will try its best to maintain its stranglehold on global Uranium supplies. It is only with dynamism and a forward-leaning approach that India can break this monopoly and ensure supplies not only for herself but also for friendly neighbors and allies among the developing countries.
Cross-posted in Desicritics.org.