Indo-US nuke agreement five decade old: Book

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New Delhi, Sep 20: India's quest for civilian nuclear energy is not new and the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement is the culmination of Washington's five-decade old carrot-and -stick policy over the controversial issue.

While India favoured tapping nuclear energy for civilian use from 1950s, the US considered various options to dissuade India and Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons.

According to a book written by Mrs Kalyani Shankar, a journalist and political commentator, food crisis and nuclear issue were the two main controversial subjects that dominated Indo-US relations during the sixties.

''The nuclear issue has always been one of the trickiest between India and the US and the latter had kept a close watch on India's nuclear programme from the 1950s. The US was concerned about nuclear proliferation in South Asia and considered various options to dissuade India and Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons in the sixties,'' the book 'India and the United States-Politics of the Sixties' says.

All the Indian Prime Ministers from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wnwards ''kept the nuclear fire burning.'' Pandit Nehru and successive Prime Ministers kept the Atomic Energy Department with themselves and allocated huge sums of money to it (the Department.) However, they lacked the political will to explode the bomb even though scientists had always put pressure on their political bosses to explode a bomb.

The D-day came finally in May 1974 when India tested the first nuclear device after getting nod from then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi although she did not agree to it earlier.

US concerns about India going nuclear had crropped up many times during talks between US leaders and Prime Ministers Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Mrs Gandhi.

After the 1965 Indo-Pak war, India was concerned about its security from both China and Pakistan which seems to have been the reason for India's long-tern goal to acquire nuclear weapons.

The 450-page book which contains classified information about correspondence between Indian and US leaders and US officials and their leaders about India's nuclear programme down the years, says that a National Security Draft Memorandum of December 3, 1965, suggested a review of the US nuclear policy towards India. ''The review should examine the question of reassurances in the broad context including bilateral and multilateral guarantees, economic cooperation and assistance and possible proposals involving multi-lateral and bilateral nuclear sharing,'' the book says quoting a classified communication.

Washington had even proposed to join with India in cooperative arrangements with both--the US and the USSR.

Several options like the US guarantees, joint US-Soviet guarantees and the nuclear support were considered but no agreements were ever reached.

The book quotes a State department communication of November 1976 as saying that there was new information on India's reactor and plutonium separation facilities suggesting that within four to six months, India would be able and may intend to produce weapons-grade plutonium free of any safeguards.

''Whie we have no other evidence that they are starting a nuclear weapons programme, they are in a position to put together a crude device within one to three years of the startup of their plutonium facility...,'' the document says.

''We think it unlikely that the Indians would test a weapon barring further changes in its internal political or international position.''


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