- The USA needed India against China, India wanted to burst its bounds
Put simply, nuclear energy is a vast power that we get when its different elements react among themselves. As a result of these reactions, it releases energy to generate heat and this energy is used in many ways across the world. Generally, it is obtained from three types of reaction: nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion. Its most common positive use today is the production of electricity with the nuclear fission through the help of uranium or plutonium. Presently, it is the cheapest and least fatal source of getting electricity in comparison with other sources such as coal, petroleum, natural gas and hydroelectricity. The commercialization of nuclear energy started in 1970s and since then it has prevented about1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and has also saved the emission of at least 64 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent that would have otherwise resulted from the burning of fossil fuels. In December 2019 there were 443 civilian fission reactors in the world and the USA has the largest inventory of nuclear reactors with a generating capacity of over 800 TWh zero-emissions electricity per year. Washington has also the record of discovering the first nuclear reaction which led to the creation of the first man-made reactor. Soon it also achieved criticality on 2 December1942 and became a part of Manhattan Project, an allied effort which successfully made atomic bomb during the Second World War. The bomb was tested in July 1945 and after a month in August, it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki causing a memorable devastation in world history.
At the end of World War II, the USA was unquestionably a superpower of nuclear energy. When this energy entered politics it became a power, the power of the country or nation which possesses it by hook or by crook. As a result in post-war phase a blind race started among powers of the world to achieve this capability and surprisingly many of them obtained the ability of nuclear energy in 1950s, the last being China in 1964. With China getting the nuclear capability, the region, especially India’s neighbourhood, nuclearized, and it became a matter of great concern for New Delhi. The development exerted public pressure on the government to move in the direction of making the nuclear bomb. In fact, after China making the nuclear bomb India too began thinking and primary discussions started at very high level secretly. In addition, the development sent a security signal to nations of the region as a whole because the nuclear arms race had already entered in the area.
India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and to place all its civil nuclear facilities under the control of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In exchange the USA agreed to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India
In a further move India prepared for the nuclear bomb and it exploded the devices in May 1974. The nuclear explosion by India received a wide reaction at global level with several restrictions and sanctions imposed by nuclear powers of the world and other countries who supplied nuclear materials for its peaceful uses. After the making of a nuclear bomb by China and India, Pakistan began its preparation for a nuclear bomb despite weak economic condition and other practical difficulties in the way of its achieving nuclear capability. Perhaps a decade after India’s explosion, Islamabad too achieved nuclear capability, the first Islamic country to do so. However, after a long wait it exploded its nuclear device in May 1998 when India exploded its nuclear device te second time. Thus, 1998 the region became fully nuclearized with three nations, China, India and Pakistan, having nuclear bombmaking capability.
After the People’s Republic of China making nuclear bombs in 1964, the international community became aware of, and strict towards, proliferation of nuclear capability and in 1967 they brought a treaty called Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). A large number of countries all over the world became its signatories or parties to it, and those who signed the Treaty were allowed to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes or for their development, but strictly restricted to use nuclear power for military purposes. On the other hand, the superpowers, including China, which had acquired nuclear capability before 1967 were allowed to use nuclear ower for development as well as making nuclear armaments. From the beginning, some other countries, including India, Pakistan and Israel, have called the treaty highly discriminatory in nature because the same facility it provides to nuclear power States, it strictly prohibits for others. In a nutshell, they refused to sign the treaty as it has divided the world into two groups- “nuclear haves” and “nuclear have-nots” with separate rights and privileges. In the meantime, an informal group under the leadership of United States was also formed called the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which prepared guidelines on nuclear export, reactors and fuel. The NSG mainly controls the export of nuclear materials, equipment and technology.
In addition, there was also a supervisory body called the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which mainly supervises that nuclear technology meant and purchased for peaceful purposes should not be used for military. Thus, as a result of these treaties and related provisions, India was debarred from getting nuclear capability for armaments and it was also not included in the members of the NSG but put under the control and supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA bears the responsibility of supervising nations and reporting about their nuclear-use status. Under those circumstances, India always insisted on a comprehensive plan for a nuclear-free world within a definite timeframe and unilaterally declared its adoption of a “no-first-use policy” in dealings with countries of the region and neighbours as well.
Not for years, but for decades, and especially after 1967, India remained aloof from the global nuclear activities but despite international non-co-operation, restrictions and limitations it detonated a nuclear device twice, first in May 1974 and then in May 1998, one during the Congress regime and another when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister heading a BJP-led coalition. In the past decades, and especially after the disintegration of the USSR, and the coming of globalization, but particularly with the emergence of the People’s Republic of China as an emerging superpower, the USA was compelled to come closer to India and contain Chinese influence in the region and beyond. As the development of India’s nuclear installations was marred by the international limitations and restricted supply of nuclear materials and technology, New Delhi too was needy and therefore wished to remove limitations on using the nuclear energy in a beneficial way on a large scale.
It was in this background and circumstances that India and the USA signed a Civil Nuclear Agreement or 123 Agreement. It is called 123 Agreement because section 123 of the United States Atomic Energy Act 1954 provided for US nuclear co-operation with other countries. The draft or framework of the agreement was issued in the joint statement of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush. In the statement India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and to place all its civil nuclear facilities under the control of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. In exchange the USA agreed to work toward full civil nuclear cooperation with India. After due discussions and procedures in both countries the final agreement, called the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act, was signed on 10 October 2008 by the then Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.