November 5, 2005Security

Separating the civilian and military nuclear programmes can be a plus

It could even mean private power producers can set up nuclear plants

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Rear Admiral Raja Menon points out that if, as a result of the nuclear deal with the United States, India separates its civilian nuclear programme from the military one, there are tangible benefits on both counts.

There are some other stunning reasons why the separation will be beneficial to the country, even if it means tribulations for the Department of Atomic Energy. The major side benefit is going to be transparency for the people of India. The source of all opaqueness is the absurd Indian Atomic Energy Act 1962, made in the heyday of irresponsible socialism. The act merely confers on the government the sole right to generate electricity with nuclear power, punish anyone else who tries to do the same and nationalise all uranium assets without paying adequate compensation. The current activities of the DAE are mostly unlegislated, as are the statutory responsibilities for making, storing, transporting and accounting of nuclear weapons. This is a terrible state to be in, and if New Delhi couldn’t clean up the mess all these years, maybe pressure from Washington will help. It is inconceivable that Homi Bhabha would have permitted this terrible piece of legislation to remain unaltered, if he had lived.

This agreement will also make New Delhi take some hard decisions on where the nuclear arsenal is headed, and against whom. Having criticised the US bitterly for the laissez-faire that produced 30,000 nuclear weapons, all we have said so far is ‘mind your own business’ when asked where ours is headed. Arsenals are limited by fissile material, and that material cannot be made in a civilian nuclear programme. That is a good thing. It will bring some transparency to the strategic discussions, too. In every way, the country will benefit, even if many in government will have to clear the cobwebs and work harder. [IE]

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