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India Releases Text of Civilian Nuclear Accord With US

The text of a historic civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States has been released, a week after the deal was announced. As VOA's Steve Herman reports from the Indian capital, the document skirts the delicate issue of what would happen if India conducted another nuclear weapons test.

As expected, the 22-page agreement spells out how the two countries will share nuclear fuel and technology, but avoids any mention of what would happen if India were to carry out another atomic weapons test.

The United States originally sought a specific ban on further Indian tests, but the Indians rejected that as an infringement on their sovereignty.

The text does, however, provide for termination of the agreement with one year's notice. It says "consultations" would have to be held first to discuss the reasons for the termination, which could include what it calls a "changed security environment."

This appears to be a reference to the possibility that Indian might resume testing if it feels threatened by a neighbor.

The text says the United States would help India obtain fuel from other nations if the U.S. supply of nuclear fuel to India is cut off - something that would presumably happen if New Delhi did conduct another nuclear test.

Research analyst Reshmi Kazi at New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies doubts the Indian government will violate the terms of the agreement. She points out that India has agreed to oversight by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, to allay concerns about diversion of U.S. materials to India's military nuclear program.

"India's definitely going to be a reliable partner, with the fact that we have agreed to put forth 65 percent of our nuclear facilities under safeguards," she said. "In addition to that, we have also agreed to put a reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards. It's definitely going to make a major breakthrough within the non-proliferation world."

The text shows that after two years of intense technical negotiations, India won the right to stockpile and reprocess fuel, which could be used to make nuclear weapons.

The agreement still requires approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, along with ratification by the U.S. Congress.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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