THE present installed nuclear power capacity of India is set to increase from 6780 MW to 22,480 MW by 2031 on progressive completion of projects under construction and accorded sanction.
The information given by Union Atomic Energy Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh to Parliament recently marks a new milestone achieved by the Modi Government in 25 years of India’s nuclear odyssey since Pokharan-II tests were conducted by the BJP-led Atal Behari Vajpayee Government on May 11 and 13, 1998.
Arrival on N-stage
The tests signalled India’s arrival on the nuclear stage and repositioned India vis-à-vis threats within the region, most starkly Pakistan. But they also resulted in international sanctions by the United States and its European allies.
The signing of the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2005 marked an easing of nuclear proliferation concerns apropos India and a shift towards normalisation of relations and greater cooperation in the nuclear energy sector.
The approval of India’s safeguards agreement by the IAEA Board of Governors, on August 1, 2008, cleared the path for India’s potential inclusion and assessment at the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
After PM Modi came to power, the arc of US-India relations has come a long way – from the days of sanctions to representing a ‘global strategic partnership’.
The growing convergences between India and the US in their strategic cooperation, externalities in the IndoPacific, and policy shifts on either side have paved the way for the reconfiguration of their relationship.
Over a period of time, there has been a subtle normalisation of dialogue on nuclear issues between Europe and India. With the scope of India– EU relations expanding under the strategic partnership, the EU dropped references to the inclusion of the nonproliferation clause when the mandate to start the free trade agreement negotiations was approved by the EU Council in the year 2007.
NSG waiver by US
However, after India and the US expended immense diplomatic effort, New Delhi was granted the NSG waiver. The US-India Nuclear Deal and clean waiver from the NSG ended India’s isolation from the international nuclear order as New Delhi agreed to place its civilian nuclear facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safeguards.
This was further compounded by the fact that despite staying outside the legal nuclear frameworks, India has consistently emphasised that it is a ‘responsible nuclear power’ by highlighting that it has never contributed to nuclear proliferation or violated any of the agreements on nonproliferation.
A lingering issue
While the European countries granted waivers to India, the issue of New Delhi being a non-signatory to the NPT has been a lingering issue for its membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which remains pending. On this issue, within the European countries, key strands of divisions are visible. The first includes countries such as France and the UK, who support India’s inclusion in the NSG.
And then there are countries such as Ireland and Austria, who oppose India’s membership on the grounds that New Delhi’s non-signatory status on the NPT. At the bilateral level, the NSG waiver and safeguard agreements with the IAEA have paved the way for many European countries to sign nuclear cooperation agreements with India.
Civil nuclear cooperation is a key pillar of the India-France strategic partnership and can be traced back to the 1950s. France was the only Western country that supported India’s nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998.
It was also the first country to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with India in 2008, following the NSG waiver. Apart from France, India also has nuclear cooperation agreements with the UK and Czech Republic.
More importantly, India and the EU also signed a ‘research and development cooperation agreement in the field of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy’ to facilitate cooperation in the peaceful and non-explosive uses of nuclear energy.
For a long time, India-EU conversations were constrained on the issues related to nuclear non-proliferation due to a different policy outlook. However, in the past few years, the situation appears to be changing with the EU’s renewed approach towards India and New Delhi’s own unique and positive track record on the issue of non-proliferation. These developments have helped New Delhi gain wider international acceptance for its nuclear programme, ending decades of nuclear isolation.