[Reader-list] Reading Radhilarajen and the Hyde Act/123 Deal

Shuddhabrata Sengupta shuddha at sarai.net
Wed Jun 18 21:57:28 IST 2008

Dear Radhikarajen,

It is interesting that you mention the Hyde Act, and its supposed  
role vis-a-vis the so called "123 treaty" on Nuclear Co-Operation  
between the United States and India in one of your recent posts in  
the thread on "Gujarati Pride".You have done this, while making some  
ad-hominem attacks on journalists of the CNN-IBN channel (for whom I  
hold no brief, for and against) for being 'obviously on someone's  
payroll' etc. I find it interesting that you have to jump from an  
imputed defence of the person or persons who have brought a specious  
case against Ashis Nandy, to a rant on governance and finally to your  
casual observations on the Indo-US Nuclear deal. What connects these  
disparate threads remains a mystery to me.

I think you need to be careful when saying things like 'being on  
payrolls'. Such speculations, are deeply unethical, and do not aid  
the climate of a healthy discussion. In any case, whether or not  
'they' (whoseover they may be) are indeed on someone's payroll is a  
fact that neither aids nor damages your argument. Especially all  
those who oppose the said (nuclear) deal do not necessarily oppose  
Modi, and all those who support Modi do not necessarily oppose the  
deal. So I don't quite understand why, in trying to argue about the  
treatment that Narendra Damodarbhai Modi gets in the media, you have  
to unnecessarily drag in the question of the so called Nuclear deal.  
Is there some kind of special training you have received of trying to  
distract your audience whenever you are criticized on the basis of  
the logic of your argument?

I will spend some time trying to think through the issues that you  
have raised, because, the kind of loose reasoning that you bring to  
this list needs, in my opinion, a redressal, from time to time.

Now, what is the Hyde Act, what exactly is the 123 Treaty
These matters need a little clarification.

The Hyde Act, or, the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful  
Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, to give the act its full  
title, is a piece of legislation, introduced by Congressman Henry  
Hyde, passed by the US Congress, which creates the legal basis (under  
US Law) for co-operation between the United States and India.

US law, ordinarily, declares that the United States cannot enter into  
nuclear collaboration with a country that is not governed by the  
Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban  
Treaty. India, Israel, and Pakistan are countries that have not  
joined the NPT and the CTBT. North Korea joined, but later withdrew.  
Iran, for instance, is a signatory. (which is why it has to allow for  
International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, which it does, dodgily)

US law permits the United States to enter into nuclear energy  
collaboration with declared non-nuclear weapons states who have  
signed the NPT  and the CTBT under section 123  (titled -  
"Cooperation with Other Nations") of the United States Atomic Energy  
Act of 1954. Hence, the United States enters into '123 Agreements'  
with other countries. At the present moment, 25 such agreements have  
been signed, including with countries such as Morocco, Ukraine,  
Romania etc.

The Hyde Act, which incidentally includes provisions inserted by  
Democratic representative for Illinois, Barack Obama to restrict fuel  
supplies to India at a scale commensurate only with "reasonable  
civilian reactor requirements" is in a way, a one-time only exemption  
being made by US lawmakers with regard to India. It may come as  
surprise to some, but the United States has refused, and continues to  
refuse to make the same exemption even for its close ally, Israel.

Some of the people (both CPI-M and BJP, for instance) who say that  
the Hyde Act and provisions of the 123 are discriminatory towards  
India, forget that the acts in themselves represent an exception that  
the United States is prepared to make for India, but not even for  
Israel. Israel has recently lobbied with the US government for an  
extension of the same treatment, effectively saying that the US  
government is unfairly favouring India over Israel.

see -  a recent AP news report to this effect at -

Indeed, the Hyde Act puts limitations on the scope of the 123 Treaty.  
And we might ask, why not? A nuclear power is making a special case  
for relating to another nuclear power that has not joined the NPT or  
the CTBT (that the US has not either is another, not un-interesting  
fact, but nothing compels the United States government to enter into  
treaties with itself, hence this, strictly speaking is of no  
consequence), and in doing so, it might wish to maintain some  

Those who oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal on the grounds that it  
discriminates against India are wrong. It makes a special case for  
India, despite Inida's status as a non-signatory to the NPT and CTBT  
and in a sense puts the Indo-US relationship on an even closer  
footing (in the specific instance of nuclear cooperation) than US- 
Israel ties.

Those who support the Indo-US nuclear deal on the grounds that it  
places no limitations on India are also wrong. Because, the Hyde Act  
clearly places limitations in the events of testing, or any trace of  
military use (which have to be verified by the IAEA).

Both (Indian Pro and Anti Nuclear Deal partisans) see a perfectly  
ordinary piece of legislation through the lens of Indian  
exceptionalism. In one case, by refusing to see that India is not  
discriminated against (because provisions are made for India that are  
not in force for Israel) on the other hand by refusing to see that  
India is treated just like any other country that has signed the 123  
agreement is treated. Why should India be treated any differently  
from Morocco. What makes India, so special?

My take on this is very simple, and I have said it before on this  
list. We do not need nuclear weapons. Hence, the Indian government  
should be pressuriezed to sign the NPT and the CTBT, and then, the  
debate on whether we need nuclear energy supplies can have a real  
meaning. This debate would be on the ecological and political  
implications of nuclear power as a source of energy per se.

Until that occurs, there is nothing to be gained by moving close to  
the United States, or Russia, or France, or any other nuclear power  
for obtaining nuclear supplies. Those opposed to the deal are barking  
up the wrong tree if they think that there can be better 'deals' on  
offer. The only 'better deal' on the terms that these people set, are  
the ones that place on limits or caveats on testing and further  
weaponization. In other words, those, such as the CPI(M) and the BJP  
that oppose the deal, do so, only because they want to keep building  
bombs. Those that support the deal, are somehow convinced that the  
deal wont stop them from testing and building bombs, which is why  
they tell the opponents of the deal that nothing changes once the  
deal is signed. Both parties speak from a position that clearly wants  
to keep building bombs and testing, one with and another without the  
operationalization of the deal. It would be good were a real public  
debate on this fact to occur, instead of the pro and anti US shadow  
boxing that generally takes place in its stead. If this list is a  
space where this could occur, (clearly, it is not happening in the  
mainstream media, again) it would be a welcome thing.

I hope I have made myself abundantly clear.



Shuddhabrata Sengupta
The Sarai Programme at CSDS
Raqs Media Collective
shuddha at sarai.net

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