US- India relations: Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, 2006

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October 9, 2008: The Times of India

WASHINGTON: Following is the chronology of events in the landmark Indo-US nuclear agreement since US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conceived the deal in July, 2005: July 18, 2005: President Bush and Prime Minister Singh first announce their intention to enter into a nuclear agreement in Washington.

March 1, 2006: Bush visits India for the first time. March 3, 2006: Bush and Singh issue a joint statement on their growing strategic partnership, emphasising their agreement on civil nuclear cooperation.

July 26, 2006: The US House of Representatives passes the 'Henry J Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006,' which stipulates that Washington will cooperate with New Delhi on nuclear issues and exempt it from signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

July 28, 2006: The Left parties demand threadbare discussion on the issue in Parliament.

November 16, 2006: The US Senate passes the 'United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation and US Additional Protocol Implementation Act' to "exempt from certain requirements of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 United States exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology to India."

December 18, 2006: President Bush signs into law congressional legislation on Indian atomic energy.

July 27, 2007: Negotiations on a bilateral agreement between the United States and India conclude.

Aug 3, 2007: The text of the 'Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of India concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy' (123 Agreement) is released by both governments.

Aug 13, 2007: Prime Minister Singh makes a suo motu statement on the deal in Parliament.

Aug 17, 2007: CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat says the 'honeymoon (with government) may be over but the marriage can go on'.

Sept 4, 2007: UPA-Left committee to discuss nuclear deal set up.

Feb 25, 2008: Left parties say the UPA would have to choose between the deal and its government's stability.

March 3, 2008: Left parties warn of 'serious consequences' if the nuclear deal is operationalised.

March 6, 2008: Left parties set a deadline asking the government to make it clear by March 15 whether it intended to proceed with the nuclear deal or drop it.

March 7, 2008: CPI writes to the Prime Minister, warns of withdrawal of support if government goes ahead with the deal.

March 14, 2008: CPI(M) says the Left parties will not be responsible if the government falls over the nuclear deal.

April 23, 2008: Government says it will seek the sense of the House on the 123 Agreement before it is taken up for ratification by the American Congress.

June 17, 2008: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee meets Prakash Karat, asks the Left to allow the government to go ahead with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement.

June 30, 2008: Prime Minister says his government prepared to face Parliament before operationalising the deal.

July 8, 2008: Left parties withdraw support to government.

July 9, 2008: The draft India-specific safeguards accord with the IAEA circulated to IAEA's Board of Governors for approval.

July 10, 2008: Prime Minister calls for a vote of confidence in Parliament.

July 14, 2008: The IAEA says it will meet on August 1 to consider the India-specific safeguards agreement.

July 18, 2008: Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon briefs the IAEA Board of Governors and some NSG countries in Vienna on the safeguards agreement.

July 22, 2008: Government is willing to look at "possible amendments" to the Atomic Energy Act to ensure that the country's strategic autonomy will never be compromised, says Prime Minister Singh.

July 22, 2008: UPA government wins trust vote in the Lok Sabha.

July 24, 2008: India dismisses warning by Pakistan that the deal will accelerate an atomic arms race in the sub-continent.

July 24, 2008: India launches full blast lobbying among the 45-nation NSG for an exemption for nuclear commerce.

July 25, 2008: IAEA secretariat briefs member states on India-specific safeguards agreement.

Aug 1, 2008: IAEA Board of Governors adopts India- specific safeguards agreement unanimously.

Aug 21-22, 2008: The NSG meet to consider an India waiver ends inconclusively amid reservations by some countries.

Sep 4-6, 2008: The NSG meets for the second time on the issue after the US comes up with a revised draft and grants waiver to India after marathon parleys.

Sept 11: President Bush sends the text of the 123 Agreement to the US Congress for final approval.

Sept 12: US remains silent over the controversy in India triggered by President Bush's assertions that nuclear fuel supply assurances to New Delhi under the deal were only political commitments and not legally binding.

Sept 13: The State Department issues a fact sheet on the nuclear deal saying the initiative will help meet India's growing energy requirements and strengthen the non- proliferation regime by welcoming New Delhi into globally accepted nonproliferation standards and practices.

Sept 18: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee kicks off a crucial hearing on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Sept 19: America's nuclear fuel supply assurances to India are a "political commitment" and the government cannot "legally compel" US firms to sell a "given product" to New Delhi, top officials tells Congressional panel.

Sept 21: US financial crisis diverts attention from N-deal as both the Bush Administration and the Congress are bogged down over efforts to rescue bankrupt American banks. financial crisis in the country.

Sept 26: PM Singh meets President Bush at the White House, but were not able to sign the nuclear deal as the Congress did not approve it.

Sept 27: House of Representatives approves the Indo-US nuclear deal. 298 members voted for the Bill while 117 voted against.

Oct 1: Senate approves the Indo-US civil nuclear deal with 86 votes for and 13 against.

Oct 4: Secretary of State Rice visits Delhi. India and the US unable to ink the nuclear agreement with New Delhi insisting that it would do so only after President Bush signs it into a law, an occasion when it expects certain misgivings to be cleared.

Oct 4: White House announces that President Bush will sign the legislation on the Indo-US nuclear deal into a law on October 8.

Oct 8: President Bush signs legislation to enact the landmark US-India civilian nuclear agreement.


Meenakshi Ahamed, May 3, 2021: The Times of India

As part of the agreement, India agreed to separate its military and civilian facilities. India’s nuclear programme had grown organically. Excluded from the international nuclear organisations since 1974, Indian-built facilities were not subject to international requirements and inspections. (The announcement of the strategic partnership was a framework for civil nuclear cooperation. Although some important criteria had been negotiated, there were many details that still needed to be agreed on, like the separation agreement.)

Some civilian facilities had military components and separating the facilities was a monumental task for the DAE to undertake. The DAE’s claim on resources and its special status in the Indian government derived from the strategic programme. The department was naturally reluctant to see it split and its jurisdictions interfered with. Although this was an internal political issue for India, it was a major consideration for the DAE and contributed to the pushback encountered during the negotiations.

Sovereignty continued to be a sensitive issue. A relevant question that had arisen was, who decides which facilities remain civilian and come under international inspections and which remain dark?

India insisted that it be the sole decision maker. This created a great deal of unease between the parties. The US said it needed to satisfy its non-proliferation people and were willing to designate only two reactors as strategic and, therefore, off-limits to inspectors. The Indians were furious and made it clear this was not a decision they would allow the US to appropriate.

At the time, India’s fast breeder reactors were listed as civilian on the DAE website, so the US argued, “Since you yourself say it's civilian, why can’t they be inspected?” India said no way.

President Bush was slated to arrive in India in March 2006. The goal was to complete the bilateral agreement based on the framework that had been announced the previous year, during Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US. Once the bilateral agreement was in place, it could be presented to the respective governments for approval. But the negotiations proved even more contentious than the last one leading to the July 2005 agreement.

Once again, the DAE wanted assurances regarding fuel security and resisted any constraints on its freedom to test or open its breeder reactors to international scrutiny. Indian political turf wars between the DAE, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office brought negotiations close to collapse. The US team, frustrated at what they saw as Indian obduracy and angry because they felt they had worked hard and with sincerity to get a deal done, often felt the DAE was being churlish and uncooperative. (Tarapur was never far from their minds. The US withdrew as a supplier of fuel after India’s explosion. India wanted the US to guarantee lifetime supplies of nuclear fuel.).

The ghosts of Tarapur were never fully exorcised and hovered over the discussions. Recalling Tarapur, India wanted to link fuel security to safeguards. If fuel supply was ever stopped for any reason again, as it had been with Tarapur, India wanted to be released from all obligations to observe safeguards and be free to pursue its nuclear programme as it saw fit.

When Air Force One landed in Delhi, Bush was told there was no agreement and no announcement for him to make. Just as the trip looked like it was a wasted opportunity, Hadley and Burns disappeared into a room with MK Narayanan (MK) and Saran. They worked past midnight reworking the language to satisfy the objections. Mulford, the US ambassador, kept saying that they were wasting their time, that they should go to bed and that it was getting late. Hadley recalls he decided to continue negotiating to see if they could come to an agreement, but by dawn, they conceded defeat.

In the morning, Hadley came back to MK and said the president really wanted to get it done and would personally give his assurance on fuel security and a couple of other sticking points, after which DAE gave it its blessing; finally, they had an agreement.

Most crucially, the agreement had the support of the senior DAE official, Secretary Kakodkar; though, according to some attendees, he still wore a glum expression the day after the agreement. The DAE had clung to the position that no deal was better than one that compromised India’s freedom.

The ‘separation plan’ was announced by India in March 2006 during President Bush’s visit. The agreement was announced at a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan, to which Condoleezza Rice wore a shimmering gown by Ralph Lauren and President Bush wore a tuxedo, with the New York Times carrying the picture on the front page.

US cooperation was strictly limited to India’s civilian facilities, which it agreed to place under international safeguards in accordance with the IAEA regulations. It was agreed that fourteen out of India’s twenty-two facilities would be subject to international safeguards. India also agreed to voluntarily continue its moratorium on nuclear testing. The negotiations between the two democracies seldom went smoothly. There were many hiccups along the way. The agreement would often get stuck and MK would call Hadley and tell him he needed to come and break the logjam. Hadley would help them find a way out of the impasse.

“MK was getting a lot of resistance from the Indian negotiators. When there was a problem, the question was to give some political impetus to the negotiations and find a workaround. I would take the various pieces, put them in a memo and get it blessed by the president. Narayanan would do the same with the PM. We knew the only way we would get this done is if this was viewed as the personal project of the PM and the president. Every time the negotiation would get stuck, I would bring it back to the political level and reaffirm the commitment of the president and prime minister. Then MK would take it back to his bureaucracy, and things would get unstuck.”

The level of cooperation between the teams and opposing parties was both unique and unprecedented. While there were many moments of tension, and hard negotiations, once the two sides had agreed among themselves, they went out of their way to help each other bring their dissenting members along. It had taken two years and multiple meetings to find an agreement that the leaders of both countries found acceptable, but this was just the beginning. Now they had to sell it to their respective governments. Manmohan Singh returned to India and made a formal announcement to Parliament, providing members with the broad outlines of the agreement, and Bush presented it to Congress.

(Excerpted with permission from Harper Collins India)

A Fact Sheet


Fact Sheet on the India US Civil Nuclear energy Co-operation:Conclusion of the ‘123’ Agreement

Joint Statement of July 18, 2005

India and the US announced that they would co-operate in civil nuclear energy in the Joint Statement of July 18, 2005 by PM and President Bush during the visit of PM to Washington.


It was envisaged that the United States would adjust its laws and policies and work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India. Reciprocally, India committed itself to identifying and separating civilian and military nuclear facilities in a phased manner, placing voluntarily its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, signing an Additional Protocol and continuing India’s voluntary and unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing.

Separation Plan and Passage of Enabling Legislation by the US

To implement this, several important steps have been completed already: a Separation Plan was agreed to at the time of President Bush’s visit to India in March 2006. This was followed by the passage of the enabling legislation in the US Congress, exempting the requirement, vide Section 123(a) (2) of the US Atomic Energy Act of full-scope safeguards as a condition for civil nuclear cooperation with India. The US Congress passed the legislation with bipartisan majority support. This cleared the way for the next important step – of concluding a bilateral agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy to implement the understandings of July 2005 and March 2006.


Five rounds of negotiations took place between June 2006 and July, 2007. The objective of the negotiations was to incorporate into a legal agreement the political understandings and commitments of July 2005 and March 2006 and the terms and basic principles listed out in the statement of Prime Minister in Parliament on August 17, 2006.

Features of the Agreement

The Agreement is "between two States possessing advanced nuclear technology, both parties having the same benefits and advantages”.

The purpose of the agreement is to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation between India and the United States. The Agreement provides for full civil nuclear energy cooperation covering nuclear reactors and aspects of the associated nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment and reprocessing.

The Agreement contains a full reflection of the March 2, 2006 supply assurances, and the provision for corrective measures. The Agreement provides for the development of a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India’s reactors.

The Agreement provides for nuclear trade, transfer of nuclear material, equipment, components, and related technologies and for cooperation in nuclear fuel cycle activities.

The Agreement provides for the application of IAEA safeguards to transferred material and equipment.

The Agreement grants prior consent to reprocess nuclear material, transfer nuclear material and its products. To bring this into effect, India will establish a national reprocessing facility to reprocess IAEA safeguarded nuclear material and the parties will agree on arrangements and procedures within one year.


As finalized the Agreement meets the concerns of both sides and fulfils all the assurances made by Prime Minister to Parliament on August 17, 2006 including three basic principles - that the Agreement will specifically provide that India’s strategic nuclear programme, three-stage Nuclear Programme and R&D activities will remain unhindered and unaffected.

The conclusion of the Agreement to the mutual satisfaction of both governments is symbolic of the transformed nature of the India-US bilateral relationship and an indication of a more intensified engagement in the wide ranging areas that have been identified for our bilateral co-operation including high technology, agriculture, science and technology, space, defence, and global issues of common concern related to the environment, climate change, disaster relief, HIV/AIDS and Avian influenza.

It would help to address the problem of energy deficit that has emerged as one of the primary constraints on accelerating India’s growth rate. Presently, only 3% of India’s energy needs are met from the nuclear sources. India plans to produce 20,000 MWe from the nuclear sector by 2020, an increase from the current 3,700 MWe.

Increased share of nuclear power in the Indian energy mix will diminish the reliance on fossil fuels and reduce emissions from India. We envisage technology solutions to check growth of emissions (e.g. our membership of the Asia Pacific Clean Development Partnership) and the nuclear industry offers value in that respect.

Next Steps

India will now negotiate an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The US will also work with friends and allies in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) for an adjustment of their Guidelines to enable the NSG to enter into nuclear co-operation and trade with India as an equal partner.

New Delhi

July 27, 2007

Benefits to India

Press Trust of India, Business Standard

10 years of Indo-US nuclear deal: What India gained from the historic pact

Following the pacts, there have been specific agreements for import of uranium from France, Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada and Russia

A decade after the historic Indo-US nuclear deal, experts said the pact did not lead to India setting up foreign-built reactors, but it helped fuel domestic power plants and give India access to critical technologies in strategic areas.

They also felt that it gave India the recognition of being a responsible nuclear weapon state with strong non-proliferation credentials.

The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed on October 10, 2008, that gave a fillip to the ties between the two nations, which since then have been on an upswing.

India conducted a nuclear test in 1974, following which a torrent of sanctions hit the country's defence, nuclear and space programmes hard.

"We knew that we had limitations on nuclear trade, so there was a need for progress within," said Anil Kakodkar, the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and former secretary, Department of Atomic Energy when the deal was signed.

India developed Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), which are currently the backbone of the Indian nuclear power generation. In 1998, after conducting nuclear tests, India declared itself a nuclear weapon state.

"The feeling in the West was that the rationale behind sanctions did not hurt India's nuclear military programme," Kakodkar, who is also the member of the AEC, said.

On the other hand, as the number of nuclear reactors rose, the need for uranium hit the domestic reactors, adversely affecting their performance, said R K Sinha, the former chairman of AEC and former secretary, DAE.

"At that time, the concept of global warming was also gaining ground," Kakodkar said, noting India required energy for its growing economy. Sinha said by 2006-2007, the performance of Indian reactors had reduced 50-55 per cent due to shortage of nuclear fuel.

He also pointed out an instance of Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant (RAPS) unit 5 whose operations had to be delayed due to shortage of uranium. The plant later went on to create a record of a continuous run of 765 days on Saturday at its full capacity of 220 MWe.

A major aspect of the Indo-US nuclear deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) gave a special waiver to India that enabled it to sign cooperation agreements with a dozen countries, said former diplomat Rakesh Sood and India's special envoy of the Prime Minister for Disarmament and Non-proliferation Issues from 2013 to 2014. The pact also enabled India to separate its civilian and military programmes. The country currently has 15 of its reactors under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Post waiver, India signed nuclear cooperation agreements for peaceful means with the US, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Korea.

Following the pacts, there have been specific agreements for import of uranium from France, Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada and Russia. Sood said the long-term uranium arrangements enabled India to run the existing plants at 80 per cent efficiency.

According to the responses by the government on questions in Parliament, India imported over 7841.51 metric tonnes of nuclear fuel from 2008-2009 to 2017-18.

Work is also on to create a uranium reserve by importing the element to ensure the power reactors under IAEA safeguards do not face fuel shortage.

Building of foreign nuclear reactors was a major aspect of the Indo-US deal. For this, two sites were earmarked---Mithi Virdi for General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Kovadda in Andhra Pradesh---for building 12 reactors.

M V Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair inDisarmament, Global and HumanSecurity Liu Institute for Global Issues School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia said in terms of building foreign reactors, despite the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, there was "absolutely no construction" at any sites identified for imported reactors.

"Even the government doesn't have much hope that they would be importing large numbers of light water reactors anytime soon," Ramana said. Requesting anonymity, a former senior DAE scientist claimed the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is reluctant to take up the project citing the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act, 2010.

In case of Westinghouse, it is yet to submit a techno-commercial offer, including "reasonable" tariff and a working reference plant. "Unless these criteria are not fulfilled, we will not be going ahead with the deal," the scientist said.

In terms of electricity generation, nuclear power's share of the total power production in the country in 2008 was 2.03 percent, which rose to 3.2 percent in 2017, Ramana said.

Another aspect which Kakodkar pointed out that the deal helped "build confidence" of other countries in India and the cooperation has now been extended to other areas like defence technology.

Kakodkar said after the deal India has joined three major control regimes like the export control regimes---the Missile Technical Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, while work is on for India's entry into the elite NSG.

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