Russia, India Sign Secret Nuclear Energy Accord

Article excerpt

BUILDING ON A history of nuclear cooperation, Russia and India signed a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) October 4 to pursue future "cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy." The MOU was one of several agreements, including a declaration of strategic partnership, signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's October 24 visit to New Delhi. (See p. 28 for coverage of other arms deals.)

The heart of the MOU is a groundbreaking commitment by Russia to assist India with meeting its growing nuclear energy requirements, according to an October 5 article in The Hindu. The Indian daily also reported that the MOU states that the proposed areas of nuclear cooperation would not violate any of Russia's international commitments that restrict the transfer of nuclear materials.

Russia is obligated by its membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) not to transfer any nuclear or dual-use materials to states that have not concluded full-scope safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The NSG, a voluntary regime of nuclear-supplier states, only permits nuclear transfer to states without full-scope safeguards if the transfer was agreed to before the adoption of the NSG's revised guidelines in 1992 or if the transfer is required for safety reasons in exceptional cases. Russia reaffirmed its commitment to NSG export guidelines in May (See ACT, June 2000.)

The U.S. government expressed concern that continued Russian cooperation with India, whose facilities are not under fullscope safeguards, could damage the credibility of the NSG regime. In an October 30 interview, a State Department official said that the United States "does not believe that any NSG member should provide nuclear assistance to a non-nuclear-weapon state that does not have full-scope safeguards."

However, a Russian source knowledgeable of the issue speculated that the MOU might place "conditions on cooperation" by which India would have to sign an agreement with the IAEA on full-scope safeguards. …