hough the fourth Indo-US Strategic Dialogue between US Secretary of State John Kerry and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid turned out to be a lacklustre affair, the Americans succeeded in extracting from India an assurance that an agreement between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India would be reached by September and the nuclear liability law diluted to the extent the US seeks. Kerry did not hide America&’s disappointment at not being able to reap the fruits of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement which gave New Delhi special exemptions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Westinghouse was to supply six nuclear reactors for the 6,000 MW, multi-billion dollar Mithivirdi power project in Gujarat, and General Electric, another US giant, the plants for the 10,000 MW Kovvada nuclear power project in Andhra Pradesh. Both sites are mired in environmental and safety concerns and stiff resistance by the local people. While the GE reactor design has not yet been cleared by the US nuclear regulator, Westinghouse has been allowed to share confidential technical information with India&’s Department of Atomic Energy and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Both Westinghouse and GE get their major equipment and components manufactured by Japanese companies under the US-Japan Industrial Agreements and India would have to enter into a separate agreement with Japan to give effect to the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement. Japan is in no mood to sign such agreements unless India signs the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty.
America is at a loss to find markets for nuclear power machinery and equipment manufactured in the wake of a nuclear renaissance ushered in by President Obama during his first term in office when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission received applications for 24 reactors to add to the existing 104. After the 1979 radioactive leak from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, no new plant has come up. The moratorium was broken in 2007 and massive construction began to add 24 reactors. Fukushima put paid to America&’s nuclear renaissance and half-built nuclear power plants dot the US skyline. Far from adding new plants, even the existing ones are closing down as the Federal appeals court froze 19 reactor licences because of on-site storage of spent fuel which posed “dangerous, long-term health and environmental risks.” With the US Department of Energy scrapping a plan to bury spent nuclear fuel in Nevada, the power plants have no option but to store the stuff on site. It is ironic that the US, unable to cope with hazards posed by the nuclear energy industry and escalating costs, should try to burden India with its unsold reactors. A document prepared by the DAE in 2008 titled “A strategy for the growth of electricity in India,” has set a target of 275,000 MW nuclear power capacity by the year 2050, which seems sheer madness. The September deadline for NPCIL to conclude a works agreement with Westinghouse for the Mithivirdi nuclear power plant is rather intriguing.
ny expression of surprise or concern in the home ministry over the CRPF decision to “ground” 50-odd mine-protected vehicles deployed in the Maoist-dominated belt would be dishonest and hypocritical. Years ago “supercop” KPS Gill had condemned those vehicles as poorly fabricated, too fragile to counter the impact of explosive devices, and warned that the personnel they were ferrying would be trapped, probably killed. Nobody took heed. And so now it has been decided that the risk of mass injury would be reduced if foot patrols were conducted ~ yet that would make for slower movement of jawans and leave them virtually unprotected. In the short term that may be a tactically sound decision, but it speaks volumes for the manner in which paramilitary personnel are condemned to be cannon fodder for an adversary known to employ sophisticated weaponry, and now well-versed (courtesy the LTTE?) in the business of planting explosives deep under the road surface. It is no comfort that some lives have been “saved” by shunning the low-grade vehicles ~ many jawans on foot patrols have also been gunned down. Not all that long ago when the IED threat was “live” in Jammu and Kashmir the Army was provided a fleet of highly specialised pre-used/refurbished specialised trucks procured from South Africa ~ a grim reminder of the difference between olive-green and khaki. At a recent interaction with industrialists, key paramilitary officers made no secret of the local “market” meeting few their requirements ~ not even quality helmets. They spoke of cumbersome flak jackets, indeed even of the packs of pre-cooked food being so heavy that the jawans often declined to carry them into the field. Is this acceptable? When the Prime Minister, and virtually all political leaders declare the Maoist threat to be “grave” ~ and it has not developed overnight ~ what has prevented the home ministry from looking to the international market, and setting up a task force to galvanise industry into adequately equipping the paramilitary and police? The volumes of the purchases would make economic sense. The real problem is that the paramilitary lacks the clout to pressure netas and babus into action. Financial constraints would be a weak alibi. When 70 per cent of defence equipment is “got abroad”, why must the paramilitary be denied critical requirements? North Block&’s indifference is a crying shame.