The Hindu's deputy editor Siddharth Varadarajan, who is in Vienna to cover the Nuclear Suppliers Group meet, chatted with rediff.com readers on Thursday on the secret but not classified correspondence between the US State Department and the then chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Lantos and India's chances of getting a waiver at the NSG. Following is the transcript of the chat: wisdom asked, Also after getting an NSG Nod can we go for more agreements with other nations like France and ignore america altogether as a vendor if they pose stringent sanctions?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, at 2008-09-04 11:45:29Yes, so long as the NSG waiver is satisfactory. That would be the prudent strategy to follow.
wisdom asked, Hi siddharth , The letter released yesterday , if true ,is detrimental to indian interests .. Now whats the truth ? Who is lying ? PM or Bush ?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, The letter shows the US negotiated in bad faith. The 123 agreement says exactly what it does. It is not up to one of the parties, the U.S., arbitrarily to now define phrases used therein. For example, the letter says "fuel supply disruptions" mean disruptions which occur because of events beyond India's control. From this arbitrary redefinition, they go on to say they will not stick to the fuel supply assurances contained if India were to test and that were to cause a disruption. Well, the agreement does not say that. And India has certainly not agreed to that. So the US is trying to renege on an agreement, and move the goalposts once again. Neither Bush nor Manmohan is "lying". But the US has shown it is not a trustworthy partner. Manmohan, at a minimum, needs to say this.
Jaihind asked, Which way will China go?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, China will not stand in the way of whatever consensus emerges in favour of or against the waiver.
jerry asked, I think the agreement is not worth the piece of paper it is written on because if india tests sanctions can kick in aggreement or no aggreement.So say if we get NSG approval the most imp. thing will be to build a strategic reserve my question is will India be allowed or able to build a strategic reserve?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, A strategic reserve is the way to go, because that remains under your control and can help you tide over sanctions or disruptions caused for a variety of reasons. There is nothing in the draft NSG waiver which would prevent India to build such a reserve, though there are obvious cost, security and storage factors to be taken into account.
Babu asked, HI Siddarth Will these deal will legal binding of international laws, or is it just the deal between US and India. Suppoese we fail to continue our commitement of unilateral morotorium, will india be subjected to international enquiry?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, As the new draft says, the NSG will consult with each other in the event of another test by India. But termination of supplies by the group as a whole would require another decision by consensus.
kehava asked, Hi Siddharth, The change of original draft will be problem for India, if they put some conditions to get wavier. do you think at this juncture it helps India? what should central government do? we need to go ahead or withdraw or not accept the change of draft? if they accept the word given to parliament by Dr. sign is worng, if we don't go with deal, till now what happen will be drama and people will loose the confidence in congress
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, India should stick to its stand on a clean and unconditional waiver. If the NSG does not agree, it should walk away. The collapse of the deal under such circumstances would not be a tragedy except that the Manmohan Singh government acted rashly in going slow or even rejecting other energy options it had in hand (such as the Iran pipeline) because it had so much faith in the Bush administration's ability and inclination to deliver on its promise.
girish asked, Hello Siddarth, Is the pre-meeting grapewine positive or negative for the vote ?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, The buzz in Vienna as of yesterday and this morning is that the waiver will NOT be approved this time around either and that fresh changes will be demanded.
niil asked, hi siddarth do you not feel govt of india cheat with the nation pls give answer yes/no format only not like diplomate
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, I don't think GOI has cheated the nation on this issue. Our negotiators negotiated in good faith. But the U.S. is trying to cheat India and if GOI does not point this out frankly, it will be an accomplice.
Manish asked, Hi siddharth is this document a modification to original draft
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, Which document? There is a new waiver, finalised on September 1. It differs from the earlier draft in several respects.
lars asked, Hello, Watz your comment on this issue ? Is this going to do any good to the nation ? Does it contradict PM's statement ?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, It is in the country's interest to have sanctions lifted. But the final product has to be within the parameters agreed to in July 18, 20065, without any additionalities or conditions.
Devesh asked, Hi Siddharth , How much preessure is there on Indian squad?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, Indians are not part of the NSG but there might be pressure tonight and again tomorrow when the Americans revert with fresh demands and conditions.
wisdom asked, To what extent we can rely on US as a vendor ? I mean over reliance on US will be detrimental and It is home to many qualified vendors including GE and Westing House . France is well developed in Nuclear energy as it produces more than 75% of its total energy needs . So in effect what could be a viable policy in selecting vendors for projects?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, It would be useful to have U.S. vendors "in the fray" so you have better price discovery. Russian and French reactors are more competitively priced so they will win, but having US vendors competing might lower prices. But buying from the US is a diffeent thing. I was always an advocate of "don't buy American" and have argued this in The Hindu (see the archives on my blog http://svaradarajan.blogspot.com for these articles) since last year. But the publication of the State Department letter should make it clear to everyone that given the HUGE differences in interpretation, India would be foolish to commit even a farthing on American equipment.
wisdom asked, How much pressure the released letter wil put on US squad , particularly when you see that US is promising more stringent sanctions in the letter and they are arguing for a minor version in NSG ? ( Its like the NSG waiver which US is demanding for India is against spirit of letter as reavealed yesterday)
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, US will face demands to include similar language in the NSg waiver. This is manna for heaven for the Group of Six.
koo asked, Hello Siddharth .... is nuclear energy really an answer to all our energy woes ?? why is there no debate on this front ?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, You are right. There should be a debate on this. But I see the deal as one which enlarges your energy options. It should not be taken as a cartel blanche for going in for nuclear power regardless of cost and environmental implications.
Gurjit asked, Hi Do you think that the new letter leaked from the US presidents office fake ?? If not should India go with the deal
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, The letter leaked from Congress, but with the knowledge, if not approval of the State Department and White House.
pratap asked, hello .... as a policy shift india is buying defence related items from USA
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, Buying defence equipment is pat of the wider "strategic alliance" the Americans (and some in India) are pushing for.
achuth asked, Hello Sir , do you think Bush has mislead India. If yes what will be Indian Govt Reaction to that ! ??
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, Yes he has, and govt of India has to say so publicly rather than burying its head in the sand.
Manoj Pali asked, Siddharth, Do you agree with the view that there are no new revelations in the letter of State department to Lantos?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, It is not a question of what is "new" or not. The letter repudiates the letter of an agreement bilaterally negotiated with India. That itself suggests India should no longer consider bilateral nuclear commerce with the US under the present circumstances.
Nikhil asked, Tell me that our negotiators saw this coming, because I did. Do we have a strategy to see this through?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, No they did not. There is no strategy either. Other than to see what the NSG decides this week. But we should not think in terms of a third draft waiver. If it is not through this weekend, we should say goodbye.
shrazvi asked, hello siddarth, do you agree that this revealed letter will deflate the egos of our PM and others with him who think that the US support is Panacea for all india's problems.
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, For sure. They have been too trusting of Washington and will now have to pay the price.
AAnurag asked, Don't you think the letter released yesterday might actually end up helping India get the NSG waiver in the sense that the Bush Administration's stand that this letter spells out will help placate the non-proliferation hawks such as Austria, Switzerland and Newzealand? As for them calling off the deal if we tested again, did anybody in their right mind expect anything else.!!
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, No it will not placate. It will, and has, provoke(d). They are saying, we knew this was US policy but why shouldn't Russia and France be held to the same yardstick.
Naresh asked, Hi Siddharth, Why do we need more nuclear weapons. I think we already have nuclear weapons which are many times more powerful then wat were used in Hiroshima/Nagasaki.. I dont see any need to spend so much money in nuclear weapons, and make them as a major issue..
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, We don't need more nuclear weapons and I don't think we need more tests. But these are sovereign decisions Indians must take on the basis of their own assessment and debate. They cannot be imposed through a trade deal.
Zac asked, Siddharth, Personaly do you feel NSG will give us the waiver?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, As of this moment, it looks unlikely, unless Russia and France also weigh in firmly since the demand for conditions is actually a demand to constrain them
Sneha asked, Hi, on scale of what are the possibility of India getting what it wants at NSG?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, 30 to 40 per cent chance, as of now.
Jojo asked, Can smaller nation stop India from having easy access to fuel supply?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, No, but they can prevent the NSG waiver, which means you can't access the international market. Once the waiver is through, though, they will be powerless.
Jojo asked, Is it diffcult to report from Vienna?
Siddharth Varadarajan chat answers, Vienna is pleasant (though a bit warm) but the NSG is not. It is difficult to figure out what goes on there but this being my third visit in a month I have a bank of good contacts from different member countries.
Siddharth Varadarajan chat says, Sorry folks, thanks for the chat, but have to run now. OVER AND OUT.