The Narendra Modi government has in one stroke enhanced India’s energy security by ratifying the Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The issue has been pending for more than five years for want of a decision by the UPA government. With the ratification, the decks have been cleared for import of nuclear technology and raw material like enriched uranium for nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is the cornerstone of the Modi government’s plan to secure energy for India’s power needs. The ratification has paved the way for India’s entry into the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group that meets at Buenos Aires next week.
The Additional Protocol had been specially drafted for India and it is far less intrusive than the agency’s standard Protocol for non-nuclear weapon states. It is applicable only to those nuclear plants which do not produce nuclear weapons. The Additional Protocol allows the IAEA officials to visit the plants as many times as they want on multiple-entry visas. Their purpose will be to ensure that nuclear exports from India are not for non-peaceful purposes. Since India has one of the best non-proliferation records, it has little to fear from the IAEA inspections. It is, in fact, surprising that the Additional Protocol has been pending for so long, though it was envisaged in the India-US agreement signed in July 2005.
The ratification of the Additional Protocol is thus a fulfilment of India’s obligation to the US. It will help the prime minister, who is scheduled to visit Washington in September, to take the India-US strategic partnership to the next level. It will also facilitate nuclear trade between India and Japan, France and the US. The shortage of enriched uranium will thus come to an end. As traditional sources of energy are unlikely to meet the burgeoning energy needs of the country, harnessing nuclear energy has become imperative. However, that should not be at the cost of safety of the nuclear plants that are either being set up or are planned to be set up in the near future.