January 21, 2015
It will soon be 10 years since the India-US joint statement of July 18, 2005, which marked a breakthrough, ending many wasted decades in the bilateral relationship. It had set the stage for a comprehensive and qualitative upgrade of the content of this relationship. A mutual understanding on the nuclear issue lay at its core, and it spawned a series of bilateral and multilateral steps to bring India into the global nuclear mainstream. It is worth looking back to assess the transformation in the image and reality of the Indian nuclear enterprise.
The ambitious bilateral trajectory that commenced in 2005 attracted attention at the highest levels — internationally as well as nationally, not only in government but also Parliament, civil society, academia, business and industry. Naturally, issues in the nuclear field came under close scrutiny as never before. The democratic polity in both countries examined in detail the process set in motion, as also the major milestones on the way to its culmination — the adoption of India-specific safeguards on separated civil nuclear facilities, exemption to India by the Nuclear Suppliers group (NSG), and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between the US and India in 2008. As high politics surrounding nuclear technology yielded place to global nuclear commerce with India, powerful lobbies and interests too became active.
India’s advanced but modest nuclear industry was exposed to media glare and publicity. There was much commentary, not without a measure of dilettantism, on the minutiae of the ongoing dynamic. This has had a mixed impact.