Sunday, 8 December 2019

Enemies Of India’s Nuclear Power

Updated: January 1, 2016 10:22 am

Supposedly among America’s “oldest and largest non-partisan, non-profit investigative news organisations”, The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), has over the last one week carried four reports that damn India’s nuclear policy. Globally recognised otherwise as a country that has impeccable non-proliferation record – a feature that has enabled India to conclude civilian nuclear agreements with leading countries having nuclear resources such as the United States, Russia, France, Canada, Australia and now Japan(one of the prominent outcomes of the just concluded visit to India by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe), even though the country is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, better known as NPT—the CPI reports will like the world to ostracise a “nuclear India”, with the allegations that it is not a responsible nuclear power. In fact, it even suggests without naming as such that Pakistan is a safer country than India as far as nuclear proliferation is concerned!

The very timing of these reports makes them suspect. These have been published soon after the Abe visit and the recent trip to India by Ambassador Rafael M. Grossi, the Chairman of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and just on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s summit meeting with Vladimir Putin at Moscow (December 23-24) during which there is every possibility of the two signing an agreement on not only the fifth and sixth units of the Koodankulam nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu but also Moscow   building six additional nuclear reactors of 1,200 megawatts (MW) each in the other southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The principal author of the above articles in CPI is the British journalist Adrian Levy, who mostly writes for the Left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian. The first of the four-part series about India’s civil and military nuclear programme that Levy has written for the CPI(December 14), which, in turn, has co-published with the Huffington Post worldwide and Foreign Policy magazine, says how India’s nuclear industry in Jadugoda in the eastern state of Jharkhand is dumping nuclear waste in the   Subarnarekha river and how nuclear workers, village residents, and children living near uranium mines and factories are falling ill after persistent exposure to unsafe radiation. In the report dated December 15, Levy wrote how India’s nuclear solution to global warming was generating huge domestic protests because of the lack of transparency and accountability. The report quotes extensively the controversial priest/teacher S.P. Udayakumar who has been leading an agitation (hitherto funded lavishly by the international NGO Greenpeace) against the operation of the nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu’s Koodankulam.

The report dated December 16 describes how the Indian government has forcibly taken the Tribal lands in the southern state of Karnataka for a top-secret atomic city, known as Challakere, where centrifuges will spin uranium capable of being used in powerful hydrogen bombs. Levy’s most damning piece appeared on December 17. According to him, the Kalpakkam   nuclear plant is highly unsafe from the security point of view as material here can be easily stolen by “the insiders with grievances, ill motives, or in the worst case, connections to terrorists”. Levy further claims that the international community is well aware of India’s dismal record, but is silent because of the potentials that India has as a market. “Although experts say they regard the issue as urgent, Washington is not pressing India for quick reforms. The Obama administration is instead trying to avoid any dispute that might interrupt a planned expansion of U.S. military sales to Delhi, several senior U.S. officials said in interviews”, he writes.

Levy then gives details of how “ several kilograms of what authorities described as semi-processed uranium were stolen by a criminal gang, allegedly with Pakistani links, from a state mine in Meghalaya, in northeastern India, in 1994. Four years later, a federal politician was arrested near the West Bengal border with 100 kilograms of uranium from India’s Jadugoda mining complex that he was allegedly attempting to sell to Pakistani sympathizers associated with the same gang. A police dossier seen by the Center states that ten more people connected with smuggling were arrested two years after this, in operations that recovered 57 pounds of stolen uranium.

“Then, in 2003, members of a jihad group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, were caught in a village on the Bangladesh border with 225 grams of milled uranium—allegedly illicitly purchased from a mining employee—that they said they intended to wrap around explosives. The Indian authorities initially claimed it was from Kazakhstan but concluded later it was more likely from a uranium mining complex at Jadugoda, in eastern India. In 2008, another criminal gang was caught attempting to smuggle low-grade uranium, capable of being used in a primitive radiation-dispersal device, from one of India’s state-owned mines across the border to Nepal. The same year another group was caught moving an illicit stock of uranium over the border to Bangladesh, the gang having been assisted by the son of an employee at India’s Atomic Minerals Division, which supervises uranium mining and processing.

“In 2009, a nuclear reactor employee in southwest India deliberately poisoned dozens of his colleagues with a radioactive isotope, taking advantage of numerous gaps in plant security, according to an internal government report seen by the Center. And in 2013, leftist guerillas in northeast India illegally obtained uranium ore from a government-run milling complex in northeast India and strapped it to high explosives to make a crude bomb before being caught by police, according to an inspector involved in the case.”

It is on the basis of these incidents that Levy thinks that the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit group in Washington, ranked India 23rd among 25 countries that possess fissile materials, with regard to security practices. Only Iran and North Korea fared worse in the analysis, “which noted that India’s stockpiles are growing and said the country’s nuclear regulator lacked independence from political interference and adequate authority. It said the risks stemmed in part from India’s culture of widespread corruption—which helped force the nation’s ruling Congress party from power in May 2014—as well as its general political instability.”

Imagine the pearls of wisdom flowing from Levy’s pen. Let alone the credibility of his reports, his conclusion that India cannot be a responsible nuclear power because its leaders are corrupt and the country does not have political stability is perverse, to say the least. Levy is essentially an “India-hater”, though he finds the country very comfortable to write his reports and books for essentially those Leftist organisations and publications that love Indian poverty and will always pray that India eternally remained poverty-stricken and underdeveloped. Take the case of the CPI. This organisation, to begin with, was heavily funded by Left-wing George Soros, a Hungarian-born American business magnate, investor, philanthropist, and author. The CPI is helped by Ford Foundation, the organisation which in India is notorious for funding anti-development NGOs. And it gets money from donors who also fund the likes of Greenpeace, another foreign NGO hell bent on stalling developmental activities in India in the name of environment and human rights.

The CPI is known for its activism than real and authentic journalism. It is often surrounded by controversies for questionable and even illegal reporting practices. In 2008, the CPI wrote about global cigarette smuggling but it was discovered that the piece was promoted by Tobacco Free Kids, which claimed to have “coordinated” the funding. In 2010, a CPI story on overfishing of bluefin tuna was co-produced by the World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations, an unethical practice. In 2011, going by an editorial in Washington Post, the CPI trashed Koch Industries (a conglomerate of oil refineries) in several stories fraught with errors. In 2012, the CPI has published a piece on the dental industry in the US, which became a laughing stock for containing serious factual errors.

I am sure that CPI’s pieces on India’s nuclear programme are similarly fraught with motivated and twisted facts. I have already pointed out the timing of these pieces, the purpose being to project India’s nuclear capacity negatively at a time when the Modi government is determined to promote non-pollutant nuclear energy for the country’s development. As NSG Chairman Grossi told me in an interview (published elsewhere), as relatively clean source of energy, nuclear industry is expanding globally. China has or proposes to have 30 Nuclear Power Plants (NPP). India wants to have eight or ten of them. Bangladesh is building one. NPPs are under construction in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America and East Europe. And here, one is not talking of the well established NPPs in the developed world.

This being the case, India is legitimately aspiring for gaining the membership of the NSG. According to Grossi, “No member in NSG is against India. India is far more advanced in nuclear energy than many NSG members. You just cannot ignore India. India is a key nuclear power that has focused on developing its nuclear energy for use in the agriculture sector, in the field of medicine, in the development of its nuclear plants. It has an excellent reputation, an indisputable role, which will be much more in the future. The globalisation of India’s nuclear programme is something to be welcomed.”

But then, ultimately, the decision on India’s membership is going to be a political decision of NSG’s 48 members. The NSG functions on the premise of compatibility and consensus. May be, the CPI reports are aimed at making this consensus a little difficult for India.

By Prakash Nanda

prakashnanda@udayindia.in

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