NEW DELHI – India and the United States spelled out Friday how they plan to share atomic fuel and technology under a pact that reverses a three-decade American ban on civilian nuclear trade with New Delhi.
Much of what is in the text of the so-called 1-2-3 agreement released Friday has already been disclosed by officials in New Delhi and Washington, who last week announced they had finalized the technical agreement and were only waiting to brief lawmakers before unveiling it.
Since the broad nuclear deal was first announced in July 2005 it has been touted as cornerstone of an emerging partnership between India and the United States after decades on opposite sides of the Cold War divide.
But it has also elicited criticism from Americans who worried it would stymie U.S. anti-proliferation efforts, especially in Iran, and from Indians who said it would undermine the country's cherished weapons program and sovereignty.
The text released Friday was sure to quiet most of the few remaining Indian critics — New Delhi got nearly everything it wanted, including the right to stockpile fuel and the right to reprocess fuel, a key step in making atomic weapons. However, reprocessing is to take place at a facility safeguarded by U.N. inspectors to prevent it from being used in bombs.
How the deal plays with American critics is a different story — Friday's text makes no mention of what happens in the event of an Indian weapons test.
But it does allow for either party to terminate the agreement with one year's written notice, language that C. Uday Bhaskar of New Delhi's Institute for Defence Studies, said "respects the distinctive concerns that on nuclear issues that both sides."
"It's a very fine balance — in essence, India retains the right to test and the U.S. has the right to respond," he said. "There's no direct reference to a test. But the allusion is there. It allows a positive interpretation for both sides."
The text urges both sides to carefully consider where "the circumstances that may lead to the termination" of the deal were the result of "a changed security environment or as a response to similar actions by other states."
That clause is being widely interpreted in New Delhi as meaning that Washington would have to consider whether India tested a weapon in response to a test by either Pakistan or China, its two biggest rivals.
The text also states that if the fuel supply from the United States is cut off for any reason — an Indian test presumably among them — that Washington would help find third countries to supply New Delhi's reactors. It suggests the material could come from Britain, Russia or France.
The deal, which has a duration of 40 years with the possibility of extending it for another 10 years, allows the United States to ship nuclear fuel and technology to India, which in exchange would open its civilian nuclear reactors to international inspectors. India's military reactors would remain off-limits.
Indian and U.S. lawmakers now need to approve the deal. India also needs to make separate agreements with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an assembly of nations that export nuclear material.