What if India conducts nuclear tests? This question has remained a grey area even though the Indo-US nuclear deal has been cleared by the US Senate. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming to New Delhi for a two-day visit on Saturday. Earlier it was reported that she would sign the 123 Agreement during her visit, but certain media reports now suggest that the 123 Agreement may not be ready for signing just yet, and will be signed in Washington next week. What is it that is now causing the delay? One thing is certain, that though the Nuclear Deal has been cleared by a thumping majority in the US Senate, some clauses remain unclear to the public as well politicians of our country.
Apart from the controversial letter that was released by the Republican Howard L. Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee just a day before the NSG meet for the waiver, raises more questions than it answers. The contents of the letter link the possibility of India conducting nuclear tests with the issue nuclear fuel supply by the US. Manmohan Singh and his government in the past have taken pains to assure the country that India's testing of nuclear weapons will not affect uninterrupted fuel supply to India - whereas the letter seems to suggest otherwise. The letter says that the United States would help India deal only with "disruptions in supply to India that may result through no fault of its own," such as a trade war or market disruptions. "The fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of nonproliferation commitments."
The Indian government has chosen to treat the matter lightly as of now, insisting that none of clauses in the 123 treaty are binding on India's nuclear programme. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, "This is said by Bush to the US Congress, and not our problem at all." But where does that ultimately leave the question of nuclear testing? What if India feels it necessary to test nuclear weapons in response to say, tests by neighbouring countries China or Pakistan? The day the deal came through, amongst other comments the TOI reported that India would not be able to conduct nuclear tests without inviting punishing sanctions.
Part of the NSG waiver was based on the pledge that India would not share sensitive nuclear technology or material with others and maintain its voluntary suspension on testing nuclear weapons. This outlines India's stance regarding the country's disarmament and nonproliferation policies. As of now this is satisfactory, but this admits no provisions for unique situations in the future in case India needs to test nuclear weapons. What will happen in such cases is left unanswered by both the US and Indian government