India, which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and does not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all of its nuclear material, exploded a “peaceful” nuclear device in 1974, convincing the world of the need for greater restrictions on nuclear trade. The United States created the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as a direct response to India’s test, halted nuclear exports to India a few years later, and worked to convince other states to do the same. India tested nuclear weapons again in 1998. However, President Bush announced July 18, 2005, he would “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India” and would “also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies,” in the context of a broader partnership with India.
U.S. nuclear cooperation with other countries is governed by the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 (P.L. 95-242). However, P.L. 109-401, which President Bush signed into law on December 18, 2006, allows the President to waive several provisions of the AEA. On September 10, 2008, President Bush submitted to Congress, in addition to other required documents, a written determination that P.L. 109-401’s requirements for U.S. nuclear cooperation with India to proceed had been met. President Bush signed P.L. 110-369, which approved the agreement, into law October 8, 2008. Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and India’s then-External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee signed the agreement two days later, and it entered into force December 6, 2008. Additionally, the United States and India signed a subsequent arrangement in July 2010 which governs “arrangements and procedures under which” India may reprocess U.S.- origin nuclear fuel in two new national reprocessing facilities, which New Delhi has not yet constructed.
The NSG, at the behest of the Bush Administration, agreed in September 2008 to exempt India from some of its export guidelines. That decision has effectively left decisions regarding nuclear commerce with India almost entirely up to individual governments. Since the NSG decision, India has concluded numerous nuclear cooperation agreements with foreign suppliers. However, U.S. companies have not yet started nuclear trade with India and may be reluctant to do so if New Delhi does not resolve concerns regarding its policies on liability for nuclear reactor operators and suppliers. Taking a step to resolve such concerns, India signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which has not yet entered into force, October 27, 2010. However, many observers have argued that Indian nuclear liability legislation adopted in August 2010 is inconsistent with the Convention.
The Obama Administration has continued with the Bush Administration’s policy regarding civil nuclear cooperation with India. According to a November 8, 2010, White House fact sheet, the United States “intends to support India’s full membership” in the NSG, as well as other multilateral export control regimes.
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