The United Kingdom is expected to formally announce today that it would allow the export of nuclear technology to India, ending a long-standing ban on atomic trade with the nuclear-armed South Asian nation, the London Telegraph reported (see GSN, Feb. 5).
The new bilateral civilian trade deal is to operate on a "presumption" that British nuclear products licensed for export would be put to use in India's nuclear energy industry. Transactions that create concerns are to be examined under a regime of "assessed risk."
British Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled today in India to unveil the trade deal, which also contains a promise to collaborate on nuclear research.
The previous Labor Party administration in London had avoided nuclear trade with India because it had not joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. There were also worries that the Indian government had not adequately guaranteed there would be no cross-over of material from New Delhi's civilian atomic sector to its military program.
In the meantime, the United States and other atomic exporters signed deals authorizing trade of nuclear materials and technology to India.
Last month, British Business Secretary Vince Cable advised government ministers that the trade ban be ended in light of Washington's 2008 landmark nuclear trade deal with India and concerns that the United Kingdom's companies were being kept out of a lucrative emerging market. Cameron and select members of his Cabinet agreed to move ahead with the plan despite concerns from some high-level diplomatic and military personnel (Rosa Prince, London Telegraph, July 28).
The British Defense Ministry and Foreign Office worry about the potential connection between India's civilian and military nuclear operations and about angering Pakistan, which is sensitive to any foreign deals it perceives would tilt the nuclear balance in favor of its neighboring rival, the London Guardian reported.
"There are obvious security sensitivities. We are conscious of those, as are the Indians," Cable said today. "But within those constraints we really want to push ahead with civil nuclear cooperation. That would be quite a big sector within which we could really make progress" (Nicholas Watt, London Guardian, July 28).