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When Indian Nuke Programme narrowly escaped US Curbs
By Makhdoom Babar

While the Bush Administration was making desperate efforts to regain White House with challenger John Kerry coming hard on Washington’s failure to effectively tackle global nuclear proliferation and opening peripheral fronts, the Nuclear Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), India’s state nuclear agency, made a narrow escape from be being blacklisted and sanctioned by the US State Department in September this year reveal the latest findings of The Daily Mail. It may be recalled that US State Department placed sanctions on two former Chairmen of NPCIL Y.S.R. Prasad and Chaudary Surinder under Nonproliferation Act 2000 through Public Notice No-4845, notified in the Federal Register as 69FR 58212 NOTICE on September 29, 2004. However, according to The Daily Mail findings the original recommendation of the US Department of Energy and Non-proliferation Bureau of State Department was to sanction the NPCIL itself for there was convincing evidence that the two leading Indian Nuke scientists one of whom Prasad, also regarded as the real father of Indian nuclear weapon programme, were not acting in their individual capacity but were engaged in nuclear proliferation assistance to Iran at the behest of Indian government and agencies.
As a result of ‘usual leaks’ in the US Administration the Indian lobby at Washington D.C. forewarned the Indian government of the imminent sanctions and the Indo-Israeli caucus made frantic efforts to rescue India’s nuke programme from coming under threat. Being a US Presidential election year, the Indian NRI lobby was immediately mobilized. Some strong Hindu organization including--------, which are regular recipients of financial assistance from New Delhi started supporting Kerry campaign as a threat to the Bush camp. At the same time the Indian External Affairs Ministry approached the State Department giving certain assurances to Washington D.C, including offering attractive incentive of reconsidering US request for Indian troops to Iraq. Owing to gains being made by the Kerry campaign in the opinion polls based on his stance on Iraq, Iran and nuclear proliferation issues and targeting Bush’s Foreign Policy, the Bush Administration thought it best not to completely antagonize the Indian lobby in the US and opted to keep a low profile in this regard, accepting Delhi’s request of sanctioning its two individuals instead of imposing curbs on NPCIL. However, the State Department put NPCIL placed on internal strict watch list for any further proliferation activity and it remains under review.
The Daily Mail’s findings further reveal that the International Nucleacr watch-dog the IAEA’s Director General also approached Indian Permamnent Representative in Vienna, asking for further details of Proliferation activities of the Prasad –Chaudary Network, particularly with reference to the ongoing investigations into the breach of NPT obligations and Safeguards Agreement by Tehran. The IAEA has also informally requested for de-briefing sessions with Prasad and Chaudhary as well as other officials of NPCIL and Indian Nuclear Establishment. According to certain credible information, some of the IAEA officials had even hinted to the Indian Permanent Mission at Vienna that a non- cooperation by Delhi could make its way into the Director General’s Report to Agency’s Board of Governors for its meeting being currently convened at Vienna. The IAEA, on the other hand gave example of Pakistan’s cooperation and its steps to ensure non proliferation. However, the matter is still being discussed between the two sides.
The Daily Mail's findings further reveal Dr Y. S. R. Prasad’s lifelong history of questionable practices while working with the Indian nuclear establishment and even after his tenure at NPCIL. During his frequent visits to the former Soviet Union in connection with nuclear collaboration programme between India and USSR subsequently Russia, Prasad developed an extensive network with the lowly paid Russian Nuclear Scientists. Many of these scientists were either laid off or were further meagerly paid after Soviet breakup owing to inflation and devaluation. Prasad soon developed a network of nuclear underworld with the help off these Russian scientists who were willing to offer everything from the poorly audited nuclear inventories of Russia and other breakaway Republics. At many of these facilities guards and even scientist remained without salaries for months.
NPCIL, which Prasad headed, became a breading ground for nepotism and sycophancy degenerating to a dangerous cover-up culture. Prasad was the linchpin of an unholy nexus between unscrupulous business establishments, corrupt officials of NPCIL and the 'sacred cow' Department of Atomic Energy of India. Serious irregularities were discovered by audit in the procurement by NPCIL for Kakrapara Atomic Power Station. Fraudulent practices were also reported in procurement for Kaiga I and II Power Stations in Karnatka and RAPP III and IV Power Stations at Rawatbhata near Kota, Rajasthan[xviii]. Prasad meanwhile managed to get an extension in his service through his networking within the Indian nuclear establishment particularly with the blessings of Chairman AEC and Secretary DAE Dr. Chidambaram, despite having reached the age of superannuation in 1998. Nonetheless, Prasad realized that it would be difficult for him to clinch to the Indian nuclear network for long and started looking for other venues. His contacts with Iran in connection with clandestine nuclear cooperation with India proved handy and landed him a job in Tehran. The former Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha who is a close friend and also hails from the Bihar province of India like Prasad also played a key role in procuring a multimillion dollar Iranian contract to Prasad. Prasad was issued a fake id. and passport with a Muslim name of Dr. A. Ansari to cover his real identity.
Prasad left NPCIL on 30 April 2003 but before he managed to manipulate putting his close confidant Chaudary Surender in his shoes even though Chaudary was also on a two years extension due to expire in August 2000. The purpose making Chaudary Surender as successor of Prasad was to ensure uninterrupted supply of sensitive nuclear technology and materials from NPCIL to the Iranian nuclear programme, which was now being steered at a rapid pace by Prasad. Tehran’s nuclear programme received a major boost with joining of Prasad. Owing to his resourceful network within the Indian and Russian nuclear circles, pieces of nuclear puzzle started to fall in place at an amazing pace. Alarm bells were raised and US put pressure on IAEA to verify certain violations of Treaty obligations by Iran, supplying it some information from its own intelligence, which finally resulted in IAEA’s inspections in Iran. Thus Prasad unwittingly proved to be a precipitating factor in the disclosure of Iran's secret nuclear programme.
Although the Indian proliferation activities in Iran, Iraq, Libya and many other countries were under scrutiny of US agencies for sometime, The Daily Mail’s earlier report of 5th March 2004, exposing Prasad-Chaudary global nuclear proliferation network to world community, acted as catalyst for a swift US action in order to demonstrate an even handed approach. The Daily Mail report had on the other hand started a discussion in the international media with the leading newspapers of US and Europe including French Newspaper ‘Le Monde’ quoting its excerpts and calling for urgent action to curb the Indian proliferation activities.
The Diplomatic and Non proliferation analysts believe that now since President Bush is back to the routine business after winning the election, there is every likelihood that he would review his earlier decision of sparing Indian nuke programme to the alter of a couple of Indian Nuke Scientists and would for sure come hard on Delhi for its involvement in Nuke proliferation games. What the Bush and the State Department are going to do and to do when, it is to be seen

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