Category Archives: geopolitiek | geopolitics

Video reports Amsterdam meeting “Ukraine between East and West”

Because of the Dutch referendum on the EU Association Treaty with Ukraine (6 April 2016), the Dutch coalition “War is No Solution” (Oorlog is geen Oplossing) held the meeting “Ukraine between East and West” in the Amsterdam debate centre De Balie (20 March 2016).

It has been cut into five fragments with respectively the contributions by prof.dr. Nikolaj Petro of de University of Rhode Island (VS):

prof.dr. Richard Sakwa of the University of Kent (GB):

Andrej Hunko, member of Die Linke in the German parliament, the Bundestag:

Tiny Kox, member of the Dutch Socialist Party in the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer):

Stan van Houcke, an Amsterdam based journalist:

And a discussion with the audience:

Armed with new U.S. money, NATO to strengthen Russia deterrence

Reuters | Robin Emmott – Brussels | Feb 5, 2016

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference during a meeting of the NATO foreign affairs ministers at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Yves Herman

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference during a meeting of the NATO foreign affairs ministers at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Backed by an increase in U.S. military spending, NATO is planning its biggest build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War to deter Russia but will reject Polish demands for permanent bases.

Worried since Russia’s seizure of Crimea that Moscow could rapidly invade Poland or the Baltic states, the Western military alliance wants to bolster defenses on its eastern flank without provoking the Kremlin by stationing large forces permanently.

NATO defense ministers will next week begin outlining plans for a complex web of small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid response force. That force includes air, maritime and special operations units of up to 40,000 personnel.

The allies are also expected to offer Moscow a renewed dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council, which has not met since 2014, about improved military transparency to avoid surprise events and misunderstandings, a senior NATO diplomat said.

U.S. plans for a four-fold increase in military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion in 2017 are central to the strategy, which has been shaped in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The plans are welcomed by NATO whose chief, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, says it will mean “more troops in the eastern part of the alliance … the pre-positioning of equipment, tanks, armored vehicles … more exercises and more investment in infrastructure.”

Such moves will reinforce the message from U.S. President Barack Obama, in a speech he delivered in Estonia in 2014, that NATO will help ensure the independence of the three Baltic states, which for decades were part of the Soviet Union.

Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas openly described Russia as a threat in comments to Reuters last June, but many European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are wary of upsetting the continent’s biggest energy supplier.

With such concerns paramount, diplomats and officials say NATO will not back requests for permanent bases by Poland, which has a history of fraught relations with Russia.

“I am a great proponent of strong deterrents and to improve our resilience, but I do think that the best way to do it is to do it on a rotational basis,” Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told Reuters.

Stoltenberg has also said he will not be “dragged into an arms race.”

Russia has made clear it would regard any moves to bring NATO infrastructure closer to its borders a threat and the Kremlin has warned it would take “reciprocal steps.”

Western powers’ relations with Russia have deteriorated over the almost two-year-old conflict in Ukraine but the West also need Russia’s help in dealing with terrorism and the battle against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

PERSISTENT, NOT PERMANENT

If approved by Congress, Washington says one U.S. armored brigade combat team’s vehicles and equipment will be stored in warehouses in Germany and the east, from Bulgaria to Estonia.

Moving equipment nearer a potential front is seen as crucial to be able to combat quickly Russia’s surface-to-air missile batteries and anti-ship missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave that can prevent forces from entering or moving across air, land and sea.

A study by the RAND Corporation, a U.S. defense think tank, found tat Russia could overrun the Baltics states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania within three days, leaving NATO and the United States no good options to respond.

While avoiding a return to the Cold War when 300,000 U.S. service personnel were stationed in Europe, NATO generals describe it as a “persistent” but not a “permanent” presence, and want to adhere to a 1997 agreement with Moscow not to station substantial combat forces on the NATO-Russia border.

Some diplomats say NATO’s plans recall allied support for West Berlin in the 1950s, when British, French and U.S. forces ensured the Soviet Union could not control all Berlin, although this time many more countries would rotate through.

“You will have small contingents in the east as a symbolic presence. It means you are not just attacking Estonia, but Britain, France or the United States,” said one NATO diplomat.

That drives home the commitment enshrined in NATO’s founding treaty that an attack on one ally is an attack on all, meaning all 28 NATO nations would be required to respond in the case of any potential Russian aggression.

“NO RAMSTEIN IN POLAND”

Details of the plan are far from finalised and the defense ministers meeting next week in Brussels will seek political agreement among all allies before mapping out the strategy. Issues such as how NATO nuclear weapons in Western Europe could play into any potential conflict are extremely sensitive.

Allies say there will not be permanent NATO bases in Poland or the Baltics despite strong campaigning by the new conservative Polish government. Warsaw will host the next summit of NATO leaders in July and sees offers of British and French troops for exercises as signaling a permanent presence, though diplomats deny this is the case.

“There will not be another Ramstein in Poland,” said one NATO diplomat, referring to a large U.S. Air Force base in southwestern Germany.

Poland will, however, be expected to host NATO allies at its bases temporarily and share some costs.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by Paul Taylor and Timothy Heritage)

 

Ukraine and France discuss cooperation in nuclear energy

WNN | 01 February 2016

French diplomats met with Ukrainian parliamentarians last week to discuss increased cooperation between the two countries in nuclear energy. Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Energoatom announced on 29 January that a meeting with the parliamentary Committee on the Fuel and Energy Complex, Nuclear Policy and Nuclear Safety had been held the previous day on the initiative of the French embassy in Kiev.

The meeting was chaired by the committee’s first deputy chairman, Alexander Dombrowski, and was attended by Energoatom representatives and French embassy officials, including Frédéric de Touchet, first counselor to the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of France to Ukraine – Isabelle Dumont – and Vincent Falkoz, an economic advisor at the embassy.

They discussed in particular, Energoatom said, “the need to develop nuclear energy as a low-carbon source in response to the requirements of the new global climate agreement”, as well as the Ukrainian nuclear sector’s increasing independence from its traditional partner, Russia.

The Ukrainian side was represented by Sergiy Bozhko, chairman of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, Vladimir Pishniy, vice president of Energoatom, and Konstantin Zapaishchikov, advisor to the president of Energoatom – Yury Nedashkovsky.

“The French embassy has proposed a parliamentary committee partnership aimed at studying France’s experience in implementing EU directives and French legislation concerning nuclear energy,” Energoatom said.

They also discussed the possibility of joint participation in addressing issues of global nuclear safety, “which is important in the context of ‘post-Fukushima’ measures carried out at nuclear power plants in Ukrainian and around the world”, the company added.

Dombrowski invited the French delegates to committee hearings next month “for a more detailed study of the actual situation facing nuclear energy and nuclear safety in Ukraine”.

Energoatom noted that Ukraine and France “are the European leaders” in terms of the share of nuclear energy in their respective electricity generation mix. Last year, nuclear power accounted for more than 55% of Ukraine’s electricity production, making the country second in Europe only to France, where the share of nuclear power was 75%.

In November last year, Energoatom and French engineering group Areva signed a memorandum of understanding “to reinforce cooperation between the two companies for safety upgrades of existing and future nuclear power plants in Ukraine, lifetime extension and performance optimization”. It was signed by Michael Cerruti, commercial director of Areva’s Reactors and Services Business Group, and Energoatom’s Nedashkovsky. Cerruti said after the signing that the MOU demonstrates Areva’s engagement in Ukraine and its capacity to provide services for all types of nuclear reactors, including Russian-design VVER units.

Energoatom opened an office in Brussels in November 2014 tasked with adapting Ukrainian regulations to European standards; cooperating more closely with European institutions, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Euratom, the nuclear watchdog of the EU; and expanding Energoatom’s range of partners for joint projects in Ukraine and Europe.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Rosatom to raise global presence, open Mumbai office

Russia & India Report | Alessandro Belli | 1 February 2016

Evgeny Griva, DG of Rosatom South Asia, speaks in an interview with RIR about future collaboration between the two countries in the nuclear power sector, in India and abroad.

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Evgeny Griva. Source:Press Photo

Rosatom has been actively building its network of regional offices. How many offices does Rosatom now have abroad, what are the network development plans? Do you plan to establish a representative office in India?

Rosatom is now actively expanding its global footprint. The State Corporation is opening regional offices. Rosatom is expanding its branch network to strengthen its global footprint in accordance with its long-term development strategy of increasing the foreign orders portfolio up to US$190 billion. This is the ambitious but achievable goal of Rosatom for the next 5 years.

Rusatom-International Network Company is in charge of developing and managing Rosatom’s regional network. The regional offices aim to promote products and services offered by Rosatom and explore new businesses. Regional centres are usually located in the countries of strategic interest to Rosatom, and are responsible for information collection, situation monitoring and analysis of potential opportunities.

Rosatom regional centres are already operating in South Africa, Eastern, Central and Western Europe, Central and Southeast Asia and Latin America. Work is now underway to establish an office in Dubai in order to promote products and services of Russian nuclear industry enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa. In order to strengthen the presence of Rosatom State Corporation in South Asia, the process of opening a regional office in Mumbai, India, is being finalized, which will also ensure supervision of our projects in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

What is the current status of the Kudankulam nuclear plant construction? When do you intend to launch unit 2, and is there any progress with construction of power units 3 and 4?

The NPP Kudankulam project includes the construction of six power units with VVER-1000 type reactors. The first unit of Kudankulam NPP was commissioned in autumn 2013, according to latest safety requirements. By the beginning of the scheduled preventive maintenance (SPM) the nuclear plant had generated 6873 million units of electricity, and the turbine generator had been in operation for 9267 hours. The installed capacity of the Indian nuclear power plants reached 5780 MW. This is the world’s first nuclear power plant which has implemented, and successfully operated, “post-Fukushima” tightened security measures. The generation tariff for Kudankulam NPP is maintained at the level set by the Indian Government in 2010-2011 without any escalation. This rate is considered to be one of the most competitive in India. The first SPM has now successfully complete, the turbine is running, and the unit is expected to be connected to the grid within a few hours.

The second unit assembly is finished. The hot run stage is complete. The physical launch is scheduled by the Indian party for mid-2016.

On April 10, 2014 a Master Framework Agreement (MFA) was signed, along with the agreed technical and commercial proposal for procurement and services of Kudankulam NPP units 3 and 4. An Additional Agreement was signed during the Russia-India Summit in December 2015, which makes the MFA applicable for the installation of the second phase of the station. The first and most important contract within this MFA has also been signed; the delivery contract of long-lead equipment and priority delivery equipment from Russia. Besides, the top-priority design is practically complete, and the engineering documentation development contract has been signed.

On September 7, 2015 Atomenergomash holding, the power plant division of Rosatom State Corporation, signed the comprehensive delivery contract for reactor equipment for power units 3 and 4 of Kudankulam NPP.

The permit for excavation works and foundation pit preparation has now been obtained from the Indian regulatory body.

During the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia, it was announced that the signing of the MFA for the construction of units 5 and 6 is planned in Q1 2016. What is the status of this project?

The technical and commercial proposal for installation of Kudankulam power units 5 and 6 has already been provided to the Indian party. Atomstroyexport JSC and the Indian Nuclear Energy Corporation are currently involved in detailed discussions of the project, and the Master Framework Agreement with regard to the Indian requirements concerning further enhancement of the project safety and localization.

Based on the talks between President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Modi, an agreement was reached on allocation by India of one more site for a Russian- designed nuclear power plant apart from Kudankulam NPP which is already under construction. What is the progress in this area?

Apart from the Kudankulam NPP, Russia and India are considering the possibility of building a number of other nuclear power plants. These are all practical steps to implement the most important document signed on December 11, 2014: “Strategic Vision of Strengthening Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India”.

An agreement has been reached on the allocation by the Indian party of one more site for construction of six new nuclear reactors of Russian design. We hope to get more detailed information about the site from the Indian party soon.

During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Moscow, Rosatom signed a production localization programme in India for Russian-design nuclear plants. What does this envisage?

During the December 24, 2015 visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Moscow, an Action Programme was indeed signed between the State Corporation Rosatom and the Atomic Energy Department of the Government of India on localization of production in India for nuclear power plants of Russian design.

The Action Programme includes areas of cooperation in the field of joint machinery production, especially the production of equipment which can be supplied to nuclear power plants, and cooperation in the field of joint development, mastering and technological support for implementation of end-to-end production technologies of products for heavy and power engineering industries.

The Indian Government strategy of localization of production, including the nuclear industry, is under the “Make in India” initiative, aimed at supporting the Indian manufacturer. We fully support this commitment of the Indian Government and we believe this is a good opportunity for further development of cooperation between both countries in the nuclear industry, as well as for implementation of current and future construction projects of Russian design reactors at the Kudankulam site and in other locations.

Which task forces in the nuclear energy area are currently active within Russian-Indian cooperation and what are they doing? Are there discussions about cooperation between Russia and India in third countries on the agenda?

The Russian-Indian Coordinating Committee on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy was established in December 2014 and is committed to monitoring the whole scope of bilateral cooperation.

To perform the tasks, three joint working groups on the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear energy and scientific-technical cooperation were set up within this Committee in 2014. Furthermore, based on the decision signed in December 2015, a fourth working group on the localization of production in India has already been established and is operating successfully.

We are pleased to note that the Russian nuclear power industry is supporting India in the implementation of its national program for the development of the nuclear sector. We reaffirm our commitment to the agreements about the further development of cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

France Peddles Unsafe Nuclear Reactors to India, Drawing Protest

Truthout | Kumar Sundaram | 29 January 2016

2016_0129reactor

On January 26, French President François Hollande was the chief guest for India’s Republic Day ceremony, where India showcases its military hardware in a colonial-era parade in its capital. Meanwhile, in Jaitapur on India’s western coast, farmers and fisherfolk were protesting against Hollande’s visit, arguing that the nuclear reactors that India is importing from France threaten their lives, livelihoods and the local ecology.

The Joint Declaration: Localizing Risk, Siphoning Off Profit

In a joint declaration issued on January 25 in New Delhi, the two governments reaffirmed their commitment to go ahead with a long-pending nuclear deal. As per the declaration, the intense negotiations to finalize the commercial agreement are expected to conclude by the end of this year, and the construction of six European pressurized reactors (EPR) imported from France is to begin by early 2017.

The new twist in the declaration is the “maximum localization” of the project and “technology transfer” for the same. Although the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have proudly included these new terms and added a “Make in India” tag on the Jaitapur project, it actually means that the French industry would be transferring the burden of its most controversial reactor design at a time of its worst crisis.

The safety vulnerabilities of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) – the huge iron core where radioactive fission takes place – came under serious questions, raised by France’s own nuclear safety regulator Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) in April 2015. Later in 2015, Areva, the French reactor builder, had to ask the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to suspend certification review for EPR design. The United States has been postponing certification for EPR since 2007. The Finnish regulator has taken Areva to court on this issue, and Finland has canceled the order for its second EPR. Just two days after the publication of ASN’s report, Modi reaffirmed the EPR deal from France during his visit to Paris in April 2015. It is exactly this controversial component – the RPV – that an Indian private company L&T will now be building, with no experience in the nuclear sector at all.

Insurmountable Risks of the Jaitapur Nuclear Project

The current phase of negotiations on Jaitapur is about the price of reactors, which remains a major sticking point. Although the former chief of India’s Atomic Energy Commission promised a tariff of a maximum of 10 US cents per unit for the electricity produced in Jaitapur, independent experts have claimed it will be much higher (20 to 30 cents per unit). This means the government of India would use taxpayers’ money to keep the price competitive. If we go by the cost of EPRs in the United Kingdom, each Indian reactor may cost as much as $8.9 billion. Two reactors in Jaitapur’s first phase will cost as much as India’s total expenditure on science and technology (including the departments of space, science and technology, biotechnology, and research for the entire country). A diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks quoted the general manager of the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL), saying that India is paying a “high” price for Jaitapur.

However, the concerns of the local community in Jaitapur go beyond the cost of the project. Jaitapur is located in the stunningly beautiful Konkan region, replete with verdant plateaus, magical mountains and undulating hills, lagoons, creeks, the open sea and infinite greenery. The NPCIL has labeled nearly 65 percent of the land as “barren,” despite the fact that Konkan is one of the world’s 10 “biodiversity hotspots,” sheltering over 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 of mammals, 508 of birds and 179 of amphibians, including 325 globally threatened species.

Altogether, the nuclear park would jeopardize the livelihoods of 40,000 people. The annual turnover of Jaitapur’s fishing villages is about $2.2 million. In Nate Village alone, there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend directly on fishing and over 10,000 are dependent on ancillary activities.

The community is apprehensive that the elaborate security arrangements around the project would block the fisherfolks’ use of the two creeks of Jaitapur and Vijaydurg. The fish population will also be affected since the nuclear plant would release a massive 52 billion liters of hot water into the Arabian Sea daily, raising the local sea temperature by 5 to 7 degrees Celsius.

Jaitapur has highly fertile land, which produces rice and other cereals, and arguably the world’s most famous mango, the Alphonso. Cashews, coconuts, kokum, betel nuts, pineapples and other fruits are found in abundance. The land is also quite productive in terms of its use for cattle-grazing and rain-fed agriculture.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Jaitapur, conducted by the government-run National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), did not even look into the crucial aspects of radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region. NEERI admits it does not have any expertise in radiation-related issues and it just mentioned in its report that all the stipulations of the government’s nuclear regulator would be followed. The then-minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, had himself termed these EIA assessments a joke. Even that environmental clearance, granted on 35 absurdly weak conditions, was given only for a period of five years, which lapsed as of November 2015. Citizens groups and independent experts have demanded a fresh EIA in place of an extension.

India’s nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), is itself a toothless body, which depends on the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for its finances and human resources, an agency, which it is supposed to supervise. India’s newly proposed nuclear regulator – the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority – would be an even weaker body than the AERB, according to the former head of AERB, Dr. A K Gopalakrishnan. In fact, India is the only country to further dilute its already lax safety regulation under the AERB to accommodate foreign-imported reactors, as Areva’s EPR might not even pass the licensing procedures of the existing AERB.

Safety concerns at Jaitapur are legitimate and extremely serious. The EPR design has come under severe criticism from the French nuclear regulator, ASN. In April 2015, the ASN warned Areva about some very crucial vulnerabilities in its design. It has found the reactor pressure vessel (or the core of the reactor) to be vulnerable. Yet two days after the publication of ASN’s report, Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed the commitment to buy the EPRs during his visit to Paris.

Independent experts and the government’s own institutions have also cautioned about active seismic fault lines in the region passing exactly beneath the proposed reactor site. There have been 92 earthquakes in Jaitapur over the past 20 years.

The Indian government has managed to acquire land for the project by pressuring farmers and luring a handful of landlords. Despite land acquisition, the farmers in Jaitapur continue to resist. Most villagers either work on others’ land or provide rural services to the agrarian community and do not get any compensation when villages are dislocated for “development” projects. Tabrez Soyekar, a young fisherman, was killed in an indiscriminate police shooting in April 2011, during a peaceful protest. Hundreds of activists and eminent citizens, including the former Navy chief of India and retired justice of the Supreme Court of India, were detained during a protest march.

Thirteen village councils in Jaitapur passed unanimous resolutions against the project as recently as November 2015. It is utterly hypocritical for both countries to laud each other’s democratic credentials for international diplomacy if the democratically elected village councils are neglected violently.

A Violent Nuclear Expansion in India

India is one of the few countries today that appears to have missed the global post-Fukushima shift away from nuclear power. Even France itself, the poster child of the nuclear energy lobbies, has decided to reduce the ratio of nuclear power in its national energy basket from 75 percent to 50 percent. Independent energy experts in India, including a former top official in the Ministry of Power, have argued for a decentralized energy framework that would suit India better, as the majority of its population still lives in villages scattered across the country and transmission losses in centralized Indian grids are staggering.

The 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report concludes that, after the Fukushima accident, the international nuclear industry has faced its worst crisis globally. The industry is looking at India as a big market where they can compensate for their losses and revive their fortunes. India has become an attractive market for global nuclear corporations, where the government is mortgaging its financial and environmental health to welcome them. This includes channeling the accident liability to the public; undermining environmental, geological and safety laws; and ignoring the measured advice of independent experts.

Besides Jaitapur, massive and intense anti-nuclear protests have arisen in Koodankulam, Mithi Virdi and Kovvada, where Russian and US corporations are setting up nuclear power plants. Local communities in other places like Chutka, Fatehabad and Mahi Banswara have also been agitating against the nuclear projects. The government has resorted to brutal crackdowns and repression against these consistently peaceful protests. More than 8,000 people in Koodankulam are facing fabricated police cases under colonial-era sedition laws and charges of waging war against the Indian state. The police have killed, arrested and harassed villagers indiscriminately, including women and children. They surrounded the Idinthakarai village in 2012 and disrupted its vital supply lines that deliver goods, including food and milk for children and medicines, to force the village to surrender. One of the first steps that the new government under Modi took in 2015 was to come up with a “confidential” report by the Intelligence Bureau, naming Greenpeace, the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, and other anti-nuclear and environmentalist organizations “anti-national.”

India’s Nuclear Imports Are More Than Just Reactor Supply Agreements

The anachronistic nuclear expansion in India, defying economic common sense and the global shift away from nuclear energy, actually stems from the strategy that the country’s elite have adopted to achieve international legitimacy for India’s nuclear weapons.

In exchange for India’s inclusion in the global nuclear weapons club, the Indian government promised 10,000 megawatts of nuclear contracts to the United States ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in September 2008. It made similar promises to France, Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries for an exemption from the NSG rule disallowing countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India had been facing an international embargo since 1974 for using imported technology and material for its nuclear tests.

France was the first country to sign a nuclear pact with India after the NSG’s exemption. It had been exploring nuclear sales to India for a long time. A feasibility study in Jaitapur for Areva was conducted as early as 2003. France was among the very few countries in the world that did not criticize India’s nuclear tests in 1998. But it needed the United States to do the heavy lifting in the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency to open the gates of international nuclear commerce for India.

Escalating Nuclear Arms Race in South Asia

The so-called “nuclear civilian deal” sets the wrong precedent for potential proliferators by diplomatically embracing India in the international nuclear order, despite being a non-signatory to the NPT and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It will also boost India’s nuclear weapons capacity by freeing up its domestic uranium reserves entirely for weapons purposes.

Nuclear weaponization in South Asia has defied the expectations of nuclear deterrence theorists that the introduction of nuclear weapons in the region would bring restraint. Soon after the nuclear tests in 1998, South Asia saw a fierce border conflict in Kargil in 2002. Declassified documents and WikiLeaks cables have revealed that Pakistan and India actually came close to contemplating nuclear use during that war. The Indian nuclear arsenal has also been growing with the introduction of nuclear submarines and long-range missiles. India has consecutively been one of the top five arms importers of the world for the last several years.

The evolving political situation in South Asia also makes peace in the region much more fragile. India is now ruled by an ultra-nationalist political formation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP’s Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, contested the last elections under the slogan of teaching Pakistan a lesson and revising the two cornerstones of the Indian nuclear posture – the “no first use” policy and the minimum credible deterrence doctrine.

Modi Government’s Nuclear U-Turns and Misadventures

For its entire 10-year stint in the opposition, the BJP opposed the United Progressive Alliance’s nuclear policy, but nuclear deals have become matters of pride for Modi’s foreign sojourns. It has gone further than the previous government in placating the nuclear lobbies.

On Republic Day in 2015, to please the chief guest, US President Barack Obama, the Modi government effectively surrendered the option to sue nuclear vendors in case of an accident. Now, in 2016, with France’s help, Modi’s government seems bent on finalizing an extremely dangerous and destructive nuclear project.

Scrap Jaitapur: citizens oppose nuclear project as French President arrives in India

India Resists | January 25, 2016

In a Press Conference organised in New Delhi, activists opposed the nuclear power project in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur where India is setting up 6 nuclear plants imported from France.

Eminent social activist Aruna Roy, Priya Pillai of Greenpeace India and Kumar Sundaram of Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP) addressed the press conference. Here is the press statement that they jointly released:

The French President will be the Chief Guest at this Republic Day parade; but 1800kms from New Delhi, farmers and fisherfolk in Jaitapur will be protesting this week against Mr. Hollande’s visit as the nuclear reactors that India is importing from France threaten their lives, livelihoods and the local ecology.

The Jaitapur project has serious and insurmountable problems – large-scale devastation of pristine and fragile ecosystem of Konkan, destruction of livelihoods for thousands of local farmers, fisherflk, alfonso cultivators and traders engaged in agro-business. Independent experts have underscored some crucial risks like the active seismic faultlines beneath the proposed site, the vulnerabilities of Areva’s reactor design exposed by the French nuclear regulator itself, the lack of independent regulator and safety culture in India and the larger democratic deficit in consulting people about their destinies.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for Jaitapur was conducted in a farcical and hurried manner by the previous govt, without even looking into look into the crucial aspects radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region. The BJP had then demanded a fresh EIA for the project.

Similarly, the Modi govt has taken a u-turn on nuclear liability and has gone further than the previous regime in placating the nuclear vendors. In case of any nuclear accident, the Modi govt has provided a insurance pool to the supplier companies from the public money, essentially channeling back the liability to the common people.
Although the former chief of India’s Atomic Energy Commission promised a tariff of maximum Rs. 6.50 per unit for the electricity produced in Jaitapur, independent experts have claimed it will be much higher – between 15 to 20 rupees a unit, far expensive than even domestic nuclear power plants. If we go by costs of EPRS in Britain, each EPR in India would cost Rs. 60,000 crore, meaning the 2 reactors in Jaitapur’s first phase would cost equal to the total expenditure on science and technology.

In the interest of common people of India, we oppose this unsafe, expensive, eco-destructive and anti-people project. The govt must initiate a democratic dialogue for a sustainable future for India.

Areva-Go-Back

Iran and China agree closer ties after sanctions ease

BBC News | 23 January 2016

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Xi Jinping is the first Chinese leader to visit Tehran in a decade

Iran and China have pledged closer economic and political ties after talks in Tehran between the two presidents.

China’s Xi Jinping is one of the first world leaders to visit Iran since international sanctions were lifted.

The two leaders signed 17 agreements on a range of issues from energy to boosting trade to $600bn (£420bn).

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he and Mr Xi had signed a “comprehensive 25-year document” on strategic relations.

They also discussed terrorism, instability in the Middle East, as well as “science, modern technology, culture, tourism… security and defence issues,” President Rouhani said on Iranian TV.

President Xi is also due to meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his 24-hour visit.

He is the first Chinese president to visit Tehran in over a decade.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted last week after it agreed to roll back the scope of its nuclear activities.

China is Iran’s biggest trading partner and both countries are hoping the strong relationship will continue in Iran’s new post-sanction era, the BBC’s Farhana Dawood reports.