Conflicts Over the Sale of Nuclear Fuel Between the U.S. and India
By Raymond Cohen
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: "Conflicts Over the Sale of Nuclear Fuel Between the U.S. and India," Selection from: Raymond Cohen, Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1991),pp. 74-5.
Conflicts over the sale of nuclear fuel between the U.S. and India during the early 1980s were complicated by India's tactic of portraying the conflict as a moral issue. In 1963 the U.S. contracted to build a nuclear power plant in India. The contract specified that the U.S. would act as the sole and guaranteed supplier of nuclear fuel for the thirty-year term of the contract.
In 1974 India exploded a nuclear bomb. In 1978 the U.S. Congress passed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Act which required buyer nations to agree to restrictions on the uses of American supplied nuclear fuels. India refused to accept such restrictions and fuel shipments were held up.
India then attempted to hold the U.S. to the terms of its initial 1963 contract. India framed their grievance as a moral matter. First, the U.S. was obligated to keep its original 1963 promise to supply fuel. Second, latter U.S. attempts to restrict the uses of that fuel to non-military programs were unfair and hypocritical given America's own nuclear stockpile. Having framing the dispute as a matter of moral principle, India was uninterested in compromises or alternate solutions. The dispute was not resolved until India made the political decision to seek improved relations with the U.S. India relaxed the moral aspect of its complaints. Cohen observes, "given the political will, a simple solution was found: France would now supply the fuel."[p. 75]