INDIA- USA 123 agreement a turning point in International Law

INDO- USA  123 agreement  a turning point in International Law

Dr.E.M.Sudarsana Natchiappan. MP


International law is a body of laws, regulations, and accepted practices by which different nations throughout the world interact with each other as well as with their own citizens and citizens of other countries.

International law is developed and agreed upon by those that make up the international system, but not every nation state is a member or has a part in the process. Most nations are said to comply with International Law,While the international community does attempt to hold all nations to International Law, it is not always feasible. Force may be necessary in order to ensure compliance, and the international community is generally against the use of force except in the most dire circumstances.The United Nations (UN) is probably the most well recognised of all international institutions. It has influence over the world community as a whole as well as individual nations. In the evolution of International law , India and USA played key roll even from the days of First world war and consequential formation of short lived League of Nations to the days of World Trade Organisation

Historical back ground for 123 Agreement:

The historical back ground is based on three indicators.

  1. India a scientific inventor and developer for peaceful existence of humanity.
  2. India never used force to occupy other countries land.
  3. India promoted the science for betterment of humanity rather than commercial enrichment.

Preservation of national interest, achievement of world peace, disarmament, independence for Afro-Asian nations have been important objectives of Indian foreign policy. These objectives are sought to be achieved through-The principles of ‘Panchsheel’, non- alignment ,anti colonialism, anti- imperialism, anti- racialism, and strengthening the United Nations.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had seen the destruction caused by two world wars and therefore realised that for progress of a nation a long spell of peace was needed . In it’s absence social and economic priorities relating to development  tend to get pushed to the background. The production of nuclear of weapons by the super powers strengthened Nehru’s faith in peaceful philosophy even more. Hence he gave utmost importance to world peaceful and friendly relations, while signing an agreement with China, on April 28, 1954 India advocated adherence to five guiding principles known as’ Panchsheel’ for the conduct of bi lateral relations. It includes the following:

1.Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and Sovereignty

2.Mutual non- aggression

3.Mutual non- interference in each other’s internal affairs.

4.Equality and mutual benefit

5.Peaceful co- existence .

These principles are reflected in 123 agreement as follows:

“Wishing to develop such cooperation on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty , non- interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality , mutual benefit , reciprocity and with due respect for each other’s nuclear programmes”


Pandit Nehru established separate Department  for Atomic energy under the leadership of Dr Homi J Bhabha as early as 1944 even before the Independence was declared for India . In the same year he started the research programme on nuclear technology in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and four other advanced research Institutes .More and more research for nuclear energy  has made India as one of the advanced technology country for peaceful utilisation of nuclear energy. This is recognised in 123 agreement:

”   AFFIRMING  that cooperation under this Agreement is between two States possessing advanced nuclear technology , both parties having the same benefits and advantages,both committed to preventing WMD proliferation;”

International Atomic Energy Agency:

” The statute of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was approved in October 1956 by the United Nations conference on Statute IAEA and entered into force in July 1957 as amended . According to Article II, the IAEA shall

” seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the World. It shall ensure , so far as it is able , that assistance provided by its request or under it’s supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose ”

India has developed the nuclear technology and used it for the peaceful purposes such as as medicine, agriculture , energy development ect., The global situation 1967 was of using the nuclear technology for development of defensive  and offensive war heads and arsenal which led to nuclear weapon race between super powers ,
” considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples” thus  Treaty on the Non – proliferation of nuclear weapons  Was entered into by USA and other countries

India declared ‘No first use’ policy

Three states-India, Israel, and Pakistan-have declined to sign the treaty. India and Pakistan are confirmed nuclear powers, and Israel has a long-standing policy of deliberate ambiguity . These countries argue that the NPT creates a club of “nuclear haves” and a larger group of “nuclear have-nots” by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967, but the treaty never explains on what ethical grounds such a distinction is valid.
India and Pakistan have publicly announced possession of nuclear weapons and have detonated nuclear devices in tests, India having first done so in 1974 and Pakistan following suit in 1998 in response to another Indian test. India is one of the few countries to have a no first use policy, a pledge not to use nuclear weapons unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. The main reason India cites for not signing the NPT and for possessing nuclear weapons is that China is one of the “nuclear haves.”China and India have a longstanding border dispute, including a border war in 1962.

The evolution of international law has shown its dynamism and vibrancy to address the need of the humanity. Hence NPT which had been formulated to stop the nuclear weapon race in seventies in the words of Mr. Pranabh Mukerjee then Foreign Minister during his visit to Japan “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT, it is a failed treaty and it did not recognise the need for universal, non discriminatory verification and treatment”

In the words of United States Department of State Washington D.C 20520 on Jan 16,2008”good non-proliferation record of Inda” . One has to be considered  by the implementation of international regulations whether a country is signitary of a treaty or not.


The evolution of International law on nuclear issues are very much going through a process  just like 123 Indo USA agreement to acknowledge the need of changing global scenario .”Recognizing the significance of the civilian nuclear energy for meeting growing global energy demands in a cleaner and more efficient manner,” “Desiring to coperate extensively in the full development and user of nuclear energy for peacful purposes as a means of achieving energy security on a stable , reliable and predictable basis”

-Keynote address delivered in International Workshop in New Delhi on 2nd April 2011, jointly organised by The Indian Society of International Law, University of Reading UK and Tamilnadu Dr.Ambedkar Law University, Chennai.


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