Nabila Jaffer

Nabila Jaffer is a Research Analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad.

DOI: http://DOI Number

Keywords: Civil nuclear deal, implicit gains, nuclear power plants, fissile material, unsafe-guarded nuclear programme, nuclear technology


The post-Cold War geopolitical environment and China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse was the principal catalyst of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The civil nuclear deal was a business deal between India and the United States. The purpose was to fulfil India’s increasing energy demands by opening up to the international nuclear market and to purchase nuclear power plants from the US. However, the operationalisation of the deal could not take off for more than a decade after the conclusion of the agreement in 2008 due to India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010. On the contrary, the deal helped India achieve many of the unstated goals. This deal enabled India to import fissile material for its dual-use technologies under the limited safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after getting a waiver from the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). The deal also enabled India to apply for the full membership of NSG without being a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) with the strong backing of the US, which makes it an exceptional case. This paper aims to analyse how this deal served the strategic objectives of India and the US despite the delay in the operationalisation of the deal for more than a decade. This paper argues that the deal happened under the cover of business in civilian nuclear technology while the actual aim was to empower India against rising China as a part of the US containment policy. The paper explores how India’s military nuclear programme is benefiting from its nuclear material trade and how it is harmful to the strategic stability in South Asia.

First Published

December 25, 2019

How to Cite

Nabila Jaffer, “Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal: Delayed Progress and Implicit Gains,” Regional Studies 37, no.4 (Winter 2019): 30-60,


Volume 37, Issue 4