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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 82, Spring 2006

News in Review

US-India Nuclear Deal tears hole in Nonproliferation guidelines

The Indian government is very pleased with itself, having successfully manipulated the Bush administration into tearing a large hole on its behalf in the nonproliferation regime's system of incentives and constraints without having to pay the price of halting its production of nuclear weapon materials or signing up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The joint US-India statement of July 18, 2005 on civilian nuclear cooperation was further elaborated and agreed at the executive level by Presidents Manmohan Singh and George W. Bush on March 2, 2006.

The deal requires India to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities and put those designated civilian under special "India-specific" IAEA safeguards. In return, the Bush administration has promised to push for changes in the long-held guidelines of the 45-member international Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the US Non-Proliferation Act, requiring Congressional approval. India refused Bush's weakly-made request to halt the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons; and of course the no attempt was made to get India's agreement to sign and ratify the CTBT, a bête noir for the Bush administration. If India is allowed to import foreign uranium for its civilian programme, it can use more of its indigenous uranium to make nuclear weapons.

To achieve its long-desired goal of international nuclear cooperation, India leveraged its recent role as a close US ally in the 'war on terror' (vying with Pakistan for new best friend status) and manipulated US anxiety about China's growing power in the region. The deal flies in the face of nonproliferation trends and efforts and makes a nonsense of UN Security Council resolution 1172, adopted after India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. At a time when the international community is struggling to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapon capabilities, Bush's deal with India sends all the wrong signals: if you leave or stay out of the NPT and can get the bomb, then ride out a few years of criticism and mild sanctions and you will be welcomed back as a de facto nuclear weapon state and given all the nuclear cooperation you desire. Needless to say, Islamabad is pushing for similar treatment, on the argument that Pakistan's civilian and military nuclear facilities are already separated, and since the embarrassing business of the A.Q. Khan network's exposure in 2003, its nonproliferation record has been exemplary.

The US Congress has now begun hearings on the deal. Whether or not the US end of the cooperation agreement is approved, the damage to nonproliferation is done: other countries are lining up to benefit with nuclear cooperation offers of their own; and some may make use of the changes to extend to Pakistan what the United States has refused.

For more on the US-India deal see Arms Control Association, http://www.armscontrol.org/projects/india/default.asp; and Monterey Institute for International Studies www.cns.miis.edu

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