India nuclear deal returns

 In Nuclear Weapons

There is a resurgence of opposition in Congress to the proposed nuclear deal with India that Peace Action West worked actively to stop in 2006.  While the deal passed Congress overwhelmingly in 2006, it still needs to be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 45-member consortium of countries that sell nuclear material.  Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) sent a letter to the NSG urging them to only approve the deal following the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the enactment of a fissile material cutoff treaty, to stop the production of new nuclear weapons material:

Many here opposed passage of the deal’s enabling legislation on nonproliferation grounds, arguing that if India were to receive U.S. civilian nuclear fuel it could redirect its relatively limited domestic supply of uranium entirely toward its military program.

That, some contended, would result in an increased production of military-grade fissile material which could lead to a Southeast Asian arms race with neighboring rival Pakistan and possibly China.

“It is important for the NSG to realize that although this bill has been signed by President Bush there are still many in Congress who stand by the basic principle that keeping nuclear weapons and know-how out of the wrong hands should be our top national security priority and the most critical objective for both U.S. and international nuclear policy,” Tauscher said in announcing the letter.

The letter reaffirms U.S. support for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as expressed in the Hyde Act as well as a U.S. commitment to nonproliferation as a critical U.S. foreign policy objective.

“We strongly agree with these goals and we wish to share with you our concerns that without further stipulations, the deal contained in the legislation could have a negative impact on efforts to reduce proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology,” the U.S. lawmakers wrote.

Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) have also introduced a nonbinding resolution that urges support of exemptions for India only if the deal contains key provisions of the Hyde Act, including cutting off trade with India if it tests another nuclear bomb and a ban on transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology.  The resolution is timed with IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei’s upcoming visit to India, and is seen as a move that could potentially delay or completely derail the deal, which sets a dangerous precedent by selling nuclear technology to a country that has refused to ratify the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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