Playing Favorites: The India Nuclear Deal

 In Nuclear Weapons

Last week, the India Nuclear Deal inched forward when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted a plan for inspecting India’s nuclear reactors.

"The safeguards agreement with the U.N. nuclear watchdog was essential before India can finalize the pact with the United States that would end more than three decades of nuclear isolation. The deal will open India’s civilian reactors to international inspections in exchange for the nuclear fuel and technology it has been denied by its refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its testing of atomic weapons.

…Without IAEA safeguards, India cannot import nuclear technology from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which includes the United States. India must now strike a separate agreement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The U.S. Congress will then need to approve the U.S.-India accord."

We’ve worked to oppose the deal because it undermines global nonproliferation efforts. While the deal is for civilian nuclear technology, it would allow India to free up uranium for its own nuclear weapons program and potentially ratchet up tensions with neighboring Pakistan. Last month, Pakistan warned of the potential effects of the deal:

"Pakistan warned the international community yesterday that a deal allowing India to import US atomic fuel and technology could accelerate a nuclear arms race between Delhi and Islamabad.

The warning was made in a letter addressed to more than 60 nations as the Indian Government, having survived a no-confidence vote on Tuesday, dispatched diplomats to clear the deal with international regulators.

Later, in a concession to Islamabad, the United States said that it planned to shift $230 million (£116 million) in aid to Pakistan away from counter-terrorism to upgrading its F16 fighter jets seen as crucial for maintaining military parity with India. That announcement came four days before Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, is due to meet President Bush at the White House for talks on co-operation in combating Islamic extremists."

Also disturbing is the fact that the deal would require no halt in nuclear trade if India tested another nuclear bomb. The deal’s silence on this is a serious discrepancy with a 2006 law passed by Congress.

There is little debate that strengthening ties with the world’s largest democracy is a good idea. But there are far better ways of doing it that wouldn’t include undermining US credibility in efforts to curb nuclear proliferation elsewhere. On the one hand, we’re rewarding India with nuclear technology, a country with nuclear weapons that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. On the other hand, we’re imposing harsh sanctions on Iran and leaving the military option on the table because it continues to pursue nuclear technology. According to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and it is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Bush administration’s push to seal the deal with India sends the wrong message to Iran and the international community.

The India Nuclear Deal still has several hurdles to clear. Even if the Nuclear Suppliers Group finishes its work quickly, it’s uncertain if Congress will have time to consider the deal given the fact that they plan to wrap up work in late September. The sense of many in Congress is that the Bush administration, conscious of its legacy, is eager to force the deal through in 2008. But Congress needs to take the time to think things through on this one. There are better ways to strengthen our relationship with India than a nuclear deal.

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  • Arun

    Once Nuclear Suppliers Group clears the deal, then why on earth should India wait fo what happens in US congress. US las is not applicable to India, what there congress decides is there matter not India’s. India can go and deal with the Russian or French or devil himself once the NSC clears it.

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