U.S.-India agreement threatens to fuel nuclear proliferation as well as arms race

The Japan Times

15 August 2007
Online at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20070815a1.html

to mark 60th Anniversary of India’s independence

U.S.-India agreement threatens to fuel nuclear proliferation as well as arms race

Special to The Japan Times

PRINCETON, New Jersey — The United States is having a difficult time trying to justify the U.S.-India nuclear deal that will be brought into effect by the "123 agreement" that has just been concluded between the two countries.

The agreement is named after Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954, titled "Cooperation With Other Nations," which establishes an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear agreements between the U.S. and any other country.

News of the 123 agreement was released just three days before the 62nd anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing Aug. 6, causing consternation among people believing in a world free of nuclear weapons.

Despite imposing sanctions on India after its nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998, the U.S. is, for all purposes, according it the status of a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Washington is as willing to do business with India in nuclear technology and materials as it would be with any member of the NPT. As a nonsignatory state, India should not be accorded this privilege.

The U.S. seems more worried about the interests of its corporations than the far worthier cause of disarmament. It has once again proven that it does not mind throwing all national and international norms and laws to the wind to maintain its global hegemony.

With Nicholas Burns, the chief diplomat-architect of the 123 agreement, hinting at subsequent nonnuclear military cooperation with what he describes as "soon to be the largest country in the world," we are going to see the development of a unipolar world that poses a threat to smaller countries, especially those that fall out of favor with the U.S.

It is clear that U.S. wants to court India as a strategic ally with the objective of developing joint military capabilities and perhaps establishing military bases on Indian territory. The recent stopover of U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz (returning from its deployment to the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran and possibly carrying nuclear weapons) at an Indian port in violation of New Delhi's stated policy of not allowing the transit of foreign nuclear weapons through its territorial waters, is a sign of things to come.

At the preparatory committee meeting for the 2010 NPT review conference held in May-June in Vienna, the New Agenda Coalition countries — Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden — along with Japan have urged India (and Pakistan and Israel) to join the NPT as nonnuclear weapons states.

Under the NPT, a nuclear weapons state is defined as one that has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1967. It would be a misnomer to have India (as well as Pakistan and Israel) join the NPT as a nuclear weapons state.

So Washington is doing the next best thing; it says that by signing the deal with New Delhi it is bringing India into the nonproliferation regime as more of India's nuclear facilities will now be subjected to IAEA safeguards.

In negotiations India agreed to bifurcate its nuclear activity into clearly identified civilian and military categories, with the provision of the former being open to IAEA inspections. The U.S. agreed upon this India-specific deal as an exception because it contends that India has not contributed to proliferation.

By conducting nuclear explosions twice, however, India has violated the global nonproliferation regime and instigated Pakistan to do the same. India's brazen transgression also emboldened North Korea to withdraw from the NPT. India has consistently refused to sign the NPT, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty or the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, outraging much of the international community and extracted significant concessions from the U.S. in the process.

Against the spirit of the Henry Hyde Act, if India decides to conduct another nuclear test or violates IAEA safeguards agreement, the U.S. will not immediately exercise its right of return of materials and technology. Instead it may ensure the continuity of India's nuclear fuel supply from other sources around the world after giving due consideration to the circumstances that prompted India's action.

The text of the 123 agreement has even gone as far as identifying France, Russia and Britain as potential suppliers in such an event. And even if the U.S. exercises the right of return, India will be suitably compensated. Moreover, the U.S. would support the creation of a strategic nuclear fuel reserve.

The issue that clinched the 123 agreement was India's offer to subject a new reprocessing facility — which will be built exclusively for this purpose — to IAEA safeguards in return for the consent to reprocess spent fuel, even though U.S. President George W. Bush is on record saying that enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for a country to move forward with nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

India will be free to maintain and develop its nuclear arsenal under the 123 agreement. In fact, with external resources available for its nuclear energy program, it will be able to use its internal resources to strengthen its strategic program. Eight nuclear reactors out of 22 and an upcoming prototype fast breeder reactor will remain dedicated for military purposes outside the purview of IAEA.

In short, India will enjoy all the benefits that a nuclear weapons state is afforded under the NPT,

especially if the Nuclear Suppliers Group of 45 countries also grants similar concessions to India.

The U.S. is going to lobby the NSG to engage in nuclear trade with India after it has helped India to sign an agreement with the IAEA on safeguards because it has to gain Congress' approval again before the deal will be considered final. It is intriguing that Australia, Canada, South Africa and others are all too willing to go along with the U.S. so that they can do business with India, giving up their long-standing commitment to nonproliferation.

Twenty-three U.S. lawmakers wrote a letter to Bush on July 25 expressing concern over India's growing ties with Iran, including in the domain of defense partnership. It must be remembered that India is considering a very important deal with Iran on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

India claims that the 123 agreement has changed the global order, and it is right. It has upset the nonproliferation regime. Globally and regionally it is going to lead to a new configuration of forces and possibly a new arms race.

The National Command Authority of Pakistan, which oversees the nation's nuclear program there has already expressed its displeasure at the 123 agreement and has pledged to maintain (i.e., upgrade) Pakistan's credible minimum deterrence. Islamabad believes the deal disturbs regional strategic stability and has asserted that it cannot remain oblivious to its security requirements.

A International Panel on Fissile Materials report predicts at least a four to five times increase in India's weapons-grade plutonium production rate. The present Indian stock is estimated to be sufficient for about 100 nuclear warheads. This is obviously alarming to Pakistan.

What India and Pakistan need is a mutually reassuring deal to suspend the nuclear arms race rather than something that will fuel the nuclear fire. The peace process undertaken by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is in the danger of being eclipsed by the U.S.-India nuclear deal.

Sandeep Pandey, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership, is presently with the program on Science & Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University.