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  Global Views
A Nuclear Hand of Friendship

Mohammed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency

The U.S.-India nuclear agreement before Congress is good for America on five grounds: It enhances safeguards, benefits U.S. geopolitical interests, protects the environment, boosts the American economy and rewards good international citizenship and international compliance.

Countries perched under protective nuclear-guarantee umbrellas (such as Japan or Australia), or those facing no nuclear threats, are more sanctimonious in voicing their concerns. The reality is that India is surrounded by two nondemocratic nuclear powers, sometimes unstable, often dictatorial, both having engaged in wars with India. And a cursory knowledge of Indian politics would dictate that there is zero possibility of India submitting all its nuclear reactors to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime without it being recognized as a nuclear power. Democratically elected politicians in India would be committing political suicide were they to do otherwise.

Safeguards: Mohammed ElBaradei, Nobel laureate and director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has endorsed the U.S.-India agreement because he believes it increases safeguards and brings India closer to international nonproliferation standards. Full compliance is great but, pragmatically, "more" compliance is better than "less" compliance, as Mr. ElBaradei has recognized.

This treaty places two-thirds of existing, and all future, Indian civilian reactors under safeguards. On this basis alone the pact increases international respect for the IAEA program. India has also agreed to develop an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, implement a WMD Act, implement a robust national export-control system, and to adhere to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines — all proactive steps. Further, India's nonproliferation record is superlative, better than that of many signatories to the NPT. Can we really ask India to forgo nuclear defense in the face of nuclear-armed neighbors on the dubious grounds that the cutoff date to be recognized as a nuclear power under the NPT was 1967, seven years before India's first nuclear test (in 1974)?

We cannot afford India drifting away from America. Russia has already agreed to supply fuel for Indian reactors despite its NPT obligations, and Iran helps slake the Indian thirst for oil. Congressional ratification would encourage India to continue support for U.S. policy on Iranian nuclear ambitions. Let's get real about world politics.

Geopolitics: India is a unique counterbalance in the Asian region and shares America's two major geopolitical challenges — Islam and the rise of China. It has the GDP growth, population, democratic norms and technical expertise to counter any Chinese onslaught. Also unique is India's lack of wider foreign or extra-regional ambitions. The country is a steady hand in an Asian region growing at a rate that will dwarf Europe in the next 50 years. We need friends in India.

Environment: Economics rules governance in poor economies. If India does not build nuclear plants, it will build 60,000 MW of coal plants using its dirty coal — an environmental disaster that will spew greenhouse gases and pollutants for the next 50 years.

Nuclear power will reduce India's emissions by millions of tons per year. Should India choose coal, carbon emission and acid rain issues would encounter a dramatic setback. No third choice exists for India — at least none with any possibility of domestic acceptance. Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts naively speaks of India using clean coal. In reality, clean-coal economics don't work. They haven't worked in the U.S., so why will they work in a poor country?

Good economics: This agreement is unambiguously good for America's economy, and is widely viewed as critical to fortifying mutual trust, at least by the people of India. Rejecting this agreement would conceivably set back that trust by 20 years, irreparably damaging American interests in the region.

Congressional ratification will leave India needing to import around 60,000 MW of coal plants or nuclear-power generating capacity. American companies would get a major part of this multibillion dollar business. Imports could exceed $50 billion, creating an estimated 50,000 jobs in America. A secondary effect would be continued economic growth in India. The Indian market's demand for capital and consumer goods would expand rapidly, creating further opportunities for American companies.

Principal and precedent: As a vigorous democracy, political realities ensure no Indian government can relinquish its right to nuclear power in the face of China and Pakistan. India has an exemplary nonproliferation record, despite operating outside the global nonproliferation regime for over 30 years, and has never violated any NPT terms — unlike China, which supplied nuclear technology to Pakistan; and France, that supplied fuel to India. Pedantic interpretations of the NPT aside, this agreement dramatically extends the reach of the NPT into India.

This agreement implicitly recognizes states like India and Israel who never signed the NPT, seeking to extend as many of the provisions of the NPT to such states as is possible. As Mr. ElBaradei said, this agreement brings India's civilian nuclear program into the NPT mainstream.

We should establish a norm of encouraging and rewarding good international citizenship and increased compliance. Americans have always been pragmatists first, not viewing the world through rose- tinted glasses, and there is no reason to start to do so now. We must recognize that India, like Israel, has very good regional and national defense reasons for not signing the current form of the NPT. Membership of the nuclear club should not hang on the arbitrary test of India having to have conducted the nuclear tests prior to 1967. This agreement provides an elegant solution to bring important global powers like India within the international framework.

Mr. Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and a former partner of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, is a partner of Khosla Ventures.




 

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