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  Global Views
Implications of US-India Nuclear Deal
By Dr. Sandeep Pandey
Special Contribution
U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The US is having a difficult time trying to justify the US-India nuclear deal as part of which the 123 agreement has just been concluded guaranteeing India full civil nuclear cooperation. As the text of the agreement is released 3 days prior to the Hiroshima day, there is consternation among people believing in a world free of nuclear weapons. After imposing sanctions on India after its nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998, US is ultimately according the status of a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to it without formally saying so. The US is willing to do business with India in nuclear technology and materials as with any other nuclear weapons or non-nuclear weapons State party to the NPT. As a non-signatory State to the Treaty India is not supposed to derive this privilege. However, under the Deal India is being given the benefits which have been made available to some very close allies of the US like Japan or EURATOM, making other NPT members wonder the utility of their acceding to the Treaty.

US seems to be more worried about business interests of its corporations than the more worthy cause of disarmament and it has once again proved that to maintain its global hegemony it does not mind throwing all national and international norms and laws to the wind. With Nicholas Burns, the chief diplomat-architect of the 123 agreement, hinting at subsequent non-nuclear military cooperation with what he describes as a 'soon to be the largest country in the world,' we are going to see more of a unipolar world, posing threat to the smaller countries around the world, especially the unfortunate ones out of favour with the US Government. It is quite clear that US wants to court India as a strategic ally with the objective of developing joint military capabilities and perhaps even establishing military bases on Indian territory, that it is willing to play along the Indian nuclear ambitions. The recent stop over of US nuclear powered aircraft carrier Nimitz, recently used in Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran and possibly carrying nuclear weapons, at the port of Chennai in violation of India's stated policy of not allowing 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, 2007 in Vienna, the New Agenda Coalition countries, Ireland, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden along with Japan have urged India, besides Pakistan and Israel, to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear weapons States in order to accomplish universality of the Treaty. Under the Treaty a nuclear weapons State has been defined as the one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January, 1967. It would really be a misnomer to have India (and Pakistan and Israel) inside the NPT as non-nuclear weapons State. So, the US is doing the next best thing. It says that by signing the deal with India it is bringing India into the non-proliferation regime as more of India's nuclear facilities will now be subjected to IAEA safeguards. As part of the negotiations India has agreed to bifurcate its nuclear activity into clearly identified civilian and military categories, with the provision of former being open to IAEA inspections. The US has agreed upon this India specific deal as an exception, in spite of resistance from within and without, because it thinks that India has not contributed to proliferation. It is a different matter, though, that by conducting nuclear explosions twice India has violated the global non-proliferation regime, instigating Pakistan to do the same. North Korea was also emboldened to come out of NPT because of India's brazen transgression. India has consistently refused to sign the NPT, CTBT or FMCT. It is amazing how India has come this far with the US, outraging the modesty of international community, and extracted significant concessions in the Deal.

Against the spirit of the Henry Hyde Act, if India decides to conduct another nuclear test or violates IAEA safeguards agreement, US will not immediately exercise its right of return of materials and technology but, giving due considerations to circumstances which prompted India's action, will ensure the continuity of India's nuclear fuel supply from other sources around the world. The text of the 123 Agreement has even gone as far as identifying France, Russia and the UK as potential suppliers in the eventuality of US terminating its supply. And even if the US exercises right of return, India will be suitably compensated. Moreover, US would support India to build up a strategic nuclear fuel reserve ensuring that India will not be stranded like it was when fuel for Tarapur plant was stopped after India's first testing. The issue which 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 the spent fuel, even though the current US President 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. The Deal will not have any impact on this. In fact, with external resources available for its nuclear energy programme, it will be able to divert its internal resources for strengthening its strategic programme. 8 nuclear reactors out of 22 and an upcoming Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor will remain dedicated for military purpose outside the purview of IAEA. Hence, in essence, India will enjoy all the powers of a nuclear weapons State under the NPT, especially if the Nuclear Suppliers Group of 45 countries also yields to the US-like concessions to India. The US is going to campaign with the NSG to engage in nuclear trade with India after it has helped India sign an agreement with IAEA on safeguards, because it has to seek another approval of the Congress before the deal will be considered final. It is intriguing how Australia, Canada, South Africa and others are only too willing to go along with the US desire so that they can do business with India giving up their long standing commitment to non-proliferation.

23 US lawmakers have written a letter to the US President on July 25, 2007, 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. Considering that the Energy Information Administration of the US has, in its International Energy Outlook 2007, predicted largest proportion of the new capacity addition worldwide for electricity generation until 2030 in the form of gas fired technologies, which are also better from the point of view of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is more likely that India will give equal if not more importance to its relationship with Iran. Deal with Iran is also one of the rare things where Indian and Pakistani interests converge. Hence it should not surprise anybody if the gas pipeline deal with Iran dominates the nuclear deal with US in the Indian and regional context at least for a couple of decades to come.

India claims that with this deal the global order has been changed. And it is right. It has upset the non-proliferation regime. Globally and regionally it is going to lead to reconfiguration of forces, possibly leading to a renewed arms race. The National Command Authority of Pakistan, which oversees the nuclear programme there, chaired by President Musharraf has already expressed its displeasure at the Deal and pledged to maintain (read upgrade) its credible minimum deterrence. Pakistan views this deal as disturbing the 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 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 for Pakistan. What India and Pakistan need, in the interest of people of the sub-continent, is a mutually reassuring deal to suspend the nuclear arms race rather than something which will fuel the nuclear fire. The peace process undertaken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf is in the danger of being eclipsed by the US-India nuclear deal.

By Dr Sandeep Pandey

(About the author: Recepient of Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership (2002), Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, U.C., Berkeley, 1992. Went back to India to become a social activist. Took out a 1500 km Global Peace March for nuclear disarmament from the Indian nuclear testing site Pokaran to Sarnath, a place where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, beginning 11th May and ending on 6th August, 1999. Presently with Program on Science & Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University for 5 weeks.)

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The author, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, is recepient of Ramon Magsaysay Award (2002) for emergent leadership. He is the former faculty member, IIT Kanpur, and did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley. Presently he heads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) in India. He can be contacted at:






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