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US-India Nuclear Deal Passes Major Hurdle

Haider Rizvi

An Indian Political party worker holds a placard at a protest against India's disputed nuclear energy deal with the US, in Mumbai in June. The United States faces a final hurdle in the implemention of a landmark civilian nuclear pact with India -- convincing lawmakers that the deal has adequate safeguards as prescribed by US law. (AFP/File/Sajjad Hussain)

UNITED NATIONS - Disarmament groups and peace activists are urging Congress to reject the Bush administration's plan to send U.S. nuclear technology to India after the proposal gained the assent of an international monitoring body late last week.

"It will undermine the security of the American people and people
everywhere, if Congress allows it to go through," said David Krieger,
president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, about the U.S.-India pact on nuclear technology.

On Friday, a global conglomerate of 45 nations that set the nuclear
trade rules approved the U.S.-India nuclear deal by accepting New
Delhi's assertion that its nuclear cooperation with the United States
was aimed solely at expanding energy production.

But many independent policy analysts in Washington, DC are not as
convinced and see the Bush administration's move as a fatal blow to
international efforts aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear

"We are concerned about this deal," said Leanor Tomero of the Center
for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, an policy think tank on Capitol
Hill. "It sets a very dangerous precedent."

Like many others, Krieger and Tomero think the nuclear pact with India would undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and encourage other countries to acquire nuclear weapons.

"[It] risks fueling a regional arms race with Pakistan, complicating negotiations over Iran, and unraveling the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," said Robert Gard, chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, about the nuclear technology deal.

At the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group
(NSG) meeting held in Vienna last week, a small group of countries
strongly opposed the deal, but eventually failed to sustain their
dissent in the wake of intense diplomatic pressure from Washington.

The NSG is an international consortium that is responsible for monitoring and approving nuclear exports worldwide.

The resistance to the deal, according to observers, was led by six like-minded countries -- Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland -- which stressed that India must accept certain conditions before starting the nuclear trade.

Those conditions would have required India to guarantee that it
would not use the deal to expand its nuclear weapons-related
activities. In response, top Indian officials assured delegates that
their country was fully opposed to nuclear proliferation.

But for critics like Tomero and Krieger, that is hard to believe because, like two other nuclear armed states, Israel and Pakistan, India remains unwilling to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"As one of only three countries that has never signed the NPT and by continuing to refuse to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, India has shunned meaningful nonproliferation commitments," said Tomero.

"[It] may promote not only a possible arms race between India and
Pakistan, but also [between] India and China," added John Boroughs of
the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy, in a recent
interview with OneWorld.

In addition to calling for actions against the spread of nuclear
weapons, the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty also requires the
five declared nuclear powers -- Britain,
China, France, Russia, and the United States -- to engage in
"good-faith negotiations" toward eliminating their nuclear stockpiles.

Analysts see the approval of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement as a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1172, which prohibits the export of technology that could in any way "assist programs in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons.''


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The 1998 resolution was adopted with consensus soon after both India
and Pakistan tested nuclear devices in defiance of international
agreement against the spread of nuclear weapons.

Since the 1947 partition when the British ended their colonial rule
in the Indian sub-continent, India and Pakistan have gone to war with
each other three times. Currently, both countries are in possession of
a sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons.

According to the Uranium Resource Center, India has as many as 14 nuclear energy reactors in commercial operation and 9 under construction. Currently, its nuclear power supplies are estimated to account for about 3 percent of total electricity production.

Though India strongly denies that it intends to use the deal with the United States to expand its nuclear weapons program, its officials have also argued that the deal does not preclude the country from carrying out further nuclear tests.

Critics have described the U.S. acceptance of India's nuclear
weapons program as amounting to ''a major concession'' for a country
that has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But in reflecting on the consequences of the U.S.-India agreement and its approval by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Tomero also held Russia and other major powers responsible for the breach of international rules governing the non-proliferation regime.

"The U.S. nuclear industry has pushed hard for this deal," she said.
"[However], Japan, Russia, and France will also gain from this because
they think more nuclear competition is profitable. I think the Congress
will have to look at this very carefully."

Congress to Have Final Say

Observers say they expect the Bush administration will try hard to get the nuclear deal with India approved by Congress before the presidential polls are held in November.

"I think Berman will put on a lot of pressure," said Tomero, referring to Howard Berman,
chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee. In
a statement last Monday, Berman made it clear that any final agreement
"must be consistent" with the 2006 Hyde Act, which calls for "immediate
termination" of all nuclear trade by NSG members if India detonates a nuclear explosive device.

"Congress needs to study the NSG decision, along with any agreements
that were made behind the scenes," said Berman. "If the administration
wants to seek special procedures, it will have to show how the NSG
decision is consistent with the Hyde Act."

"The burden of proof," according to Berman, "is on the Bush
administration so that Congress can be assured that what we're being
asked to approve conforms to U.S. law," he added in a statement.

Meanwhile, peace activists are stepping up their lobbying efforts
on Capitol Hill, amid calls for voters to urge their Congressional
representatives to take a firm stand against the nuclear trade deal
with India.

"It's time for action," said Kreiger. "Other countries will be
looking at this deal as a model that will serve their own interests as
well. If the United States can do it with India, why not China with Pakistan? Or Russia with Iran? Or Pakistan with Syria?"


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