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Nuclear Arms Race Feared After US-India Deal Passes

Haider Rizvi

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left for India Friday to sign a civilian nuclear deal, a landmark in a budding strategic partnership and a foreign policy win for the Bush administration. Peace and disarmament advocacy groups have denounced the U.S.-India nuclear trade deal, saying Wednesday night's Senate vote to approve the agreement posed a serious threat to non-proliferation efforts worldwide.(AFP/Pool/File/David Silverman)

NEW YORK - Peace and disarmament advocacy groups have denounced the U.S.-India
nuclear trade deal, saying Wednesday night's Senate vote to approve the
agreement posed a serious threat to non-proliferation efforts

"Congress missed an important opportunity
to remedy many problems with the agreement and prevent the damage to
non-proliferation efforts," said Leonor Tomero of the Center for Arms
Control and Non-Proliferation, an independent think tank in Washington,

The 86-13 vote in the Senate was the last hurdle in a legislative
process that began when a deal was reached between U.S. and Indian
officials some three years ago.

The agreement will give India access to U.S. nuclear technology in
return for inspections of its civilian nuclear facilities -- but not
its military facilities.

India says U.S. nuclear cooperation is vital to meet its growing
energy needs. But critics think the deal creates a dangerous precedent
and will likely lead to a new nuclear arms race in South Asia.

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

"Rushing this agreement without careful consideration of its
implications, just so outgoing administrations in both the United
States and India could add it to their legacies, was a mistake that
will come back to haunt us," said Tomero, who, like many others, fears
that the U.S.-India deal will create further complications in
negotiations with Iran and North Korea.

"At a time when the greatest threat to the security of the United
States is the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, the Bush administration, Congress, and India should be working to strengthen, not unravel, the NPT," Tomero added in a statement, referring to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The current deal allows India to expand its nuclear industry without
requiring it to sign the NPT. The United States had, until now, avoided
any kind of nuclear cooperation with India for more than 30 years.

The House of Representatives gave its nod to the agreement last week.

Opening the Doors to Nuclear Trade Worldwide

The nuclear trade pact contains no guarantee that India will sign contracts with U.S.-based companies. This week, the Indian government also signed a nuclear cooperation deal with France and showed interest in buying French fighter aircraft.

Tomero thinks Russia
and other major powers are equally responsible for helping the
U.S.-India deal overcome international barriers intended to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation.

"The U.S. nuclear industry has pushed hard for this deal," she said in
a recent interview with OneWorld. "[However], Japan, Russia, and France
will also gain from this because they think more nuclear competition is

David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a long-time critic of U.S. nuclear policy, thinks the U.S.-India pact will not only undermine the security of the American people, but the security of people everywhere.

"Other countries will be looking at this deal as a model that will
serve their own interests as well," he said in a statement. "If the
United States can do it with India, why not China with Pakistan? Or Russia with Iran? Or Pakistan with Syria?"

Last month, a global conglomerate of 45 nations that sets the nuclear
trade rules approved the U.S.-India deal by accepting New Delhi's
assertion that its cooperation with Washington was meant only to meet
its growing energy needs.

According to the Uranium Resource Center, currently India is running as many 14 civilian nuclear reactors, which account for about 3 percent of the country's total electricity production.

At the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting in Vienna, a small group of countries, including Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,
and Switzerland, strongly opposed the deal, but eventually failed to
sustain their principled stand in the wake of intense diplomatic
pressure from the United States.

The six countries had requested conditions be placed on the deal
requiring India not use the technology to expand its nuclear arsenal.
In response, top Indian officials assured delegates that their country
was fully opposed to the spread of nuclear weapons.

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 NPT.

Breaking Treaty Commitments

"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.

In addition to calling for actions against the spread of nuclear weapons, the NPT requires the five declared nuclear powers -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China -- to engage in "good-faith negotiations" for disarmament.

The agreement with India puts the United States in violation of its
international treaty commitments, says Krieger. In signing the NPT, the
United States agreed "not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce
any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire
nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices."

India is a "non-nuclear-weapon State" by the treaty's definition. "By
supplying nuclear material and technology to India, [the agreement]
will allow India to use all of the uranium and plutonium from its
military reactors, which are not subject to inspection, to be used for
increasing the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal," charges Krieger.

Some analysts also see the deal 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.''

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.


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