Experts blast Bush on India nuke deal

MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Non-proliferation experts have blasted the Bush administration for negotiating too lenient nuclear and space cooperation deals with India.

The agreements announced at a summit meeting between President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18 "if not properly clarified by Congress, are fraught with danger," Henry Sokolski, executive director of The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington told the House International Relations Committee in testimony Oct. 26.


"Congress should delay endorsing such cooperation," Sokolski said, until India forswears "increasing the net number of nuclear weapons it currently possesses."

Congress should also apply the principle of applying to India the stringent requirements of identifying "all reactors supplying electricity to its distribution grid, all research reactors claimed to be for peaceful purposes, all spent fuel these reactors have produced" and subjecting them "to routine compulsory International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, he said.

"To be sure, insisting on these requirements will initially displease those in a hurry to seal the nuclear and space deals with India," he said. However, Sokolski said, these requirements "must be met, if, as the deal's backers have claimed repeatedly, the nuclear and space deals are to enhance the cause of global non-proliferation and security. "


"The U.S., after all, has an interest in making India behave as the U.K. (Britain) and Japan does, not merely as China or Iran," he said.

Sokolski also noted that while supporters of the boosted U.S.-India cooperation on space and nuclear energy see India as a counterweight to Iran and China on Asia as a staunch U.S. ally, "India's foreign secretary and prime minister are Insistent India's July 18 understandings with the U.S. are not directed against any third country."

"Indian officials ... are insistent that India's vote on Iranian IAEA noncompliance was caveated and cast primarily to help prevent referral to the U.N. As to China, the current Indian government sees economic cooperation with Beijing as a key to India's future development," Sokolski said.

Sokolski also argued that encouraging India to beef up its strategic nuclear capabilities would divert its resources from cooperating with the United States in the war on terror.

"Every rupee India invests in developing nuclear weapons, ICBMs and missile defense is one less that will other wise be available to enhance security cooperation with the U.S,. in the imperative areas of anti-terrorism, intelligence-sharing and maritime cooperation in and near the Indian Ocean," he said.

Leonard Spector, deputy director of the Center for Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, told the HIRC hearing the July 18 agreements involved abandoning the principle of applying full-scope safeguards requirements to it civil nuclear exports.


"For the United States to abandon this principle in the case of India represents a highly visible and far-reaching change of course that should only be undertaken for the most worthy states and for the most compelling reasons," Spector said. "I believe that India does not meet these standards at this time."

Spector also expressed skepticism that India would give the United States continued support in future IAEA votes on the Iranian nuclear issue. "The true test of Indian commitment to international nonproliferation norms will come when a decision at the IAEA must be made to refer Iran's noncompliance to the U.N. Security Council," he said. Spector was also highly critical of India's record on civil nuclear transfer agreements.

"As all of us in this room who are familiar with the history of the Indian nuclear weapons program know India does not meet this test," he said. "Indeed, at this very moment I consider India to be violating a core international commitment applying to civilian nuclear transfers it has received, by using restricted plutonium for its nuclear weapons program."

Robert J. Einhorn, senior adviser to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the HIRC hearing he believed that "the nonproliferation benefits of the July 18 Joint Statement (between India and the United States) are rather limited."


"The nonproliferation value of India's commitment to place certain nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards will be rather limited," he said. "...As long as India continues to produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons (at facilities not on the safeguards list)...."

India's July 18 safeguards commitment "has no effect on India's ability to continue to producing fissile material for nuclear weapons at facilities not designated for safeguards," he said.

"By seeking an exception to the rules to accommodate America's new special friendship with India, the deal would reinforce the impression internationally that the U.S. approach to nonproliferation has become selective and self-serving, not consistent and principled," Einhorn said.

"The nuclear deal in its present form has produced resentment on the part of close U.S. friends like Japan, Germany and Brazil, who were forced to choose between nuclear weapons and nuclear civil cooperation," Einhorn said.

"... Now that India has been offered the opportunity to have its cake and eat it too, many non-nuclear (Non-Proliferation Treaty) parties feel let down.

" ... They will be less inclined in the future to make additional sacrifices in the name of nonproliferation," he said.

"The Bush administration's policy shift conveys the message that the United States -- the country the world has always looked to as the leader in the global fight against proliferation -- is now de-emphasizing nonproliferation and giving it a back seat to other foreign policy goals."


Einhorn said he did not recommend that the U.S. government should repudiate its July 18 agreements with India but that it should seek to tighten up the non-proliferation safeguards in them.

"The remedy should not be to reject the deal struck in July but to require that it be pursued in a way that enables the U.S. to advance its strategic goals with India as well as its non-proliferation interests -- not serve one at the expense of the other," he said.

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