Friday, April 07, 2006

US-India Nuclear Deal

I was going to discuss other cases of nuclear cooperation (or lack thereof) as well, but I think that, for now, I will stick to the controversial agreement between the US and India. To put it briefly, the US Senate has been debating whether or not to ratify an agreement that would allow India access to American civil nuclear technology.

There is widespread objection to the idea for several reasons.

To begin with, India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Many people believe that it is irresponsible to provide nuclear technology of any kind to a country that does not, apparently, support nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Not only does such an agreement undermine the NPT; it also means that the US may be unintentionally setting the stage for more dangerous conflict (within Asia or otherwise). India is not, after all, subject to the searches and monitoring that apply to signatories of the NPT.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended her government's decision by saying that "past non-proliferation policies had not worked and that India was unlikely ever to sign up to the NPT." Accordingly, the deal would end "India's isolation from international nuclear standards." That may be, but one could return — as many have — that the US government should, at least, have managed to make a better deal (with more safeguards and more concessions on the Indian side).

It is difficult for me, personally, to judge the deal without more knowledge of specific conditions. For all I know, it may not be so bad. After all, Rice did say that "the agreement has been welcomed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Britain, France and Russia," and that "'civil nuclear co-operation with India will not lead to an arms race in South Asia.'"

Still, there are concerns. For example, the Indian government will, admittedly, make fourteen nuclear facilities open for international inspection, but eight will still be inaccessible (perhaps because they are still under construction?). Furthermore, even Rice acknowledged that suspected ties between India and Iran are cause for concern. Not that she considered them a reason to prevent the nuclear deal. On the contrary, Rice said that "the deal would improve energy security, by reducing India's reliance on fuel from Iran." Rather odd, considering that, just last month, US President Bush decided to approve of a pipeline going from Iran to India (see this article and note the flip-flopping — he he).

Anyway, much of all this is suspicion and mistrust — possibly unfounded. India would clearly benefit from the energy that can be provided by nuclear power plants. The question is simply to what extent a country should prove itself, and how supportive it should be of international disarmament initiatives, before other countries begin supporting its nuclear efforts.

Actually, the question is also what, exactly, motivated the American government to come to this agreement. Was it a wish to "'deepen strategic partnerships'" or a wish to ease pressure on diminishing oil supplies? Was it financial interests? A desire to quell "'all the hostility and suspicion of the past'"? A benevolent concern for the well-being of Indian citizens? A recognition of Asia's growing importance on a global level? A wish to help the environment by reducing carbon emissions? . . . I wonder to what extent official explanations reflect the truth.

Note: All quoted text and much of the information is taken from this BBC article. Except when enclosed in both single and double quotation marks, all quotations were written or paraphrased by the BBC, not directly quoted.

Another Note: See this article for further (better) analysis of the matter.

Final Note: I would have posted this yesterday, but I ended up sleeping for about twenty hours. :o)


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