Credibility of Global Nuclear Treaty at Risk

Following the controversial conclusion of U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the Obama administration has taken another step of revising its policy of exporting dual-use goods to India. This policy which removes India’s long-standing status as a country of concern on sensitive equipment may  induce other non-NPT(Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) members to  expand their nuclear weapons programs. The NPT is a global treaty that stems the proliferation of nuclear weapons by obliging non-nuclear weapon states to forgo nuclear option. Such countries in return are promised access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

India is a nuclear capable state which detonated nuclear explosions in the week of May 11, 1998. It has not signed the NPT. As that treaty establishes nuclear non-proliferation norms, its rights like obtaining nuclear fuel for peaceful purpose are reserved for the members. When the nuclear deal was struck between America and India in 2008, an exception was applied to India in her right to import nuclear fuel from the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

This group is an informal club of 46 nuclear fuel suppliers which was formed in the aftermath of India’s peaceful nuclear explosion in 1974.  The group has developed some guidelines to follow while exporting the sensitive material. India was not eligible for being supplied nuclear fuel from the NSG as it is outside the NPT regime. In order to finalize the nuclear cooperation deal the Bush administration influenced members of the NSG to favor India. This arm twisting by the U.S. in flagrant violation of the NPT exposes its poor non-proliferation records.

The commercial and strategic interests of the U.S played decisive roles in bypassing the NSG rules. In post-nuclear deal period India is expanding nuclear power plants rapidly in the operation of which nuclear powers, notably France and Russia, have demonstrated immense enthusiasm. By 2020 India intends to increase her nuclear capacity to at least 20 gig watt (GW) from less than 4 GW which she generates now.

India should not obtain dual-use goods as argued by David Albright, Paul Branan and Andrea Stricker, through their article “Keeping Dual-Use Goods out of India’s Nuclear Program”. They have reasonably raised concerns for wider implications from such policy that permits India to import goods having both civilian and military uses. January 26, 2011 Institute for Social and International Security (ISIS) report substantiates this.

The White House has claimed that this policy “will strengthen the global non-proliferation and export control framework” but the U.S. establishment is silent whether it will resort to policy reversal in case India diverts sensitive materials to nuclear weapons. It is doubtful if the reoriented policy announced on November 8, 2010 complies with the U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, 1978 which requires that peaceful nuclear deal should contain rigorous non-proliferation  assurances on exports of U.S. nuclear equipment and materials.

There should be provisions for stringent control to prevent any possible misuse of dual-use goods. Otherwise, it may fuel ongoing nuclear arms race in South Asia where, Pakistan, an adversarial and nuclear-armed neighbor of India, may be tempted to seek sensitive materials for expanding its nuclear capability to match its rival.

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