India Is Allowed to Buy Nuclear Fuel, Despite Its Weapons Program

By Eliza Strickland | September 8, 2008 4:25 pm

nuclear power plantAn international group has given India special approval to buy nuclear technology to further its nuclear power program, although the country has steadfastly refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The decision, made by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), was strongly supported by the United States, which hopes to sell the technology to India. The NSG adopted a one-off waiver of a 34-year-old global ban on nuclear trade with India, allowing New Delhi and Washington to do business [Reuters].

The proposed deal between the United States and India still has to be approved by the U.S. Congress, and there are several roadblocks to its immediate passage. Congress will be in session for only two weeks this September before breaking again for the final flurry of campaigning before the November election, and supporters of the India deal will have to pass special legislation to expedite the approval process. ‘‘I’d say the chances of it getting past the senate are 50-50,” a Senate aide said. ”Senators are good at tying things up in knots” [Times of India].

The ban on doing nuclear business with India has been in place since the country tested its first nuclear bomb in 1974. Critics of the new deal say it sets a bad precedent. The suppliers group decision “erodes the credibility of global efforts to ensure that access to peaceful nuclear trade and technology is available only to those states that meet global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament standards,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the [Arms Control Association], said [Bloomberg].

India has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, calling it discriminatory because it only allows the US, UK, France, Russia and China to legally possess nuclear weapons [New Scientist]. Under the agreement hammered out by the NSG, India will be able to buy nuclear fuel and processing technology, but it has promised not to transfer the fuel and equipment to its weapons program, and it would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect at least 14 of its 22 nuclear plants [CNN].

The deal has been a tough sell in India, where the country’s nuclear weapons are often viewed as a source of pride and politicians have loudly worried that the Indian military may lose the right to develop them. To assuage such fears, a government spokesman said there is nothing in the waiver granted by Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that stops India from carrying out nuclear tests in future. “The right to test is sovereign. Nobody can take it away from us” [The Hindu].

Image: U.S. Department of Energy

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Sanjoy Das

    Daryl Kimball has written a number of articles for various and magazines. He has consistently ignored a few crucial aspect of India’s nuclear program (especially points 1., 2. and 3.)

    1. In 1994, under PM Rajiv Gandhi, India had in fact offered to sign the NPT as a non-nuclear state provided the five recognized nuclear powers under the NPT agree to a time-bound program of disarmament. Only the nuclear powers didn’t listen. India was left with no choice but to go nuclear.

    2. India began its civilian nuclear program well before China did. Its main focus was civilian nuclear program, until Chinese tests, and aggressive posture forced India to develop a nuclear weapons program. In fact, India had a larger civilian nuclear program than China until recently. China until now had the advantage of being able to access Western/Russian nuclear technology, while India didn’t. India has technical know-how for the full nuclear cycle, including reprocessing, which China is yet to develop.

    3. All the main global power centers are either nuclear powers, covered under a nuclear shield (like Japan, Germany or Australia) through bilateral/multilateral defense arrangements, or thrive in a nuclear-free environment (like Brazil or South Africa). India is the only major power which did not enjoy this security.

    4. India even after the NSG approval has to open up 14 of its nuclear reactors for IAEA inspection. Of all the nuclear reactors of the original 5 nuclear powers put together, only a measly three are open to IAEA inspection. Moreover, India has had to agree to permanent IAEA safeguards, while the other nuclear powers can terminate IAEA safeguards at will. Even after the NSG clearance, India is at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the other nuclear powers.

    5. India never proliferated. China proliferated to Pakistan, supplying the unstable nation with a fission bomb design. Why must India be punished, while China goes scot-free? Is it fair?

    Lastly, while Indians do view the possession of nuclear weapons with a certain degree of pride, in doing so, they are no different than the Chinese, Russians or Americans. India’s nuclear arsenal are beyond a doubt a necessary requirement for its security.

  • Sanjay

    The USA, Russia, UK, France and China are all allowed to buy nuclear fuel from the international market despite their weapons programs. Why should India be subjected to a lower standard? India deserves the same rights as these countries, especially when China is pointing nuclear weapons at India from the other side of a disputed border. Why does the NPT give China a free pass for having nuclear weapons and pointing them at India, but the same NPT points a finger at India for pointing its nuclear weapons right back at China for deterrence? Why is China more legitimate than India? China has proliferated nuclear weapons to Pakistan and to North Korea. Pakistan has in turn proliferated nuclear weapons to Iran. But India has proliferated nuclear weapons to nobody. Why doesn’t the NPT hold China accountable for its nuclear weapons proliferation? Article 1 of the NPT states that no country possessing nuclear weapons shall help a country without them to acquire them. But China has done these very things! Meanwhile India, which is not even a signatory to the NPT or its obligations has never proliferated anything. India has fulfilled the obligations of an NPT nuclear weapons state without even being a member of the treaty or recieving the privileges of such a state. This treaty has rewarded wrongdoers like China, while punishing innocent countries like India to make nice guys finish last. That’s why there needs to be a waiver.

  • bob

    Madness. Toys for the insatiably insane. These orbs of light fight a war on terror against Muslims by selling the a bomb to Pakistan, 95 percent Muslim. There’s nothing bright about any of it.

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