An 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