Bush's Nuclear Deal with India
A Worrisome Nuclear Deal, by Laurent Zecchini
LE MONDE | 07.04.06 | 13h30
A mix of good intentions, cynicism and adventurism can be found in the determination of Jacques Chirac and George Bush to permit India to don the cloak of respectability by becoming an official nuclear power. In the service of this aim, the French and US presidents followed one another to New Delhi. An “historic” American-Indian partnership was signed but ratification by Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is all but assured. The Bush Administration will attempt to convince both parties that the reasons justifying the imposition of sanctions on India after its 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion”, when New Delhi diverted its civilian nuclear program to build the bomb, are no longer relevant.
Like Iran today, India lied to the international community. But unlike Iran and North Korea, India has always refused to become a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it views as discriminatory. The difference is one of size and because of it, Iran has become an international pariah, while India has been invited to membership, with her head held high, in the club of the five legitimately recognized nuclear nations –the United States, Russia, China, France and the UK – as the sixth global nuclear power. This policy of double standard is disturbing.
Is building an atomic weapon clandestinely then clawing at nebulous international opprobrium all it takes to be rewarded in the end? A vexing example…In its deal with Washington, India got both the butter and the bread: civilian and military nuclear capabilities. Fourteen of India’s twenty-four reactors have been classified as civilian, opening them up to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In return, the US and France will supply India with the nuclear power generation plants and the fuel it requires to satisfy the energy needs of it bulimic growth.
The other reactors, including two breeder-reactors, are part of India’s military program and will not at all be subject to monitoring. By producing more fissile material than they consume, the fast neutron reactors will produce an unlimited quantity of fuel for power generation or nuclear weapons. The fact of having guaranteed imports of uranium frees India from the obligation of having to share its meager domestic production between its civilian and military programs.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington speculates that this ability will allow India to build up to 50 bombs a year, compared with the 6 to 10 which it currently has in its arsenal. Is this a Cassandra prophecy? Perhaps, but now it will be necessary to distill the over-angelic India the Responsible Power, as Mr. Chirac goes about repeating, from Peaceful, Democratic India, as the White House assures us it is? India is a parliamentary democracy, but is that equivalent with “peaceful”?
The India-Pakistan wars of 1947-1978, 1965 and 1971 compel one to view India’s peacefulness through a relative lens, especially after the two countries twice failed in bringing themselves into a fourth conflict after the 1999 Kargil incident in Kashmir and the 2001 bombing of Parliament in New Delhi. Since they both became nuclear powers, the pair has been involved in an arms race which culminated in simultaneous atomic tests in 1998. But the missile race is not subsiding, and in 2002 until 2004, India placed second behind China in worldwide conventional weapons purchasing.
Despite its policy of normalization with Beijing, it knows that over the long term its strategic enemy is China and India is preparing itself for this. What other purpose could there be in the development of the Surya intercontinental ballistic missile, with a range of over 5,000 miles? The tacit agreement by Washington is dictated by Realpolitik: America wishes to contain the growing military power of China by making India into a counterbalance.
France and the United States have their reasons for granting exceptional status to India. Beyond the display of altruism – to help India to respond to its developmental needs – the two countries explain that it is urgent go remove India from the nuclear doghouse so that it can be assisted in reducing its dependence on oil, which will relieve the pressure on the petroleum market.
THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE
Last but not least, the US and French nuclear industries are impatient to cash in on lucrative export opportunities. Despite the fact that France and the US have united in an effort to obtain the modification of NSG directives, there is no doubt that sharp competition will immediately ensue between Westinghouse and Areva. The Number 1 French nuclear contender insists that thus far it has had no direct talks with New Delhi, but the psychological war has begun. French technicians underscore that their large-capacity nuclear reactors will interest India. Areva’s European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) has a capacity of 1,600 mw vs. the 1,000-megawatt AP1000 reactor by Westinghouse....
Within the NSG, its 45 members have coalesced into two camps. On the one side are the USA, France, Russia and the UK, who wish to sell their nuclear technology to India. On the other are the countries which have their doubts. For them, the architecture of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be further undermined if India gets favored treatment.
The NPT us a kind of “nuclear Yalta Agreement”: states which have had the ability to seek nuclear weapons have renounced them in exchange for civilian nuclear cooperation and the guarantee that the Club of Five would accept no additional members. Because of the recent nuclear trade in which Pakistan has engaged, Washington has refused to grant it the same advantages as India. This slap-in-the-face to an ally in the war on al-Qaeda will inevitably drive it into the arms of China, which will hasten to increase its nuclear cooperation to the Land of the Pure.
The “historic” Indian-American pact threatens to ignite an arms race in Asia. If this proves to be the case, then it will be not far to go before the letter and the spirit of a non-proliferation agreement, steadily undermined in the last thirty-eight years, gives way to the law of a nuclear jungle.