Bush signs In­dia nu­clear deal, end­ing non-pro­lif­er­a­tion era

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Pres­i­dent Bush on Dec. 18 signed a bill es­tab­lish­ing civil­ian nu­clear ties with In­dia, a dra­matic break in three decades of U.S. non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pol­icy but a step that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion said will closer bind both na­tions and re­draw the bal­ance of power in Asia.

“Af­ter 30 years out­side the sys­tem, In­dia will now op­er­ate its civil­ian nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram un­der in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cepted guide­lines — and the world is go­ing to be safer as a re­sult,” Mr. Bush said, sign­ing leg­is­la­tion that could al­low U.S. nu­clear tech­nol­ogy to be shared with In­dia for non­mil­i­tary pur­poses.

As the pres­i­dent’s push to es­tab­lish democ­ra­cies sput­ters in the Mid­dle East, the In­dia agree­ment gives him a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional diplo­matic ac­com­plish­ment in an­other part of the world. Un­der­sec­re­tary of State R. Ni­cholas Burns called it one of the most im­por­tant strate­gic ac­com­plish­ments of Mr. Bush’s ten­ure.

“The real im­por­tance of the leg­is­la­tion the pres­i­dent is sign­ing to­day is not just the nu­clear as­pect; it’s the wider im­pli­ca­tions for the ben­e­fit to the United States strate­gi­cally of hav­ing this huge demo­cratic power now very close to the United States and us close to them,” he said.

Those new ties come as the United States tries to man­age re­la­tions with Pak­istan and fig­ure out a way to deal with China — both of which see In­dia as a com­peti­tor.

The deal had over­whelm­ing sup­port in Congress, pass­ing two weeks ago in the Se­nate by unan­i­mous con­sent and in the House by 330-59.

Op­po­nents, though, said the agree­ment marks a re­treat in the United States’ stated goal of con­tain­ing nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. Rep. Ed­ward J. Markey, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, called it “an his­toric mis­take.”

“It has shred­ded the nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty; it has em­bold­ened Iran’s nu­cle­ar­weapons pro­gram and has vastly in­creased In­dia’s ca­pac­ity to make nu­clear weapons to 40 to 50 nu­clear bombs per year from two to three nu­clear bombs per year,” he said.

And Michael Kre­pon, a for­mer arms-con­trol of­fi­cial, said the deal opens the door to other na­tions help­ing Iran or Pak­istan bol­ster their nu­clear pro­grams.

“You can count on this hap­pen­ing. You can count on China de­mand­ing an ex­cep­tion for Pak­istan. And you can count on Rus­sia down the road de­mand­ing an ex- cep­tion for Iran,” said Mr. Kre­pon, who is also co-founder of the Henry L. Stim­son Cen­ter, an in­ter­na­tional af­fairs in­sti­tute. “The ex­port-con­trol sys­tem that we rely upon for non­pro­lif­er­a­tion has taken a big hit with this deal.”

The In­dian gov­ern­ment says the deal erodes the in­ter­na­tional con­trols over its nu­clear pro­gram — but sees that as a good thing.

“Even­tu­ally, our ob­jec­tive is that tech­nol­ogy de­nial regimes that have tar­geted In­dia for so many decades must be dis­man­tled so that our na­tional de­vel­op­ment is unim­peded,” the min­is­ter of ex­ter­nal af­fairs, Shri Pranab Mukher­jee, told par­lia­ment two weeks ago, ac­cord­ing to the Hindu news­pa­per.

He also said In­dia will ig­nore pro­vi­sions that Congress at­tached to the nu­clear agree­ment urg­ing In­dia to stop co­op­er­a­tion with Iran on that na­tion’s nu­clear pro­gram.

“The con­duct of for­eign pol­icy de­ter­mined solely by our na­tional in­ter­ests is our sov­er­eign right,” he said.

In­dia con­ducted its first nu­clear test in 1974, then tested a ther­monu­clear bomb in May 1998, prompt­ing Pak­istan to con­duct a se­ries of tests about two weeks later.

In­dia has re­fused to sign the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and the Com­pre­hen­sive Nu­clear Test Ban Treaty and has re­jected full In­ter- na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency safe­guards on its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties.

Pre­vi­ously, those had been con­di­tions for U.S. nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion, but the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced in 2005 that it would drop those and work for a new deal with In­dia.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion in­sisted that this is not a model for Iran, Pak­istan or other na­tions claim­ing to want to ex­pand their civil­ian nu­clear pro­grams.

“In­dia is unique in that re­spect,” Mr. Burns said. “We have no plans what­so­ever to pro­vide this kind of leg­is­la­tion for any other coun­try, in­clud­ing Pak­istan.”

Last week’s sign­ing is just the first step in a process be­fore U.S. tech­nol­ogy can be trans­ferred. Ap­proval by the IAEA, a con­sen­sus from the 45-na­tion Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group (NSG) and fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments be­tween the United States and In­dia are still pend­ing, al­though Mr. Burns said the bi­par­ti­san sup­port for the bill in Congress is likely to sway NSG mem­ber­swho­hadraisedques­tions.

The bill was passed based in part on the strength of grow­ing power in the In­dian-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, and Mr. Bush in­vited many of those lead­ers to the sign­ing cer­e­mony in the White House’s East Room.

Mr. Bush said the bill should strengthen ties be­tween two na­tions that should be nat­u­ral al­lies, declar­ing that “the ri­val­ries that once kept our na­tions apart are no more.”

He noted that In­dia and the United States are the world’s two big­gest democ­ra­cies, both are com­mit­ted to open so­ci­eties, and both have suf­fered from ter­ror­ist at­tacks and are fight­ing in a war against ter­ror­ism.

The pres­i­dent said that in ad­di­tion to bring­ing In­dia un­der some in­ter­na­tional safe­guards, the deal will also boost al­ter­na­tives to fos­sil fu­els in In­dia and cut down on green­house gas emis­sions.

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Reach­ing out: Pres­i­dent Bush greeted In­dian diplo­mat Ra­min­der Jas­sal af­ter sign­ing a civil­ian nu­clear deal with New Delhi. Rep. Frank Pal­lone Jr. was among the law­mak­ers at the cer­e­mony.

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