Jeffrey LewisJoseph on India

Friend of Wonk Jofi Joseph has a great op-ed in Defense News, arguing that the Administration should admit that the US-India nuclear deal trades nonproliferation interests for a strategic partnership with India, and accept Congressional efforts to limit the nonproliferation downside:

… [T]he U.S. administration has made the case that this agreement accomplishes two objectives:

  • It removes 30 years of friction from the U.S.-India bilateral relationship and sets the stage for a genuine strategic partnership between America and India.
  • It advances nonproliferation interests by requiring India to separate military facilities supporting its nuclear weapons program from civilian facilities, and submit the latter to international safeguards and inspections carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

While the first argument holds legitimacy, the second argument is absurd.


In reality, the Bush administration made a calculated judgment that the potential gains from a new relationship with a rising Asian power possessing a strong democracy and a vibrant economy outweigh the costs to our nonproliferation agenda this deal incurs. Yet administration spokesmen continue to undermine their credibility by insisting that no such tradeoff exists.

Jofi then goes on to argue that the House and Senate have “devised useful legislation that preserved the essential core of the U.S.-Indian agreement while adding specific provisions that help salvage its nonproliferation virtues.” (You can view the House and Senate bills online.)

Those provisions include termination of the agreement in the event India transfers nuclear or missile-related technology outside of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines (House version) or tests a nuclear explosive device (Senate version).

The bills also require India to make “satisfactory progress” toward implementing an Additional Protocol agreement with the IAEA that would apply to India’s civil nuclear program and working with the United States toward a multilateral Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

I think Jofi makes a strong case that some combination of provisions could substantially ameliorate the nonproliferation harm done by the deal. (The better the nonproliferation measures, of course, the more doomed it may be in India’s political system. Siddharth Varadarajan lists four provisions as “problematic” in the Senate version.)

The outsanding question, for me at least, is how many of these provisions will actually survive? Joseph mentioned the Senate version would rescind the deal if India tested a nulcear weapon. That is true of S.2429 from March, but not (as far as I can tell) the most recent S. 3709.

I don’t, yet, have a clear framework for trading nonproliferation harm for better bilateral relations. I don’t even know, frankly, how one would measure either good.

Or Not

Upate. Ahem. Thomas doesn’t have the entirety of the Senate bill, which DOES include language scuppering the deal in the event of an Indian nuclear test.

Okay, Thomas is missing sections 109-111 of Title 1 of S. 3709, including section 110 which stipulates

A determination under section 105 and any waiver under section 104 shall cease to be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of the enactment of this Act.

That is arguably tougher than the March version, which abrogated the determination (but not technically the waiver) in the event of a test.

The cooperation agreement is also pursuant to section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which states:

… the United States shall have the right to require the return of any nuclear materials and equipment transferred pursuant thereto and any special nuclear material produced through the use thereof if the cooperating party detonates a nuclear explosive device …

I expect the report language will make clear the sense of Congress that the President ought to do precisely this in the event of Pokhran III, even if the Indians call it another “peaceful” nuclear explosion.

Oh, and just to be sure, the waiver of sanctions applied under Section 129 of the Atomic Energy Act (which prohibits cooperation with non-nuclear weapons states that test nuclear weapons, violate their safeguards agreement or otherwise manufacture or acquire nuclears) is not a blanket waiver, but applies only to actions (or, in this case, nuclear tests) that occured before July 18, 2005. There is one exception: A blanker waiver for the provision prohibiting the manufacture of nuclear explosive devices

Oh, and I am so glad that I didn’t go to law school.