Jeffrey LewisIndia's Nonproliferation Record Revisited

WaPo’s Dafna Linzer reports that the Congress has asked for an intelligence assessment on India’s nonproliferation record, particularly its ties to Iran:

In a Jan. 23 letter to John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, the ranking chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations panels asked for “an interagency assessment” of India’s nuclear program, its record of proliferation and its ties to Iran. The letter was signed by Reps. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.)—all of whom have been generally supportive of the India deal but have raised concerns about the proliferation implications and about India’s relations with Iran.

The four asked Negroponte to assess how India is implementing its nonproliferation commitments, the adequacy of its export controls and the movement into and out of India of materials to make weapons of mass destruction.

I suspect the reference to Iran is a result of the two Indian firms sanctioned for “selling missile parts to Iran,” sanctions that Linzer reported
were kept secret until after the House voted on legislation related to the US-India nuclear deal.

Of course, the evidence for sanctions is often sketchy—the two Indian chemical firms seem to have been treated shabbily. And the more vivid reports of India-Iran military cooperation are probably false. Barbara Boxer asked
SECSTATE Rice about reports of India training Iranian sailors—reports Rice denied. The ensuing CRS report, India-Iran Relations and U.S. Interests, is a nice, calm discussion of the India-Iran relationship.

Still, India refuses to adhere to the MTCR for reasons that escape me. If Indian firms make sales not in conformance with the MTCR, I’d like the US Congress to know about it.

Expanding the Definition of “Nonproliferation Record”

Perhaps more important, I think we need to expand the range of activities that constitute a state’s “nonproliferation record.”

I hope the forthcoming intelligence assessment addresses India’s indirect support to proliferators through its own illicit procurement efforts—efforts that subvert the laws of other countries, violate the spirit (if not the letter) of India’s obligations under UNSC 1540 and sustain an illicit infrastructure that could be used by other would-be nuclear weapons states.

David Albright has been critical of India’s nonproliferation record, particularly India’s procurement of export controlled components for its gas centrifuge program.

I learned it by watching you!

This kind of participation in the black market for WMD components is—to my mind—just as dirty a business as selling WMD components.

Firms involved in the illicit WMD trade wouldn’t exist without customers. By sustaining the network, countries like India preserve the infrastructure for other would-be nuclear weapons states. Pakistan’s AQ Khan demonstrates that the line between customer and entrepreneur can blur all too easily.

This is, of course, the argument that the Bush Administration has been making about the role that illegal drugs play in supporting terrorist groups. Surely you remember the awful Super Bowl advert. Not endorsing the drug war, just noting that the form of argument should be familiar.

India ought to understand that WMD suppliers will turn around and sell to your worst enemy: After all, India reportedly used the same merchants of death in South Africa as Pakistan. (By the way, for more on illicit procurement networks, I can’t recommend a better starting point than Alex Montgomery’s “Ringing In Proliferation: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network” in International Security.)

Anyway … I hope that the intelligence estimate takes this approach and defines India’s nonproliferation record to include not just India’s role as a supplier, but also as a supporter of illicit procurement networks.

Late Update: The Arms Control Association has posted Sharon Squassoni’s latest report, India and Iran: WMD Proliferation Activities.