Jeffrey LewisIndian PM on Disarmament

Greetings from Delhi.

Yesterday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opened the conference, Towards a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, by lighting a lamp (left) and giving a speech (right).

(I tried to convince George Perkovich to have a lamp lighting ceremony at the 2009 Carnegie Nonproliferation Conference, but I don’t think he bought it.)

Singh’s address to the conference, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a speech by Rajiv Gandhi, emphasizing the need for disarmament and reiterating existing Indian proposals:

These proposals retain the spirit and substance of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan. We hope that other states will agree to a dialogue on these proposals, and will join us in committing to nuclear disarmament. That is the critical first step – a commitment, preferably a binding legal commitment through an international instrument, to eliminate nuclear weapons within a time bound framework.

I was almost encouraged until I saw the headline in The Hindu over breakfast — “Can’t Limit Energy Options: PM.”

In fact, these are the headlines from Google News:

Limiting energy options a luxury: PM
The Statesman

N-terrorist a realistic threat, says PM
Economic Times

Nuclear energy the best option
The Hindu (online)

N-deal must for energy needs: Prime Minister
The Times of India

Only VOA headlined the story “Prime Minister Pitches Global Nuclear Disarmament.”

Back to weary cynicism.


  1. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Suppose nuclear energy is the message… What are the hurdles to India building Breeder Reactors instead of natural uranium to solve the problem of having little uranium in country?

  2. Arnold Evans (History)

    On Topic:

    Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 proposal should be read in the West as a representative of the Third World (with apologies for terminology like “West” and “Third World”) issuing opening demands or beginning a discussion intended to reach the goal of full nuclear disarmament.

    It requires action by the nuclear weapons states and not as much committed action from the non weapons states. I find this reasonable from the point of view of states like India and personally would call for weapons states to unilaterally follow R. Gandi’s proscriptions. But at the least, those proscriptions could and should be the beginning of a discussion.

    I think Western readers should respond with a Western vision of a route to full disarmament. Should international limits be placed on enrichment and processing of fissile materials in the context of a new full disarmament agreement? Global participation in the AP or something like it? What does the Western nonproliferation community propose, with what kinds of sequencing and under what kinds of time frames toward reaching the goal of full disarmament?

    As it stands it is reasonable to question the level of support that exists for the goal of full nuclear disarmament in the Western non-proliferation community, which is a shame that can’t be passed off to the media.


    From Graham Allison’s recent Boston Globe piece about Iran’s nuclear program:

    Today, as last month’s International Atomic Energy Agency report documents, Iran is operating 3,492 centrifuges in a cascade that has produced 500 pounds of low-enriched uranium. This is one-third of what is required for Iran’s first nuclear bomb.

    500 pounds seems to me too high an estimate for the amount of low enriched uranium Iran already has and 1500 pounds seems too low for an estimate of the amount of LEU it takes to make one bomb.

    Can anyone comment on these estimates?

  3. Tim

    Since when does re-pitching old, rejected proposals and hoping others agree too them count as diplomacy?

    If I suggest that India should unilaterally disarm and join the NPT as a non-nuclear state, will you give me the same unadulterated love? I mean, it’s just as unrealistic and impractical, so I don’t see why not … unless you reserve your approval for unrealistic proposals you happen to be in favor of. But that’s absurd.

  4. Lao Tao Ren (History)


    Sorry —- My comment on SSPanzer’s comment to the Pakistan-NORK post properly should have been posted here (with respect to the Indian view of the NPT and the credibility of the NPT given its history of selective enforcement.

    Please see below.

  5. FSB

    I think you are right — unlikely Iran has 500 lbs of LEU:

  6. SQ

    “Back to weary cynicism.”

    Yep. It’s easy to be misled. You can’t even get good deli food there.

  7. kme

    The other day the Australian PM also brought up disarmament in a speech at Hiroshima .

  8. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    US-India nuclear deal dead

    By Edward Luce and Daniel Dombey in Washington DC

    Published: June 10 2008 22:00 | Last updated: June 10 2008 22:00

    The historic civil nuclear deal with India that George W. Bush saw as one of his signature foreign policy achievements is almost certainly dead, according to senior US officials.

    Asked whether it was now impossible to push the deal through in the dying days of Mr Bush’s term, one administration official told the Financial Times: “That is probably correct.”

    The Bush administration, which unveiled the deal at a White House meeting with Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, in 2005, has watched with growing frustration as New Delhi has repeatedly missed deadlines to complete the deal for fear of provoking its leftist coalition allies.

    Until recently, US officials continued to hope that Mr Singh would persuade his colleagues, including Sonia Gandhi, to face down the communist parties that last year threatened to pull the plug on the coalition government if it pushed ahead with the deal.

    Under the terms of what many saw as an audacious agreement that gives India access to civil nuclear technology and material without requiring it to renounce its nuclear weapons or join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, New Delhi had to secure the approval of the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    After that, it would be submitted to the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group before returning to the US Congress for final approval. New Delhi, however, has sat on the deal for the past 10 months without inviting IAEA inspectors to begin their safeguards inspections.

    That has swallowed up what little time there was to get it done before Mr Bush leaves office. “Even if the Indian government were suddenly to turn around and get the IAEA stage completed, there would be no time for the remaining two stages,” said Ashley Tellis, one of the original architects of the deal and now an adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign.

    Raja Mohan, an Indian commentator and one of the strongest cheerleaders of the deal, said on Tuesday that there could still be a sliver of a chance of reviving it this year if India’s ruling Congress party, headed by Mrs Gandhi, chose to face down its leftist allies at a possible meeting with the communist leaders next week. “The optimistic way of thinking about it is that the deal is dying but not yet dead,” said Mr Mohan. “The pessimists might say, ‘The deal is dead but not yet buried’.”

    Senior Indian officials, who declined to comment, say privately that their best chances of reviving the deal would come with the election of Mr McCain, the Republican party’s presumptive presidential candidate, who last month stated his strong support for it. Barack Obama, who submitted a “poison pill” amendment to the original Senate bill in late 2006, is “highly ambivalent” about it, in the words of an adviser to the Democratic party’s presumptive candidate.

    The collapse of the deal would jeopardise India’s access to sensitive US technology which could have an impact on defence sales and civil nuclear development. “If you look at the regime between 1974 [when India conducted its first nuclear test] and 1998 [its second] that would give you some idea of what India would be heading back towards,” Mr Tellis said. “This would be an historic blunder.”

    Timeline: From sanctions to accord

    1974 “Peaceful nuclear tests” conducted under Indira Gandhi, prompting US sanctions

    1998 First open nuclear weapons tests carried out under Atal Behari Vajpayee, prompting new US sanctions

    2001 India offers immediate assistance to the US after September 11 attacks

    2005 Manmohan Singh and George W. Bush sign the initial agreement to provide nuclear fuel and technology to India

    March 2006 George W. Bush visits India to conclude the deal. In November the US Senate passes it

    July 2007 Indian and US negotiators resolve their outstanding differences on the deal

    Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

  9. manoj joshi (History)

    You may find the latest post at of interest.It’s inspiration is the conference jeffery attended

  10. blah blah blah

    Well, then Voice of America wants disarmament, but America doesn’t want.