Jeffrey LewisIndia NSG Exemption in Danger?

Anonymous diplomats tell Reuter’s Boris Groendahl that they may delay India’s NSG exemption:

But diplomats from several NSG member states said the draft fell behind earlier U.S. proposals, had unacceptable clauses and omissions, and went against existing U.S. laws on the deal.

“I would be very surprised if that would happen,” said a diplomat, who like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity.

“There are no conditions. Obviously what is missing is that (the waiver) is void if there is another atomic test.”

A second diplomat said: “I think a majority of countries feel that the current draft is very weak and there is no conditionality at all… I don’t really think that the U.S. expect that they are able to pass this draft.”

If you are lucky enough to have a subscription to Nuclear Fuel, check out Mark Hibbs’ article “Some in NSG predict prolonged debate over conditions for Indian exemption” (33:16, August 11, 2008). Diplomatic sources tell Hibbs the NSG debate will last “several weeks, perhaps longer” because of opposition to a “clean” exemption.

Groendahl goes on to speculate that the US is hoping the NSG will “fix” the deal by conditioning the exemption on India not testing — something that would be more palatable to the anti-American left in India if it came from the international community.

I don’t know about that hypothesis, but it doesn’t matter. The NSG should oppose a “clean” exemption.

I don’t know how many officials in foreign countries read this blog, but believe me: A clean NSG exemption for India is a license for Delhi to resume testing nuclear weapons.

I’ve already written about the political and technical pressures
that I believe are pressing India to conduct another round of tests. Some smart people disagree with my judgment. I think this is a hell of a science experiment to attempt with the nonproliferation regime.

The only scenario under which India would suffer a disruption in supply of nuclear fuel is a resumption of nuclear testing. India is attempting to prevent being isolated as it was after the 1998 nuclear test. A “clean” NSG exemption with no conditions would permit India to use the global marketplace to soften international repercussions from another round of nuclear tests.

I am not saying that India has a secret plan to test. Maybe the Congress-led government won’t. But the Indian side has written every agreement — the US-India 123 Agreement, the Safeguards Agreement and the NSG exemption — to allow Delhi to keep open the option to resume testing. The 123 and IAEA safeguards agreements include provisions committing the US to assist India in creating “a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply.” The 123 Agreement further requires the US to “take into account” whether whatever it was that India did to deserve termination of cooperation (e.g. conduct a nuclear test) was “a response to similar actions by other States which could impact national security.” “Other States” means China.

I don’t believe that such careful, lawyerly language is some kind of accident. India wants to keep the door open to testing; the NSG should slam it shut.


  1. Cheryl Rofer (History)

    Just wondering if the realization, via the Caucasus, that this is still a dangerous world will sensitize more of the NSG countries to the hazards of allowing India to continue to test.

  2. James (History)

    The whole agreement is a license for US-favored states to ignore the NPT and fix their pariah status later. Israel is watching very closely, of course, hoping to integrate itself into the global nuclear industry without ever having to answer any uncomfortable questions regarding its own weapons program.

    This isn’t a “science experiment.” It’s a death blow. The whole point of the NPT is NONPROLIFERATION. What does the NSG or the world at large gain by allowing India to have its cake and eat it, too? Seriously…what exactly is the incentive here?

    Obviously, the Nuclear Suppliers Group hopes to sell India a lot of stuff. But, in the end, there are about a hundred other signatories who have no say in the matter and will get nothing out of it. Except, of course, the knowledge that they are suckers for signing the treaty in the first place. India had the right idea all along: eventually, they will get used to you having nuclear weapons. Build ‘em and wait ‘em out.

  3. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Do the events in Russia / Georgia impact on this?

    It just might…

  4. hass (History)

    Bottom line: NPT RIP

  5. Major Lemon (History)

    NSG exemption is absolutely a license for India to resume nuclear weapons testing.

  6. Ak Malten (History)

    Yes, Jeffrey, you are right to call for the NSG not to pass this US-India nuclear deal, but there are much more reasons.

    For people interested in those other reasons, I would like to recommend reading the following letter:

    “Decision Time on the Indian Nuclear Deal: Help Avert a Nonproliferation Disaster”

    A Letter signed by over 130 experts and NGOs to sent to governments represented on the NSG (15 August 2008)

    It can be found here:

    Ak Malten,
    Global Anti-Nuclear Alliance

  7. Siddharth

    My 2 cents worth — Any delaying tactics by the smaller NSG members will do enormous damage to the coherence and viability of the group. Fissures within should not be underestimated. As for your worry about testing, there is no doubt in my mind that India will not be the one to initiate a new round of testing among the N-powers. But the pressure to ‘follow’ will be enormous IF the US and then China tests. So the key to locking in India’s moratorium lies not through NSG export rules but through that crucial 2/3 majority in the Senate.

  8. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    “India will not be the one to initiate a new round of testing among the N-powers”

    Does that mean if Pakistan again, they are an “N-power”?

    Or Iran? Syria? N. Korea? Israel?

    If India want to be blessed as a legitimate nuclear power under the NPT, let’s develop a consensus to reopen the treaty and renegotiate a new NPT regime.

    What bothers me with this deal is the “have their cake and eat it too”, that India is not in NPT, but for all practical purposes, have all the benefits under current US policy.

    Why bother with the NPT then?

  9. carter (History)

    Its mistake to form a non proliferation organization excluding one sixth of world population.

    And where did NPT go when china is said to be proliferating with AQ Khan. Wouldn’t you see NPT as ball less namesake entity without brain or brawn to enforce punitive measures.

    Now that the 2 Asian economies were identified as engines of future economic growth is it any wonder theres talk about opening the elitist NPT doors.

    IMHO, NPTs days are numbered you may wish otherwise.

  10. Siddharth

    LTR – This is not a case of having one’s cake and eating it too. The NPT never banned nuclear trade with non-NPT members. Much as attempts have been made recently to read FSS as a COS in III.2, the travaux preparatoires and state practice make it clear it was perfectly legitimate for a state to remain outside the NPT and get the benefit of nuclear commerce as well. The fact that all countries barring three signed up was not because they were giving up the nuclear weapons option in exchange for nuclear commerce. They signed up because they did not believe NWs were necessary for their security. For better or worse, India, Pakistan and Israel do believe they need nuclear weapons for their security. One can disagree with them, but that is reality. And after 4o years, it is time to recognise that reality and find creative ways of dealing with the three hold-outs based on their record of behaviour, their need for an expanded nuclear power inductry and the regional repercussions of asking the NSG to amend its 1992 rule change. In the case of Israel, such a change is not warranted (a) because of the lack of a compelling energy requirement argument and (b) because doing anything which is seen as favouring Israel when it possesses nuclear weapons will put strains on NPT adherents elsewhere in West Asia. In the case of Pakistan, its record on proliferation and export control does not warrant any relaxation of NSG rules. Perhaps 10-15 years later, the picture may change.In the case of India, the NSG needs to ask four questions about any possible relaxation of its guidelines:
    1. Will this increase the danger of outward proliferation? The answer is no.
    2. Will this benefit the struggle against global climate change? The answer is yes.
    3. Will this lead to existing members of the NPT wishing to break away? No. Iran is considered the only likely regional breakout (though I don’t think this is so) and its decision will be based much more on Israel and the US-led pressure on Tehran’s civil nuclear programme, including the threat of force. So if the NSG is concerned about Iran breaking out — the way the Norks did — they should encourage the Americans to talk with the Iranians (the way they should have to the Norks).
    4. Will this lead to India testing? The answer is no. Please understand that India’s security will be degraded, not enhanced, by any round of testing it sets off since there will be a good chance that Pakistan will enhance its arsenal by testing again and the Chinese may too, given their current pre-occupation with MIRVing and miniaturising. In other words, even without taking into account the economic costs that an “unprovoked” Indian test would impose, there are good military reasons for not testing. And as for economic costs, regardless of how the NSG waiver is worded, if the rest of the world, including the French and the Russians, feel an Indian-initiated round of testing will set off a chain of tests which degrade their security, they will impose sanctions on India despite a clean NSG waiver making no provision for this.

    Non-Pro folks are right to worry about more testing, of course, but they should set their sights on what is happening in the US. If the US ratifies the CTBT, China will almost soon thereafter, and then India will also likely come on board. But the chain of accession cannot run the other way.

  11. RT (History)

    There is a small probability that if NSG countries develop momentum and spine to block this deal, then they work together to pressure the NPT NWS to take their Article VI commitments more seriously.

    If Canada, Australia etc. can team up and tell the US, China and others that there will be no more nuclear trade with them unless CTBT is ratified and FMCT enters into force ASAP, then we can see some real progress.

    If they just team up to block India then the effprt will fail because there are no principles behind it and in such cirucmstances, someone always caves in because of greed or politics.

    It’s quite sad either way. I’d blame the US, UK, Russia, France and China for this. They should have known that their nuclear monopoly cannot be perpetuated without the system breaking down at some point.

  12. Mark (History)

    I heard Dick Stratford speak a couple of weeks ago, and during the Q&A session we hammered him pretty hard about the India deal and negotiations with the NSG.

    From what he said it seems pretty clear that the US is going in with a “clean” exemption so they have a position to negotiate from with the other members. If they went in with a proposal that contained the limits of what India would accept, then there’d be no room for compromise. He has no expectations that the “clean” draft will be the final version.

    He also gave what I think is the best defense I’ve heard so far of this whole deal. Basically, it’s not a good deal solely from a nonproliferation perspective, he acknowledges that. But the nonproliferation regime, like the regulatory/safety regime, exists to enable the use of nuclear power. India has over a billion people that need energy, and if they can’t get it from nuclear power they’ll get it from coal (and all it’s CO2) and from oil and gas (keeping the price high with demand). So, nonproliferation concerns aside, it’s in all our best interests for India to have as much nuclear power as possible. It was hard for me to hear that nonproliferation wasn’t their main concern, but it was compelling enough to make me (somewhat) rethink my previous position.

  13. sek

    1. All the P5 have signed the CTBT. That has implications in terms of international law and if India wants to benefit from a quasi NWS status (ie not de facto what is already is but de jure), the minimum would be that it meets the same standards as the P5.
    2. If India is so unlikely to test, then I suppose that there is no problem adding a condition to the effect that the NSG waiver will become null and void should india detonate a nuclear weapon!?
    3) And as far as having one’s cake and eating is concerned, you need to look at the NPT 1995 review conference (which decided that nuclear trade should benefit NPT States, and not the stand outs).

  14. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    The current rethink over Russia will mean that the US-India deal will drop to the bottom of the Administration’s priority vis-a-vis reassessing the relationship with Russia.

    From the US perspective, the core justification for the India gambit is to counter China’s rising power by driving a wedge between India and China.

    That worked fine when Russia is out of the picture. But with the return of Russia, the logical question is whether or not this ends up strengthening an old Russian ally even as India mouths off the obligatory non-Aligned boiler plate speech.

    Fate will probably have it that the US-India nuclear deal with now get lost in EU capitals while bigger fish are fried, and before you know it, the Bush Administration mandate will expire. An incoming administration will probably be fully occupied with dealing with Russia, and a sideshow like an Indian nuclear deal will….be quietly shelfed.

    In the mean time, detente between Taiwan and China lowers tensions in Asia.

    The Japanese and Chinese can be deployed to keep Russia occupied.

    The only thing that would upset this renewed focus on Russia is if war broke out between Pakistan and India.

    Don’t forget, in the midst of all this mess… will any Administration be willing to expend precious capital (whatever Bush has left) to passing this deal through the senate?

    Not if noisy wonky critics make enough of a stink over India resuming nuclear testing.

    India could have had this deal on a platter a few years ago when the stars aligned. By insisting on the perfect deal from the Indian perspective, India may have bargained away its greatest advantage —- timing. Time was not on India’s side.

  15. Kingston (History)


    You suggest that a compelling argument in favor of an NSG exemption for India is that it will help India meet is burgeoning energy needs.

    My understanding is that nuclear power’s contribution could be significant by 2050, but this assumes that New Delhi will be able to master a three stage nuclear program that relies heavily on plutonium fueled fast-breeder reactors and the commercialization of thorium. Any thoughts?

  16. Lao Tao Ren (History)



  17. Siddharth

    Sek — I mean no disrespect but let’s think through the relevance of FSS as a COS today on the basis of first principles rather than theology. Until 1998, there was a hope among the N-5 and the NNWSs that India might be pressurised to roll-back since it had not yet weaponised. So you have the NSG guideline of 1992, the 1995 NPT REVEXCON guiding principle you refer to, and, finally, Article 14 of the CTBT, all of which was aimed at directly and indirectly at getting India to give up its nuclear option. While those were all legitimate tactics in a geostrategic sense, the 1998 Indian tests altered the terrain. Just so that there is no misunderstanding about where I am coming from, I was a critic of the 1998 tests. But they — and the nuclear weaponised status they generated — are a fact of life. Now one can be theological and say we are going to continue to insist that India pay for its sin. Actually, we knew from the mid-1960s that the Indians were going to do this but, what the hell, they have sinned. So that’s one option, which is what the US followed till 2004-5 and the non-proliferation community is still pushing for. Or one can say, well, India is not going to roll back. And you know what, it doesn’t matter if they don’t because their possessing nuclear weapons isn’t really going to lead to anyone else going nuclear other than Pakistan (that’s another fact of life we have to also accept), and so what is the merit of insisting that we will not trade with her unless she accepts full-scope safeguards as a condition of supply? I think the latter approach is the sensible one, especially if you consider all the collateral benefits. And I believe that is what the NSG will decide to do, perhaps as soon as the 22nd, in giving a clean and unconditional exemption from its guidelines’ FSS requirement. FSS are meant for states who don’t have (or who shouldn’t ever get) nuclear weapons. India is not in that category. She is voluntarily bringing six additional PHWRs under safeguards provided you supply the fuel for them, which means so much more potential bomb making material is voluntarily being foregone by her as a concession in order to engage in international nuclear cooperation. Future civilian reactors will also be safeguarded. That is a HUGE gain from a non-proliferation perspective.

  18. Siddharth


    1. The energy issue has to be seen in the short, medium and long-term. In the short-term, i.e. till 2020, I used to believe there was little prospect of India significantly increasing the share of nuclear power in its mix beyond the current 3 per cent. But the DAE and the Planning Commission have ambitious plans of adding an additional 40 GWe of nuke capacity by then, if this deal comes through. (See this report in today’s Businessline daily:

    In the medium and long-term, fast reactors and thorium hold the key but there is a lively debate in India right now between (nationalist and left-wing) critics of the nuclear deal and Anil Kakodkar of the Department of Atomic Energy which I would urge all of you to look at. Kakodkar is India’s Mr. Thorium and he is a supporter of the nuclear deal provided the NSG exemption is clean and unconditional (in fact, he’s the daddy of those two charming words!). So the critics now accuse him of “selling out” on the breeder and Thorium front, which, as every Indian child now knows, is supposed to hold the keys to our future energy independence. Here are some links for this: (1) and (2)

    The crux of Kakodkar’s reply to the critics is this: “The point is even after we pursue the domestic three-stage nuclear power programme, which we will pursue on a priority basis in any case, there will be a gap of 400,000 MWe. If we introduce thorium earlier, this gap will become larger and the three-stage programme will become smaller. On the other hand, if we can get this 40,000 MWe from outside [by importing reactors], we can bridge this gap, and at the same time, we can advance the deployment of thorium.”

    2. The testing issue: The 123 agreement does not mention tests as a condition for termination because of Indian sensitivity. However, it makes an interesting and rather vague reference to the security situation being taken into account. This was a compromise because India said we won’t initiate a test but we might be compelled to follow. Assuming the NSG gives India a waiver, do you think it is fair to penalise her for testing if the Americans or Chinese test and she feels compelled to follow? Now the Americans could agree to that language in the 123 because it’s pretty clear the reference to the international situation was essentially to a Pakistani or Chinese test. But I don’t see the NSG coming up with this kind of formulation. In any case, the NSG already has Para 16 c of its guidelines — “In the event that one or more suppliers believe that there has been a violation of
    supplier/recipient understanding resulting from these Guidelines, particularly in the
    case of an explosion of a nuclear device” — and if members feel India should be punished, they are free to consult and press for action. So any notion that NSG clearance will give India a free pass to test is just not true. India will still have the right to test as long as the CTBT has not entered into force and it is not a signatory to it but any decision it takes in this direction will be driven primarily by its security perception following testing by others and not because its leaders will wake one day and say, “Oh goodie, these gullible NSG people have sold me 40 GWe of reactors, let me buy up and stockpile all the LEU I will need to run these reactors for the next 40 years and then go for a series of tests.” It is precisely because India is not that kind of state that the world is today on the verge of making one of the most dramatic reversals in policy we’ve seen for decades.
    3. Can I suggest the alternative? Look at the last two NSG plenary statements (FRG and RSA) and compare them with the previous three. And then ask yourself what that tells you about the quality of consensus within the club on a whole range of issues. The India deal may be blocked in Vienna by the Dutch and the Irish. But it may just be that 40 GWe of reactors ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

  19. Raj (History)

    India has a policy of creating only a minimum deterrent, no first-use, and no use against NNWS. Besides that, India knows, that a minimum deterrent is sufficient and since the bombs cannot really be used, it is conventional defense and warfare capabilities, which matter.
    More importantly, India’s priorities are more in the economic and social fields. For the Next 20 years, India would not be in any rush to try to claim any super-power status, etc. Maybe once India feels it is a preeminent economic power and feels the need to project military fortitude outwards, then building a nuclear arsenal above and beyond a minimum deterrent may be of some importance.
    In the meantime, who knows how the world would have developed. There could be a universal consensus for peace and disarmament and no-nuclear testing, in which case India would have no problem going with world consensus. A situation could also arise, where every state starts arming itself to the teeth. In that case, no NSG conditions on nuclear testing would stop India from going forward with the testing.
    So a clean exemption does not mean India would be testing, at least not for the next 20 years. A no-nuclear testing condition in the waiver also does not mean, that India will not be testing, should the situation so demand. In the end, the pro-non states are only making a mountain of a molehill.
    I mean, seriously do the people in Arms Controls really think India is going to go and start exploding bombs tomorrow? That is a very misplaced and deep suspicion without much objectivity or analytic depth of Indian Policy.

  20. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    India has lots of great lawyers.

    The problem with the US-India deal, however, is not a legal one.

    It might have something to do with the Chinese, EU, and even the Russians catching on and asking “what is in it for them” to approve this deal.

    Now that the issue of nuclear energy is raised as the “lead” issue here, suppose India and Pakistan were both squeezed hard by energy shortages, would there be an opportunity for both countries to give up nuclear weapons altogether in exchange to access to nuclear energy?

  21. AJ (History)

    I am amazed at the naviete on display here. When it comes to energy, you can screw either India or you can screw Pakistan, but you cannot screw both countries at the same time.

    As a reminder, India and Pakistan have plenty of energy available next door in the Middle East. India and Pakistan squeezed hard by energy shortages will be highly motivated to patch up and go after this energy source.

    In fact I hope the nuclear deal fails. I have always felt that the best course of action for the country is to reach an accomodation with Pakistan to finish the job of pushing out the Westerners from the neighborhood.

  22. carter (History)

    India was forced to be a nuclear power coz its Asian Neighbors have nukes.

    So its not the question of Paks and Indians giving up but also CCP. Can You?

    We would rather live in utter darkness without power than to give up the mushroom cloud that gives us a semblance of deterrence from our sneaky neighbors who are salivating to usurp land whats rightfully ours.

    Go spin your stories to the Paks who believe china is their friend, not here.

    My 2C and “Thanks”

  23. Udhistir Pande

    For its (nuclear) deterrent to be credible, it may not be “scientific” for India to say “present data in my hands is enough for all time to come; I can extrapolate as required”. Thus, with passage of time and developments in technology, “testing” in some form or the other (not just sub-critical tests or ‘undetectable’ tests or computer simulations) might become essential to maintain and demonstrate ‘credibility’. India cannot afford to just wait for another country to test before it resumes testing; it must be able to follow its own schedule as it sees appropriate for its needs. This “deal” places severe limitations on the options available to future generations of Indians for maintaining and strengthening their independence and national security.

  24. sek

    1. You should not expect a decision to be taken on August 21 or 22. There are too many questions that States will want to see answered for that. In addition, many delegations will need clear instructions from their capital (at ministerial level) and those are missing in several (due to vacations). And there are more than two countries that will ask serious questions.
    2. Your basic argument is that we should trust India, basically because India is a trustworthy country. I do not have anything against India per se, but I will still need to recall that the NSG was created because India detonated a nuclear device in 1974. And that India obtained the fuel for that test by diverting it from a civilian programme. I believe the Canadians still have fond memories of that episode.
    3. The main problem I have with this deal is, again, nothing personal with India. The NPT is already under enormous stress. This is due to the NK and Iranian cases, as well as to the failure of the P5 to live up to their commitments. And the India deal is one more nail, if not the final one, into the NPT coffin, the deal being at least contrary to the spirit of the Treaty.
    4. And again, by accepting the waiver, we quasi accept India as a nuclear State (as understood under the NPT). In such a case, the minimum we should ask from India is that it is bound by the same commitments as those of the P5: commitment (de jure) to nuclear disarmament, signature of the CTBT, …

  25. Lao Tao Ren (History)


    What about China?

    China has been in a long slumber because of the diversion of virtually anything that isn’t nailed down (policies wise) to support the Beijing Olympics.

    Now that it is out of the way, Chinese diplomats are going to wake up, and in one of their somber moments, consult ACW posts, and discover the dagger the Bush administration planted in their back yard via the US-India Nuclear deal —- namely an India with a legitimized and growing nuclear arsenal which will be used as much to deter (or to use against) China as Pakistan.

    Put this in the context of India leasing nuclear SSNs from Russia (which is presumably covered under the deal for ‘peaceful use of nuclear energy’), and it is pretty clear that their aspirations go well beyond a small stockpile of nuclear weapons to deter Pakistan.

    What astonish me in the preceding discussions is the lack of discussion about the interests of individual NSG countries and firms and what India is prepared to engage those interests while at the same time, finding ways to address legitimate concerns about India’s intentions.

    Lots of lawyerly rubbish, almost as bad as parsing John Edwards and his clique’s statements for truth, but scarcely little substance about what are India’s real intentions.

    Then we have blog posts on here, for example, look at these statements from “Raj” above:

    “For the Next 20 years, India would not be in any rush to try to claim any super-power status” [Raj]

    In other words, after 20 years, watch out!!!!

    India will get what it can from the world nuclear industry, then cut loose?

    “A situation could also arise, where every state starts arming itself to the teeth.” [Raj]

    The belligerence of these statements, had they come from Indians in a position to have significant influence on policy, would send bright red lights to every nation around the world.

    Suppose one day in the future, India, with a 50 year stockpile of fuel, decide to unilaterally withdraw from all commitments made under the US-India deal and start threatening its non-nuclear armed neighbors with its nuclear arsenal.

    What sanctions will the world have available? Cut them off nuclear trade? Conventional strike on their nuclear facilities? Nuclear first strike?

    Lets make it clear that if this deal goes through, it is a coronation of India as a legitimate Nuclear Weapons State but without even the minimum commitments to disarmament, CTBT as sek states.

    India, alone of all NWS (including the illegitimate ones), has a rapidly growing population that shows no signs of slowing down. Put this fact with the ‘arming itself to the teeth’ comment and it certainly leads one to question India’s ultimate intentions toward its neighbors.

    India shares a long and disputed border with China, and should war break out with Pakistan, it is entirely conceivable that China will be drawn into such a conflict. From the Chinese perspective, settling these issues and ascertaining India’s long term intentions must take precedence over any discussion over exempting India from NSG rules.

    While I am not convinced that India’s long term (20+ year) goal is hegemony yet, I am rather disturbed by the lawyering and India’s demands, which are clearly intended to leave the path open for India to become a hegemon.

    Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing need to open his eyes wide to the threat that India’s nuclear programs can pose to regional and global stability and exercise China’s veto on the NSG exemption.

  26. AJ (History)

    “India shares a long and disputed border with China, and should war break out with Pakistan, it is entirely conceivable that China will be drawn into such a conflict.”

    This is entirely dependent on whether China itself wants to be a hegemon, because no army in the world will go looking for a two front war by choice.

    So what are China’s long term intentions?

  27. RT (History)


    Since you require India to be “bound by the same commitments as those of the P5,”:

    1. Would you not agree that India should have the same amount of fissile material as at least one of the P-5s?

    2. India should place no more reactors under safeguards than the most placed by the P-5?

    3. India should be allowed to do as many tests as the least of the P-5 did?

    I’m not being facetious but let’s get real here. India is effectively arguing for a halfway house state for its nuclear program. You cannot at the same time argue for India to face more conditionalities than the P-5 do while refusing to grant all the rights the P-5 currently enjoy.

    Lao Tao Ren,

    It sounds like you are more upset at China’s prospects of losing its nuclear hegemony over Asia than anything else.

    I daresay that China’s nuclear program has actually caused more security threats to the world than India’s will ever do.

    After all, it was not Delhi that made the brilliant decision to share nuclear bomb designs with a country whose nuclear chief decided to run an E-bay for n-bombs.

    Bottom line – I’d start looking to the east of India if my goal is to “question the intentions” of a rising power.

  28. sek


    1) No, but I would agree that India declare a moratorium on the production of new military fissile material as 4 of the P5 have done;

    2) India has basically placed whatever it wanted under safeguards. So it is in basically the same position as the P5.
    3) No, but I would welcome the fact that India sign the CTBT as the P5 have done (and with yourargument, you basically legitimize nuclear testing by the Chinese and the French and the Brits).

    As said, if India want to be seen as a kind of recognized nuclear state, it should at least be asked to meet the minimum standards applied by the P5. And that is not a lot considering what the P5 have agreed to.

  29. Dovinr Rekhnas (History)

    Just a few points.
    1) India has enough nuclear bombs, thank you. We also have delivery mechanisms except the nuclear submarine that is well on its way to being made. The Nuclear deal with US/NSG has absolutely no effect, beneficial or otherwise on our nuclear weapons program. Some Indians in fact think getting IAEA too close will hamper our military nuclear work.

    2) India needs energy. We can make our own nuclear plants but too slowly. Also we do not have enough uranium to last for very long or to ramp up capacity.

    3) India has a long term solution in place, which involves Thorium fired reactors. This work is well on its way. India has world’s largest Thorium reserves. However, there is an intervening 30 years before we will have commercial Thorium reactor operations.

    4) To not hamper economic growth for the next 30 years we need all kinds of energy. Oil, Natural Gas, Bio Diesel, Wind and of course Nuclear.

    5) Nuclear is the only viable option for power generation to provide adequate base load.

    6) The other option is COAL, which India has in lots, but not being used in Thermal power plants due to pollution factor.

    7) So its either Nuclear power by buying reactors and uranium from the world OR burning huge amounts of COAL.

    8) The nuclear deal with US/NSG allows only for sale of civilian nuclear equipment, not military.

    9) Its a choice India and the world has to make together – to use COAL or Nuclear energy. India would prefer nuclear if world will co-operate.

    10) Deal or not, there is absolutely no way India will give up nuclear weapons or right to test in future, IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, given the neighbourhood and the world we live in. This is not negotiable at all.

    In your court.

  30. RT (History)


    You essentially want India to take on the same responsibitilies as the P5 without getting most of the benefits.

    Signing the CTBT without ratifying it for years is essentially a joke. At least India is honest enough to say that it will preserve its option to test, unlike the hypocritical positions of US and China.

    Also, if the NSG was okay with China expanding its fis-mat then they should be okay with India doing the same. If not, they have to explain why they want Chinese nuclear hegemony over Asia.

    Either they say – no trade with ANYONE not declaring fis-mat halt or they say India can get what China gets anyway.

    Try again, after you take a lesson in geopolitics.

  31. Daryl Kimball (History)

    There is much here that merits commentary and rebuttal, but given that I am busy ensuring that a few NSG states don’t allow the big NSG states to subvert the NSG as an institution, not to mention the NPT system, I would just like to pose a couple of questions to our friend Siddarth.

    First, if India is a great power and Congress and the BJP are both committed to the Vajpayee’s 1998 nuclear test moratorium pledge, what is so offensive about calls from NSG states (all of whom have signed the CTBT)for India to join a legally-binding test moratorium? Even if India were to sign the CTBT, there is a supreme national interest withdrawal clause. New Delhi’s sense of insult about CTBT Article XIV is a tired and lame excuse not to fulfill the responsibilities expected of advanced nuclear states. I find it a bit sad and funny that Indian politicians claim that India deserves to be treated like one of the original nuclear weapon states, but complain bitterly that it was included in the list of states needed for CTBT entry into force.

    Second, I’m glad you agree that “Non-Pro folks are right to worry about more testing, of course, but they should set their sights on what is happening in the US.” Many nonpro and disarmament organizations (especially ACA) are and have been working on that for longer than you know.

    I believe strongly that the United States must lead by example. But you neglect to mention that the U.S. has signed the CTBT and India has not. India’s dogged insistence on lifetime fuel supply assurances, strategic reserves, and resistance to any linkage of nuclear trade with the continuation of its test moratorium suggests that it is not serious about its nuclear test moratorium pledge. I don’t expect India to test tomorrow, but after 1974 and 1998, why should the international community make the leap of faith that it will not do so again?

  32. Lao Tao Ren (History)


    Hear, hear!

    Things said on this site have successfully changed my mind about India’s intentions.

  33. Sukla Sen (History)

    Excuse me for my late entry.

    Let us, however, have a relook into a few of the basic issues involved.

    First, the ‘deal’ is primarily a unilateralist move on behalf of the US to reinforce its faltering project for unfettered global domination – faltering under the impact of Iraq fiasco.
    The ‘deal’ aims to reward and lure India – for its potential role in being set up as a “big regional power” to counter China, and maybe also other potential and actual challengers and irritants to the US project in the region like Russia and Iran. If India becomes a close junior ally in the process, that would be bonus.
    That’s why the approach is so arbitrary and grossly discriminatory.
    There is even no slightest pretence of any criteria-based approach.
    First, the targeted beneficiary is cherry-picked, then the criteria being negotiated and attempted to be foisted on others.
    Pakistan and, more than that, Iran provide graphic examples of the inherent discrimination.

    Nothing is more revealing on India’s stand on the issue of Indiaa’s nuclear weaponisation programme vis-à-vis the deal than the concluding reply of none other than the Indian Prime Minister himself on the floor of the lower house of the Indian parliament to the debate on the confidence motion initiated by him on July 22 last.

    The essence of the matter is that the agreements that we negotiate with USA, Russia, France and other nuclear countries will enable us to enter into international trade for civilian use without any interference with our strategic nuclear programme. The strategic programme will continue to be developed at an autonomous pace determined solely by our own security perceptions. We have not and we will not accept any outside interference or monitoring or supervision of our strategic programme. Our strategic autonomy will never be compromised. We are willing to look at possible amendments to our Atomic Energy Act to reinforce our solemn commitment that our strategic autonomy will never be compromised.

    I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing. Thus the nuclear agreements will not in any way affect our strategic autonomy. The cooperation that the international community is now willing to extend to us for trade in nuclear materials, technologies and equipment for civilian use will be available to us without signing the NPT or the CTBT. (Emphasis added.)

    He further goes on to claim: “This I believe is a measure of the respect that the world [read the US] at large has for India”.
    For an effect, he further adds in proud endorsement of Pokhran II: “I wish to remind the House that in 1998 when the Pokharan II tests were undertaken, the Group of Eight leading developed countries had passed a harsh resolution condemning India and called upon India to sign the NPT and CTBT. Today, at the Hokkaido meeting of the G-8 held recently in Japan, the Chairman’s summary has welcomed cooperation in civilian nuclear energy between India and the international community. This is a measure of the sea change in the perceptions of the international community our trading with India for civilian nuclear energy purposes that has come about in less than ten years.”

    He could hardly have been more explicit in telling that India cares two hoots for nuclear non-proliferation or nuclear disarmament. And the deal does nothing to compel India to moderate this approach.

    It is a fact that non-proliferation, or horizontal non-proliferation to be more precise, does not necessarily lead to nuclear disarmament. But proliferation – horizontal or vertical, runs counter to the process of universal nuclear disarmament. It encourages new players. It further legitimises nuclear weapons in the hands of those who are already having these and the attempts of the newer ones to acquire these. And evidently turns the world even more dangerous. Makes the task of denuclearisation even more tenuous and difficult.

    Even under the best-case scenario, nuclear power, which is intrinsically hazardous and potentially catastrophic, is not going to provide nay significant contribution to India’s energy productions. Moreover, its opportunity cost is extremely high and thereby it’d tend to push out all other possible benign options out of the table.
    And the dogged insistence on retaining the “right” to further test – to graduate from the A-Bomb level to the H-Bomb level, to be able to kill just not hundreds of thousands but millions and millions in one single shot, making a complete mockery of the claim to “minimum credible deterrence” – and “strategic autonomy” gives away the game.
    The deal is primarily about weapon, not power.
    That even the radically raised capabilities to produce more fissile material by virtue of freeing up the indigenously produced uranium for Bomb-making while imported uranium will take care of power production, is not enough hardly leaves any scope for any doubt whatever.
    And the most dangerous part is that the Indian mainstream – whether opposing or supporting the deal cutting across the spectrum, are one in terms of their genocidal lust. Very much similar to the situation prevailing in 1996 during the CTBT debate.
    Recognising the profoundly negative role played by the US, and other NWS, does not mean one would have to condone Indian criminality. In fact such condoning, in this particular case, would also mean further condoning of the huge criminality on the part of the US, which has taken the lead role in just not condoning but rewarding Indian criminality.


  34. sek

    If signing the CTBT is such a joke, what prevents you to sign it then? You would then sign something of no value, we would be pleased and ratify the deal. However, since you suggest that I take a course in geopolitics, I may return the compliment and invite you to take international law 101 with a focus on the law of treaties.

    What I also find contradictory in the statements posted by Indian supporters is that India does not need the deal to add to its stockpile of fissile material and that it has quite enough bomb as it is, yet consider that to suggest that India should come up with a moratorium on the production of military fissile material is a real slight. It either beats me or I understand too well.

    More generally, the problem is that you want us to make a big step (turning upside down the non proliferatin regime is for us, believe me) without you even being willing to offer minimal guarantees that it will not be used for vertical proliferation purposes. I suppose that is how you define a good deal but I hope you will not be too surprised if we are not too enthusiastic about adhering to it.

  35. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    At the risk of sounding terribly wonky, can someone please provide me with an estimate of what we are really talking about:

    A) If the US-India deal does not go through, how much fissionable material will India possess (without obtaining it illicitly or through war)?

    A.1) Without a deal, how many warheads can that quantity of fissionable material potentially make (based on mid-grade warhead designs that the Indian military will have a high confidence of working without a lot more testing than they have already done)?

    B) If the deal goes through, assuming India diverts 100% of non-safeguarded materials to the weapons program, based on the same mid-grade designs, how many warheads can India build without testing?

    C) If India resumes testing and development on more advanced warhead designs, what would be the numbers of (A.1) and (B)

    D) Suppose India were to get the deal, and then, after a decent interval, like 10 (change number if you want) years, renege on the deal after having amassed a large stockpile of fissionable material, what would be the number of warheads India can build without additional testing, or with testing and development work for advanced designs.

    E) How will Pakistan react to a quantitative / qualitative increase in the number of Indian warheads? i.e. 50, 100, 200, 400, 1000?

    F) China?

    G) Iran?

    H) Japan?

    I) Russia?

    J) EU?

    K) US?

    L) Will answers to (E), (F), (G), (H), (I), (J), (K) change if India were to develop ICBMs? Cruise Missiles? SSBNs? Orbital Nuclear Weapons? Tactical Nukes? First Strike capability?

    M) What levers do any country or group of countries have on India if it reneged on the deal (in whole or in part)?

    N) What evidence do we have that India will adhere to the P5 norm that no nuclear weapons will be used against a non-nuclear weapons state?

    O) What evidence that India wil adhere to “no first use”?

    P) If Pakistan were to, in the midst of a war with India, received a shipment of F-16 parts from the USA, will that mean India would consider using nuclear weapons against the US?

    Q) For (P), substitue any other country, including non-nuclear weapons states.

    If we are really talking about walking away from the NPT with India, lets have some facts on the table.

  36. Siddharth

    Daryl, sorry for the delay in replying to your queries. The NSG is keeping me occupied, since I’m here in Vienna to report the event (and its pretty damn opaque from where I’m sitting so if there is anybody you are liaising with here, please encourage them to talk to me. My email is sv1965[at]gmail. OK, now that my priorities as a newsman are out of the way, let’s look at your points.

    Article 14 was an issue before May 1998 and is not an issue now. The Indian leadership perceived that 14 was part of a tightening net and resisted it then because it thought pressure on India to abandon its nuclear option while it remained untested would be enormous. To that extent, advocates of 14 language bear some of the responsibility for India testing in 1998. Had it not been there, perhaps the domestic debate and positions of different lobbies like scientists might have gone in a different direction.

    I interact very closely with most of the people whose views on testing count and I can tell you that there is today no constituency in favour of initiating another round of tests. Not among the DAE, not in DRDO and not in the armed forces. In fact, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of strategic pundits who advocate testing. (Actually, two fingers are enough).

    So why would India want to remain outside the CTBT for now? The answer mainly has to do with the fact that (1)non-US ratification took the issue off the world and Indian radar screen and (2) domestic politics and the way in which the BJP has run away with portraying the nuclear deal as a sell-out on the weapons front to America. Though Manmohan, in this context, made an off the cuff remark recently to a meeting of young diplomats that India would not sign the CTBT “even if it enters into force” (whatever that means, given Art. 14!), the GOI has not repudiated the position stated by Vajpayee in the UNGA and Parliament that India will not stand in the way of the CTBT entering into force.

    Now, we are all for CTBT entering into force, including me too, believe it or not, but we need to have a political rather than moral understanding of the dynamics that will get the 9 holdout Annex 2 countries on board. An American ratification will generate irresistable pressure for others to ratify. And India will not then stand in the way.

    And as long as nobody else tests in our neighbourhood, there will be no military or strategic logic for India to initiate testing.

    Secondly, we are not talking about any leap of faith here. USG knew even before the NPT was singed that India would go nuclear by the mid-1970s. The ‘event’ of 1974 may have surprised anyone but the ‘process’ was hardly surprising. And once the NNNWs acquiesced in the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 without tying the NWS down to move on Article VI, everybody knew India’s stand would harden in line with the tightening of pressure against it.

    I know of ACA’s sterling efforts on the US and CTBT but my point is if you spent more time lobbying for ratification than trying to scuttle the Indian deal at the NSG, you will be making the world a much safer place 🙂

    @LTR — A question for you — Since the CTBT won’t enter into force until all 44, including India and US ratify, what is stopping China from ratifying it? What is it worried about?

  37. Lao Tao Ren (History)


    This discussion is not about a P5 state. It is about a non-NPT signatory regime.

    If you don’t like the discriminatory nature of the system, great. However, this is the system, in more ways than the NPT.

    Quite frankly, I would like to see some Pakistani views on this issue. Clearly, they are going to be the biggest losers of the US-India deal.

    If I were Pakistani, I would go for a massive stockpile of nuclear warheads on mobile missile platforms that are difficult to find and destroy, and seriously consider a decapitation strike strategy.

    Suppose for a second that Israel is next to India, (and have the same hostilities as they do ‘back home’), Israel would probably do the same if one of their big neighbors had an India like nuclear capability.

    India’s nuclear aspirations as stated by some posters on this blog (and in debates in Parliament) are destabilizing not only to the region, but to the world.

  38. RT (History)


    China’s nuclear buildup and transfer to Pakistan are more destabilizing to the world according to most experts.

    I’m curious why you have a “See no evil” mask when it comes to Beijing.

    If you want to be taken seriously, please address China’s buildup and proliferation first. If not, you just come across as someone who cannot stand India for personal reasons.

    Secondly, “this is the system” is no longer a valid reason. India is working to change the system and you can try to stop it if you can.


    India will not accept the CTBT for the simple reason that US and China have not ratified it yet and are still able to enjoy the nuclear trade benefits.

    India will not accept a single condition going forward that does not equally apply to China, USA etc.

    Period, end of story.

  39. RT (History)

    LTR seems to be a Chinese nationalist disguising as a neutral.

    He will not answer any questions on his beloved China but feels qualified to pontificate on India related matters.

  40. AJ (History)

    I think this thread has been very instructive in illustrating the contrasts in the positions between Jeffrey/Daryl on the one hand and Lao Tao Ren on the other. While Jeffrey/Daryl are arguing for an Indian commitment to the CTBT (which is a valid negotiating tactic), LTR is arguing for a complete ban on any cooperation with India.

    As an Indian, I find nothing offensive in Jeffrey/Daryl’s desire to strengthen the CTBT specially because of the supreme national interest clause mentioned earlier. An effective compromise may be Indian membership of the NSG in exchange for a signature on the CTBT. Of course as an engineer I hope the Indian government will drop a few billion on creating a couple of lif facilities and supporting simulation work, because as the US experience shows such funding – although justified as weapons work – is often critical to driving advances in technology.

  41. Cory (History)

    >But you neglect to mention >that the U.S. has signed >the CTBT

    US and China have NOT ratified the treaty and have a vigorous surrogate stockpile stewardship program that is in lieu of actual testing.

  42. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Just for the record, at no time did I advocate “a complete ban on any cooperation with India” in the nuclear policy space.

    In fact, I am in favor of renegotiating the NPT to reflect the realities of the 21st Century, which will, of necessity, include dealing with the issue of the P5’s adherence to commitments as well as the NNWS obligations.

    In particular, I am in favor of finding a way to exploit the benefits of nuclear energy while reducing regional tensions. It is beyond the scope of a comment to outline how that might be done, but might I say that there is a common interest between India, Pakistan, China and many other states in bona fide co-operation on the EU type functionalist model.

    What made me change my mind with respect to the NSG issue is the comments from people who do hold positions of significance and responsibility, like being an editor of a major Indian publication, that stated things like:

    “if you spent more time lobbying for ratification than trying to scuttle the Indian deal at the NSG, you will be making the world a much safer place :-)”

    That are condescending, and certainly would be viewed as insulting to Mr. Kimball by myself, if not others. Mr. Kimball’s concerns are legitimate, and can be readily addressed by the Indian Government acting in good faith.

    Similarly, comments like, “All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing.” by the Prime Minister of India cannot be but taken seriously as evidence of an intent to resume testing without even the pro-forma act of pleading CTBT’s exemption clause.

    Reflecting on public comments like these (including the ones on this website —- and I am excluding the more rabid ones), I have concerns which include questions as to how Pakistan, who is cash strapped and falling further and further behind India with its conventional forces, will deal with India ramping up production of nuclear weapons. With Pakistan finding itself in a position that there is nothing left beside nuclear weapons, they are likely to ramp up development, and almost certainly, will be the first to resume testing so they can develop and field more advanced nuclear weapons, thus justifying India doing so.

    A nuclear arms race on the Indian subcontinent, even if it does not involve China, Russia, and the US, is a grave matter given the history of Pakistan being willing to use preemption against a larger, stronger, bigger foe and the recent history of conflict. We are not talking of events in the 1970s, but the ongoing dispute over Kashmir that to date, remains an active conflict.

    Shouldn’t the international community try to find a way to accommodate India and Pakistan that encourages economic co-operation and detente, like what happened in Europe with former enemies after World War II? Instead, the US-India deal as proposed is a one-sided deal that certainly viewed as threatening to Pakistan, if not others.

    Maybe I am the only one here that would prefer to limit the chance of nuclear war, or any armed conflict, between India, Pakistan, etc.?

    From this perspective, if advocates of the India-US deal from India are already telling concerned parties to basically “go mind your own business” when legitimate concerns and questions are raised about their intentions even as they plead for favors and exemptions that, however imperfect, have limited the spread and certainly the actual use of nuclear weapons, it is pretty clear that India will not likely to be co-operative with verification efforts to ensure compliance with whatever watered down (or non-existent) commitments they made to get the deal.

    Under these circumstances, lets defer the deal to the next US administration so everyone can have more time to study what the deal really means, and whether there is a better way to move forward, including renegotiating the NPT.

  43. Udhistir Pande

    @Siddharth (Aug 20, 06:37 AM)

    Just a little lighthearted diversion! Since I may unfortunately not belong at the moment to the set comprising of “people whose views on testing count”, I am fairly certain that none of your two fingers represent me. If it is indeed correct, then please make it three fingers, for who knows, when the next person comes along to join the group, the count may become “Infinity” as in one of the most delightful and informative books by George Gamow, “One Two Three Infinity” :—} [Note: For simplicity I have deleted the three dots after the Three in Gamow’s title.]

  44. Sampathkumar (History)

    The only hope for Indians and other South Asians is from Beijing. The Chinese can save Indians from the powers-that-be in New Delhi. ND is keen to sink billions of dollars that should legitimately go to uplift the starving masses, in its futile attempt to become a nuke-armed superpower lording over the region. The only real beneficiaries of this insanity – which does nothing more than to create a sense of euphoria and hollow national pride to local jingoists and those comfortably settled abroad – are the ones who take a big cut in the monstrous expenses. No wonder, suitcases of bank notes were displayed in Indian Parliament, intended for late-buying of members and the government got a wafer-thin majority vote to get ahead with IAEA/NSG.
    The Indian Foreign Service mandarins dare not try to buy the connivance of Chinese bureaucrats with suitcases that New Delhi is famous for. (IFS has a budget for many suitcases). More important, New Delhi dares not defy a demarche from Beijing. It needs to be unambiguously told not to delay ‘clean, unconditional’ compliance with NPT and other disarmament measures – whether or not it wants ‘clean, unconditional’ membership of NSG!

  45. DS

    @ LTR,

    Excuse me for involving myself in a peace intiative proposal from you.

    I’m too concerned about making the world safer from all these Nuclear bums. As you see it in larger picture, like Kashmir, India is looking at China as aggressor in her eastern flank. With China’s threating posture on the border, the issue at our hand is, it is not just alone India, it must be China, India and in turn Pakitan who are to be reined in. Question or the proposal i’m thinking of is will China as a big brother, as an Asian power will lead by example in abolishing its N weapon for the world free of N weapon ?

  46. RT (History)


    No one is asking deal opponents to “mind their own business.” That’s a strawman.

    What we ask is for people to explain why India’s nukes are more dangerous than, say China’s?

    After all, there would be no problem with Pakistan’s nukes had China not gifted nuclear weapons technology, including bomb designs to Islamabad.

    The world has moved too far ahead for us to remain stuck in the “NPT NWS and no one else” paradigm.

  47. Sukla Sen (History)

    I know of ACA’s sterling efforts on the US and CTBT but my point is if you spent more time lobbying for ratification than trying to scuttle the Indian deal at the NSG, you will be making the world a much safer place 🙂

    This is obviously a sly comment.
    Pretty falsely trying to counterpose one to the other.
    In fact, those who are fighting for ratification of the CTBT by the US, and China, are those who’re opposing the deal.
    No wonder, it is the Bush administration, which has dumped the CTBT and the decisions taken in the 2000 NPT Review Conference, is with fanatic zeal piloting the deal with a country which did its best to torpedo the CTBT.

    The fight for CTBT, the fight for FMCT, the fight for universal nuclear disarmament and the fight against the deal are all strongly interlinked.
    Those who are fighting for these cannot be just fooled.


  48. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Ok, some people can’t play nice.

    This thread is closed.

  49. Bharat (History)

    It seems a lot of people are against India getting reasonable nuclear fuel for its civilian needs.

    But let me remind you that there was a similar situation in 70s when India was denied a supercomputer by US, which forced India to build its own and that’s where the root of modern Indian software revolution lies.

    India did a lot to get this nuclear deal, even risked it’s stake in the Persian oil and voted against Iran in the IAEA under guidance from US. But if this deal fails some interesting things might happen:

    1. India-Russia fuel supply deal (pls google it)

    2. Which may lead to(even more)Indo-Russian large-scale joint military projects.

    3. India backing-off from it’s Iranian stance.

    All this will bring India more and more close to Russia, and US will hardly find any excuses to complain; since they were the first to be trusted upon.
    ‘Go Russian’ may not be that bad from an Indian perspective. But this will be a political disaster for US, which needs Indian help desperately to contain China and for it’s(Obama’s) upcoming war in Pakistan.

    And for those talking about Indo-China border dispute I’d like to say its Indo-Tibetan border. The border dispute will cease to exist if India officially recognize the Tibetan nation. The problem only exists if India recognizes it otherwise doesn’t.

    Its a win-win-win vs. loose-win-win situation 😉

  50. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    For the record…. this is an influential view in India.

    Looking beyond the NSG debacle

    Siddharth Varadarajan

    America’s inability — or unwillingness — to bat for India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group undermines the basis of the July 2005 agreement. If the U.S. won’t keep its commitment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must walk away.

    — Photo: AP

    Protests in Vienna… a coordinated attack in which smaller states were encouraged to do Washington’s business for it.

    A central premise of the civil nuclear energy cooperation initiative between New Delhi and Washington has been the assumption that the United States is the only major power with both the ability and the motivation to force a change in the discriminatory international rules governing nuclear commerce with India. Earlier Indian approaches to both France and Russia in 2003 and 2004 found the two countries eager to cooperate but unwilling to take the lead. Brajesh Mishra, who was the National Security Adviser at the time, was politely told to speak to Washington since it was the U.S. that held the keys to any relaxation of the Nuclear Suppliers Group rules prohibiting sales to India.

    Mr. Mishra immediately broached the idea of an agreement with the U.S. but it was not until March 2005 that Washington reverted to New Delhi with a proposal that would eventually be signed by the two countries on July 18, 2005. It has not exactly been smooth sailing since then, but as an American-prepared draft seeking a waiver to the NSG guidelines for India ran aground at a special meeting of the 45-nation cartel on Friday, it is worth asking whether the U.S. over-reached itself three years ago in making a commitment to “adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear cooperation and trade” with the country. Or whether President George W. Bush has pulled a fast one on New Delhi, misleading Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a false promise then and doing his utmost at the NSG to ensure that what prevails is not the solemn commitment contained in the July 2005 agreement but the extraneous non-proliferation agenda of the Hyde Act.

    These are, broadly speaking, the only two ways of analysing the implications of last week’s debacle in Vienna. While each scenario needs to be carefully analysed, the implications for what strategy India must adopt from now on are the same.

    But first the facts. The U.S. and India spent three weeks negotiating the text of the draft waiver granting India an exemption from the NSG’s export rules. The draft took note of all the commitments India had made in July 2005 and stated that in the light of these, the full-scope safeguards requirement was being waived. To protect the concerns of those NSG countries doubting India’s willingness to abide by its commitments in the future, the waiver provided for members to “maintain contact and consult through regular channels on matters connected with the implementation of the Guidelines, taking into account relevant international commitments and bilateral agreements with India.” In other words, any purported violation by India could occasion the convening of a plenary meeting where a decision on how to react could always be taken by consensus.

    In Vienna, this reasonable draft came under sustained attack from a small group of states. These included New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands, all of whom demanded substantive amendments. And then there was a second tier of countries who waded into what became a free for all with suggestions and changes of their own. Bilateral consultations the U.S. delegation held with officials from these countries on the morning of August 22 led not to the latter backing off but to the former agreeing to strive for an amended waiver that would take their misplaced demands on board and push for India’s concurrence with these. If accounts provided to me by European diplomats who were present in the last session of the NSG plenary are correct, the entire draft will now be reworked. On the menu are both ‘prescriptive’ suggestions on the desirability of India eventually acceding to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and, more dangerously, ‘post-conditions.’ The latter category consist of ‘periodic review’ and a list of actions by India which might trigger the immediate and automatic termination of nuclear supplies, thereby jeopardising the billions of dollars of investment New Delhi might already have made. There will be no need to meet again and go through the tiresome process of evolving a consensus on whether to end cooperation with India or not, a process which a major nuclear vendor like Russia could well block. In addition, an attempt will be made to limit the scope of cooperation with India to only certain aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and exclude enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) altogether.

    Some or all of these changes reflect the unilateral conditions and prescriptions of the Hyde Act, something the Indian negotiating team fought hard to keep out of the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement (the ‘123 agreement’) finalised last July. India was also able to build in to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency the tight linkage between continuity of fuel supplies and continuity of safeguards which was a cornerstone of the March 2006 separation plan and which Hyde sought to undo. Hawks like Congressman Howard Berman and officials from the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) were never very pleased with what they saw as an Indian attempt to do an end run around the requirements of Hyde and saw the NSG as the battleground where the issue had to be settled once and for all. Mr. Berman introduced a resolution in Congress last fall calling for conditionalities in the proposed NSG waiver. Written assurances to this effect were sought from the State Department and provided to the House Foreign Relations Committee in classified form. When the draft waiver text became known, Richard Stratford of the ISN told a seminar in D.C. that the language had been deliberately kept weak so that tougher provisions could be grafted on in consultation with U.S. allies. And Mr. Berman was reassured that all his concerns would be taken care of at Vienna.
    Dubious role

    There were three other bad omens which augured badly for India’s chances at the NSG. First, in the run-up to the Vienna meeting, it had become apparent that Washington had done little or no lobbying on behalf of the “clean and unconditional” waiver that New Delhi sought. Where India, which is not even an NSG member, had sent multiple delegations to all NSG capitals led, in each case, by officials of at least Secretary rank, the U.S. deployed officers of such low pay grade as to be almost inconsequential. When an envoy was sent at all, he or she invariably tended to be someone as low down the Foggy Bottom food chain as a principal deputy assistant secretary of state. Second, India’s principal ‘ally’ in the NSG game, U.S. ambassador David Mulford, kept encouraging the NSG naysayers by stating it was unwise for Indians to expect an unconditional waiver. Third, the fact that the U.S. deployed John D. Rood, acting under secretary at the ISN, and a known activist on the nonproliferation front, was the final indication that the meeting in Vienna was not going to go India’s way. Many of the Hyde Act’s provisions began life as declarations of intent in the testimonies to Congress of Robert Joseph, Mr. Rood’s predecessor at ISN. It was only to be expected, therefore, that the Bureau would launch a rearguard action at the NSG in defence of those provisions given half a chance.

    While it is true that the U.S. simply lacks the power and authority to push through changes in the international system by itself, a closer examination of these failures suggests America tends to be most unsuccessful where one or more world powers dig their heels in and refuse to go along with Washington’s agenda. At the NSG, however, all world powers were active supporters of the India initiative (Russia, France, Britain), passive supporters (Japan, Germany and Canada) or neutral (China). With this degree of policy coherence at the great power level, there was no way a since American effort to deliver a clean and unconditional waiver for India would have run aground. What happened at Vienna, however, was a coordinated attack in which the smaller states were encouraged to do Washington’s business for it.

    The Bush administration’s calculation is that with the vote of confidence behind him, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is now so politically committed to seeing the nuclear deal through that he will find it impossible to acknowledge that the Americans have double-crossed him. Indeed, a situation has now arisen where the U.S. may go ahead with the September 4-5 NSG meeting and press the adoption of a diluted, conditional waiver despite Indian objections in the hope that Dr. Singh will have no option but to submit to this fait accompli.

    Thanks to a number of strategic blunders he has made over the past three years — including abandoning the pan-Asian energy grid idea of Mani Shankar Aiyar, going slow on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and bowing to U.S. sensitivities in not inking the inter-governmental agreement on Koodankulam for four additional reactors from Russia — the Prime Minister does not have a very strong hand from which to stare down the U.S. But stare he must. As soon as the Americans come to Delhi with new draft language, he must pick up the telephone and tell President Bush that if he cannot uphold his part of the July 2005 agreement, the deal is over. He must also tell Mr. Bush that on the eve of the next NSG meeting he will make a televised address to the nation explaining the betrayal of trust which has led to the collapse of the deal. If the U.S. ignores his appeal, so be it. No government or leader in India will ever be able to justify entering into any agreement with Washington for the foreseeable future. And that will be America’s loss, not India’s.

    © Copyright 2000 – 2008 The Hindu

  51. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    According to this view, it is the Indians that accepted the Hyde Act conditions, then reneged on the deal and now blame the USA for not delivering a better deal from their point of view.

    Please see comment below,

    “One thing which nobody wants to remember, after the leftists had made an issue of it, is that the Hyde Act had the full support of India. Our embassy, our lobbyists and our community exerted all the pressure at their command to get the Hyde Act passed. The campaign orchestrated by the embassy is there for all to see. Was that a thoughtless act of misjudgement? Or was it because India felt that the provisions of the Hyde Act were harmless, to say the least? I think it was the latter, because there was no other way of getting an enabling resolution adopted to permit the 123 agreement.”


    NSG: Do not discard the baby with the bath water

    T P Sreenivasan | August 25, 2008 | 11:53 IST

    Nuclear deal enthusiasts are enraged by the attitude of certain countries with only a marginal role in the nuclear game, which has resulted in a delay in the exemption that the Nuclear Suppliers Group was expected to give to pave the way for a final vote in the US Congress.

    The situation is particularly perilous because of the tight timeframe for the deal to be operationalised. Both India and the US are anxious that the deal should be done during the current Congress, even though the choice of Joseph Biden as the Democratic candidate for vice president has eased the situation. Barack Obama’s non-proliferation zeal may well be tempered by Biden’s enthusiasm for India and the deal. McCain is already committed to the deal.

    The developments in the NSG were not unexpected. I had written on a year ago that ‘negotiating for an exception for India from its guidelines would be like negotiating with Winston Churchill for the liquidation of the British Empire’. A group which was set up by the United States to deny nuclear fuel and technology to India would not sign on the dotted line just because the US found it in its interest to grant India an exemption. Moreover, the changes they are seeking are close to the hearts of the US policy-makers and the non-proliferationists. In fact, much of what they are saying has already been conceded by India implicitly.

    One thing which nobody wants to remember, after the leftists had made an issue of it, is that the Hyde Act had the full support of India. Our embassy, our lobbyists and our community exerted all the pressure at their command to get the Hyde Act passed. The campaign orchestrated by the embassy is there for all to see. Was that a thoughtless act of misjudgement? Or was it because India felt that the provisions of the Hyde Act were harmless, to say the least? I think it was the latter, because there was no other way of getting an enabling resolution adopted to permit the 123 agreement.

    The balance between the rights and obligations in the India-US Joint Statement of 2005 could not be sustained because of the opposition voiced to it by critics in India and the United States. The Hyde Act was acceptable to India in 2006 because its wording was such that would not hurt India’s interests. No US official, not even the president, will be able to disown the Hyde Act, but they can apply it in a manner that does justice to the spirit of the agreement. The way US Presidents dealt with the Pressler Amendment in the case of Pakistan is a case in point. They merrily certified that Pakistan had no nuclear weapons as long as they wanted the aid to flow.

    If the NSG is seeking to bring into the waiver only those elements which India has approved in one way or the other in the last three years, we should have no hesitation to discuss the amendments suggested. There is no such thing as an unconditional waiver, as is obvious from the present draft. But if the NSG is suggesting inclusion of new conditionalities such as signing of the NPT or CTBT even in the distant future, they should be rejected outright.

    But if they want an assertion of our moratorium, our willingness to negotiate FMCT in good faith, our safeguards agreement with the IAEA, our agreement to sign an Additional Protocol and to adopt stringent export regulations and our separation plan, we shall lose nothing. These are the real basis on which the 123 agreement stands. The US cannot ask of the NSG not to insist on conditions that the United States has found important to insist on in the new dispensation.

    One reason that the United States has advanced as a justification for an exemption for India from the NSG guidelines is that India will be a contributing partner in the non-proliferation regime, once it accepts safeguards. When India insists that the deal is purely for energy and not for assisting in non-proliferation even by implication, the NSG members become perplexed and suspicious.

    The hardened attitude of the NSG countries must be a consequence of the active internal debate in India. Our envoys must have made every effort to alleviate their fears by making various assurances, but they have with them the reports of the declaration of our passionate attachment to the right to test, even though we know that any test will sound the death knell of the deal itself. If there is no Hyde act, there is the Glenn Amendment, which imposes even economic sanctions against any non-NPT country which tests a nuclear weapon. We saw how stringently sanctions were imposed on India and Pakistan in 1998.

    The dichotomy between the moratorium and the freedom to test is something the world does not understand. Since many of the NSG countries are signatories of the CTBT, which prohibits trade with those who test, they would want an assurance that we would abide by the moratorium, if not subscribe to CTBT. Our right to test is not affected by the deal, but it is illusory to think that there will be no international consequence to testing in the future, whether there is a deal or not.

    Reports from Vienna indicate that there is no animosity towards India in the NSG and what the countries like Ireland, Austria, Switzerland and New Zealand are trying to do is to reconcile their own laws and attachment to non-proliferation with India’s energy deeds. They do not have such overwhelming business interests in India like the�US and others to justify making a special dispensation for India. They will, at the same time, go the extra mile to support India and, more importantly, the United States.

    Diplomacy is the art of the possible and it will not be beyond the ingenuity of our diplomats to find a wording that can salvage the exemption, given the goodwill on both sides. It will be a great pity if the deal India has piloted thus far is abandoned for the sake of form rather than substance. It must be made clear that we shall not accept new conditionalities such as signing of NPT, signing of CTBT or prohibition of reprocessing and enrichment. They form the bath water that must be thrown away. But the baby is too precious to be discarded along with the bath water.

    T P Sreenivasan, a former member of the Indian Foreign Service, was India’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vienna, and governor for India, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.